The Africa Center celebrates African culture, sustainability for fourth year

Lyra Wiley

beaded skirt in display case
Some people look at the intricate beading work on display in the Works of Africa exhibit at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art for the Africa and Ale event May 3. (Alyse Oxenford | Collegian)

Dedicated students, faculty and community members came together in the fourth annual “Africa and Ale” May 3 to celebrate African studies, culture and the future of sustainability. 

“It’s just a celebration for the faculty and students and our community members who are interested in Africa,” said Kathleen Galvin, the director of The Africa Center at Colorado State University and a professor in the anthropology department. Galvin said the event is a thank you to the community for supporting the center over the year.

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The event, held at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art, was free, but donations were encouraged so the Center can continue to run and hold events such as this, providing food from Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine and African style beer from Maxline Brewing, Horse & Dragon Brewing Company and Zwei Brewing Co. Fort Collins Marimba, a local band, provided traditional and contemporary Zimbabwean sounds and rhythms. 

“The Africa Center represents all the faculty and students who work in Africa,” Galvin said. “And we also highlight faculty and students who are doing research, all the way from veterinary medicine to the arts, conservation, everything in between.”

Francis Sopia, a graduate research assistant, is helping to build The Africa Center’s website as a way to inform researchers what kind of projects are being done in Africa, by whom and where. He says it aims to foster collaboration between people who are working in Africa. In addition to the site, he is also preparing to begin research of his own this summer in Maasai Mara.

“I will be doing my master’s project in the southwest of Kenya,” Sopia said. “I will basically be looking at the future of conservancies in the Mara.”

Conservancies, as Sopia said, are an arrangement where landowners lease out land to conservation organizations so they can be utilized by wildlife. Land is kept open for free movement of wildlife, and allow for animals to migrate back to original breeding areas.

This will always have African objects in it… That’s why it’s here, (it’s) that commitment to global diversity that we see in the art department.”-David Relp, assistant professor of African art at Colorado State University

Looking specifically at land ownership transfers between generations, Sopia wants to know how younger generations who inherit the land will use it.

“I’m interested to know if the majority of the youth in the Mara region are considering conservancies as a land use,” Sopia said. “That will help explain if the future of conservancies will still exist in the next 15 years.”

The celebration of Africa did not end with the African marimbas, the beer or the food, however. David Reip, assistant professor of African art in the art department and associated curator of African art at the Allicar Museum, gave tours of the African art exhibit permanently living in a new expansion of the museum that will exclusively rotate out African art from all over the continent.

“It’s something that’s significant, of wanting to show global perspectives of art,” Reip said. “Because of that, when this expansion was created, they wanted to have a permanent gallery for the African collection. This will always have African objects in it… That’s why it’s here, (it’s) that commitment to global diversity that we see in the art department.”

Reip said that one-quarter of the exhibit will continually be rotating out every six months to a year so the public can see highlight pieces as well as pieces that need to come down due to preservation purposes.

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“It gives you a broader visual literacy than just having a contemporary or European gallery,” Reip said. “Seeing how art is an expression of peoples world views from their own parts of the world. I always tell my students that art is an expression of yourself and the world you live in.”

Any opportunity to bring together and celebrate different elements of culture with new audiences can inspire new ideas of collaboration and effective planning. By promoting an image of community, events like this one help unite community members to take action on issues that may not be in their proximity but have global impacts that directly affect us and our environment.   

Lyra Wiley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @lyra_wiley