By Daniela Raymond
This past Saturday African Unity held its 10th annual pageant and fashion show. Each year African Unity chooses a new intriguing theme for the special occasion. This year the event was titled Hulet Negasi: Arabian night, hosted by the energetic Omooba and sounded by DJ Mikewest.
The pageant featured three contestants: Vania Nyarko, representing Ghana; Amber-Frances Diaby, representing Ivory Coast and Henrietta Clarke, representing Liberia. These ladies performed in three sections: introductions, talent and evening wear showcasing their rich culture and talents.
The event began with the first portion of performances, all three ladies presented themselves with a vibrant dance united together, as the crowd roared and close friends cheered their names, judges watched carefully while they tallied points. The contestants’ bright fabrics and patterns moved with their bodies as they performed.
“It felt really amazing to showcase my country in the best possible way,” Nyarko said. “I wanted to show the beauty of my country and share its traditions and culture. I made my family and friends really proud and that’s what matters.”
The contest followed their dance with a brief introduction of their countries and why they believe they should be crowned Miss Africa. There was a slight tension in the room as the girls spoke, in their voices it was evident how much hard work and preparation was put into this event.
“The preparation for this pageant was very tedious,“ Nyarko said. “It requires lots of commitment and investments when it comes to clothing, hair and jewelry. I practiced almost every day for my total, my walk and speech.”
African Unity board members showcased a special performance, their matching intricate fabrics created illusions as they danced. Board member Briana Garvin performed with the rest of the dancers.
“For a performer, this would be my second time performing at an African Unity event. It is a pleasure to perform to showcase African culture and talents,” Garvin said. “I am intrigued in the craft and the passion that comes with Afro-beats and the moves. To dance in front of the crowd takes courage but it is a gratifying experience, when the crowd reflects the energy and their beautiful smiles you feel whole as a performer.”
Standing ovations and screams could be heard outside the ballroom. Aissatou Lo, a junior majoring in public relations, attended the event for the first time.
“The most memorable moment of this event was when Ms. Liberia’s mom laid down the traditional fabrics for her daughter to walk on for the talent portion,” Lo said. “As an African woman this event resonated with me, because I love when Africans express their culture and show how each of us is through clothing and music.”
The talent portion of the event was especially entertaining. Nyarko, Clarke and Diaby displayed their cultures through dances that represented them. Each was unique and filled with energy. Nyarko performed a cultural dance called Adowa, typically performed at weddings, parties and funerals as well as in front of Ghanaian kings and queens.
“My cultural dance was so special to me and my family. This dance is more on the traditional side of Ghana and I wanted to challenge myself to perform it,” Nyarko said. “My mom was the daughter of the chief so I felt like I was making my grandfather proud. It was challenging to learn but I knew I wanted to do my best to represent my culture.”
As the event came to an end the last portion was evening wear, right before the judges announced the winner. The crowd and contestants waited in anticipation to hear who would be crowned the next Ms. Africa.
The host announced “The next Queen of Africa is… Ms. Liberia.” The girls cried and hugged when they realized the event they have been preparing for months has come to an end, and the crowd roars in excitement for the newly crowned Queen of Africa.