The University Record, February 1, 1999

Matthaei hosts African adventure

By Theresa Maddix and Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Illustration by Patricia Duque

What do peanuts, yams, rice, cotton, okra, bananas, a sausage tree, sugar cane, sesame, coffee and tamarind have in common? These plants and more have been an integral part of the life and times of African Americans, and will be highlighted every Saturday and Sunday this month in public tours at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The free tours, which begin at 2 p.m. in the Conservatory, are part of "Out of Africa," a month-long celebration of family-oriented events and activities highlighting plants of cultural significance to the people who came to the Americas from Africa.

Activities begin at 1 p.m. Feb. 6 with story-telling, music, "Taste of Africa" and the tours. An opening reception for an exhibition of African American art will begin at 5 p.m. that day. There is a charge for the reception.

Other events include:

"Opening Expressions," art work by Marionetta Porter, associate professor of art and design, will be on display 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 and again at 3 p.m. Feb. 6 when Porter delivers "Conversation with the Artist."

Local story-tellers will present spirited tales for children and adults at 1 p.m. Feb. 6, 13, and 14 and at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 7.

Dances by Nubia Safiya Tsekani will be performed at 3 p.m. Feb. 7. Tsekani, a dancer-choreographer, musician and costume designer, brings experiences from her travels to Guinea, Senegal and the Gambia to her performances.

"Bags, Brooms, Bottles and Bedcovers," a lecture by Bamidele Agbasegebe Demeerson, will be held at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 7. Demerson will focus on how plants have influenced the African American culture.

The McKenney Family will perform at 3 p.m. Feb. 13. Their rhythmic music helps tell the story of how African culture has influenced American music, particularly jazz.

Songs of West African People will be performed at 3 p.m. Feb. 14 by Felicia Sander, a graduate student in music, who will demonstrate and teach rhythms and songs of West Africa.

The free, public "Out of Africa" events are sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Ann Arbor News, the Elling Family, Engineered Plastic Products Inc., the Matthaei Foundation and Zingerman's. For more information, call 998-7061.