Penn Museum’s 27th Annual Celebration of African Cultures

Saturday, February 27, 2016 - 11:00am - 4:00pm
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
United States

Modern African dance and traditional African music, an African marketplace, a mancala game station, craft making for families and more converge at the Penn Museum’s annual Celebration of African Cultures.

Local griots and artists lead guests in an interactive exploration of traditions from across the African continent, set among the Museum’s collection of textiles, sculpture, and masks in the Africa Gallery, as well as among statuary and tomb materials from 5,000 years of Egyptian culture in the Egyptian galleries. Egun Omode (Children of the Ancestors), a West African dance and drum and Yoruba-folklore performing arts collective, offers a grande finale performance.

The celebration is free with Museum admission ($15, general admission; $13, seniors [65+]; $10, children [6-17] and full-time students [with ID]; $2 ACCESS Card holders; free to children under 5, members, active U.S. Military, STAMP and PennCard holders).

The Women's Sekere Ensemble infuses the Museum galleries with the rhythms and tones of the sekere, a traditional Nigerian percussion instrument made from intricately beaded gourds, and an agogô, a bell with origins in traditional Yoruba music. Dedicated to the preservation of African music, the percussionists perform at 12:00 pm and 2:15 pm.
At 1:00 pm, Momma Sandi, a member of the National Association of African American Storytellers, unpacks moral-based lessons heard in the animal kingdom through words, songs, and movement.
University of the Sciences’ Culture Shock takes the stage at 1:45 pm to demonstrate African fusion and modern dance styles.

Beginning at 2:45 pm, award-winning griot (storyteller) Queen Nur invites guests to awaken their inner child and play interactive games from the oral tradition such as Stomp it Up with Step it Down, and Pitty Pat Jack. Sangue Mbacké, an international master drummer and griot from Gorée, Senegal, helps lead the “Games We Play” workshop, which also reveals the historical contexts behind the games.

Beginning at 11:00 am, visitors can learn to play the traditional "board" game mancala, which originated in West Africa. Today, the game is known as poo in some parts of Liberia, warri in Barbados, conka in Indonesia, and Swahili-speaking cultures along the east coast of Africa play a complex variation called bao. Guests are also invited to design an African mask memento at a make-and-take crafts station.
Guided family tours depart at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm, winding through the Africa Gallery to discover stories behind African objects associated with adornment and personal status, including a robe worn by the Hausa of Nigeria and beadwork from the Zulu of South Africa.

As the day’s grand finale, Egun Omode (children of the ancestors), a West African dance and drum and Yoruba-folklore performing arts collective, presents an abridged production of “Look for Me in the Whirlwind.” Guests explore the West African tale of a young girl who receives the sacred Cowtail Switch, the symbol of her village’s legacy. Multi-layered rhythms reveal the adventure and challenges she faces to restore balance and harmony to her village, offering inspiration and drawing parallels to the modern world.

Throughout the celebration, visitors have the chance to browse an African mini-marketplace of wooden, leather, and bronze accessories, as well as colorful prints, art, and apparel available for purchase. Visitors can also stop by the Museum Shop to browse African-inspired and fair trade, African-made items.
The Pepper Mill Café also gets into the spirit, offering an African-inspired lunch menu and snacks for purchase.

The Africa Gallery features objects from cultures throughout the continent. Highlights include Akan gold weights, and musical instruments made from wood, skins, gourds, and plant fibers. The Museum was among the first American museums to begin collecting art and artifacts from Africa; most items in the collection were obtained between 1891 and 1930.
The Museum’s renowned Egypt (Sphinx) and Upper Egypt Galleries, feature a massive red granite Sphinx (the third largest Sphinx in the Western hemisphere), and monumental architecture from the Palace of Merenptah. Special exhibitions include Amarna: Ancient Egypt’s Place in the Sun, about the meteoric rise and fall of the boyhood home of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

The Penn Museum partners with several community groups who join in greeting visitors throughout the daylong celebration. West Philadelphia Alliance for Children welcomes families to share the joy of reading by leaving a children’s book and taking another at its free book exchange, available during the event. Guests can also meet members and learn about the community work of AFRICOM Philly and the University of Pennsylvania Netter Center for Community Partnerships’ Francophone Community Partnership, a bilingual enrichment program enabling children from the West African diaspora and French-speaking volunteer mentors to nurture each other's language skills, confidence, and cultural awareness.

The Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage.

Event Type: 
Educational Events
History and Preservation
Historical Preservation / Archaeology
Cultural Exchange
Global Region: