UB African Student Association's Jambo Pageant presents an impressive pan-African spectacle
Contestants representing Cameroon and Congo take home this year’s crown
The African Student Association (ASA) gathered in the Student Union Theater on Sunday night to celebrate the vitality and diversity of African culture.
ASA’s Jambo Pageant centered on the theme of African pride and ethnic unity. Attendees on and off stage could be seen wearing the colors of the Pan-African flag, and many performers expressed their cultural identity through traditionally inspired garb.
Rahaman Adenola, ASA vice president and a junior exercise science major, expressed the importance of showcasing the diversity of the African community through the pageant, highlighting the unique identity of each African nation.
“It shows that African culture is still around, and it’s being appropriated,” Adenola said. “We’re trying to spread awareness of African culture by showing different sides of it … All the countries are different in their own way. Africa is a continent not a country.”
The spectacle kicked off with the first few bars of The Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” originally written and recorded by South African artist Solomon Linda.
Dancers moved through the aisles of the theater down to the stage, setting the tone for the night with infectious energy as the first number ended and transitioned into more contemporary music.
DJ Tunez and DJ Wire kept the theater pulsing with popular dance numbers throughout the evening.
Cletus Emokpae, better known as CletusRealTalk of WRUB and 91.3 WBNY, hosted the pageant with a powerful presence and enthusiasm that electrified the audience.
The pageant also boasted a strong interscholastic presence, with impressive turnouts from neighboring universities such as SUNY Buffalo State.
“We are here because we’re celebrating our African culture on campus,” Emokpae, a senior communication major, said in his opening comments, giving shout-outs to African nations ranging from Nigeria to Tanzania.
The audience exploded with applause with the mention of each nation, reflecting the broad range of national origins among Buffalo’s African students.
The next segment was a modeling pageant. Emokpae encouraged the audience to be as “thirsty” as they wanted as shirtless male models came onto stage first, followed by swimsuit-clad female counterparts.
The modeling segment concluded with glamorous fanfare as a female model strutted across stage flanked by five males waving tree branches.
The talent portion of the Jamba Pageant progressed through a gamut of group, solo and paired dances. The performers exhibited boundless energy and impressive isolations – control of one distinct part of the body at a time – moving from sensuous duets to acrobatic break dances and highly syncopated group numbers.
The dance routines were punctuated by a poetry reading on the introduction of Islam to Egypt and a standup comedy routine by Nigerian student Adeyinka Ajiboye, a junior biological sciences major.
Ajiboye’s performance touched on a number of issues such as Nigerian family life and sociopolitical concerns.
“In Nigeria, problem No. 1 is that there is no 911,” he said onstage about the challenge of poor legal resources in the West African nation.
“Most of [the routine] was true, based on real experiences of friends and family and other Nigerians,” Ajiboye said after the pageant.
The night concluded with a formal section to crown winners of the pageant with the titles of Jambo King and Jambo Queen.
Ajiboye, or Mr. Cameroon, and Abiola Oladitan, or Mrs. Congo, were crowned king and queen of the pageant, respectively, and accepted their coronations with a dance duet.
In her statement to the judges, Oladitan expressed the Pan-African sentiment of the function.
“It’s not about my country,” she said. “It’s about my continent.”
Ajiboye offered congratulations to the other contestants and reflected on the message of the pageant.
“The whole contest is a way of exposing Africa to the rest of the world,” he said. “People don’t really know much about our culture or how we grew up. I think this is a good avenue to show that to people.”
The night was capped off with a guest performance by Nigerian singer Ayo-Jay, who mingled with a dancing audience as he performed his single “Your Number.”
Eugene Boadu, a senior nuclear medical technology major and one of the judges for the event, praised the talent act, especially Ajiboye’s comedic performance.
“Overall, the whole event was a success,” Boadu said.
Compared to last year’s event, Samuel Kyei, a senior animation major at Daemen College, said, “There were more surprises. Nobody could expect what was going to happen.”
Kyei, who was last year’s Jamba King, also offered praise for the DJs, described this year’s event as “bigger and better” than past pageants.
“[The pageant] brings a lot of African spirit to the community,” said Zena Iyekegbe, a junior health and human services major who worked as activities coordinator for the event. “It’s like a home away from home.”
Luke Heuskin is an assistant arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com.