Beading beyond African stereotypes

MU African Student Association members came together and invited students in creating jewelry using beads from Nigeria. (MARIANNE CAESAR/SNAPPER)

Marianne Caesar
Features Editor

On January 28, 2016, in the Student Memorial Center, students were able to get creative and learn about African culture through a jewelry workshop. Hosted by the African Student Association (ASA), attendees created jewelry using beads which originated from Nigeria, choosing between bracelets, necklaces, or waist beads for their creations. Waist beads have specific meanings and purposes associated with them, often attuned to which part of Africa they are being worn in. Adorning the female bodies underneath clothing, waist beads have varied meanings such as being worn as a rite of passage, shaping the body for women of all sizes, being used to stimulate males sexually, and being used as a tool for healing when stones are included in their design.

Adunda Bello, President of the ASA since the fall of 2015, had the opportunity to travel to Nigeria and gain some firsthand experience in the country. Interning for two weeks at a Navy hospital, Bello was able to intern as a Pre-Med student and saw the different ways in which medicine was practiced.

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The beads were from Nigeria, a country located in western Africa. (Photo Courtesy of Commons.Wikimedia.org)

“Being in the hospital, the doctors have to memorize a lot more of what they are doing compared to [the United States],” said Bello. “They don’t have as much equipment and are more dependent on memory. Later in life, I want to be able to go back and establish hospitals there.”

While the organization’s name is the African Student Association, members want to instill that all individuals are welcome to join and participate in learning about African cultures and the people of the continent.

“It’s called the ASA, not because it is for African students. It is because we are trying to learn about the continent itself,” added Bello. “Not a lot of people have knowledge about the continent and different cultures in Africa.”

Activities such as the jewelry workshop are among several hosted activities this semester, which are presented to educate individuals and to bring communities together. In discussing valid topics, such as civil wars within the country and the kidnapping of 276 female students in Chibok, an opportunity for open dialogue presents itself and ways to provide resources as a diverse group.

“All people are welcome to come and join in discussion with us and learn about different places around the world,” said Akunna Akere, Social Chair on the club’s board. “We really want people to think that we are not just one group-all groups can come join us and learn.”

In addition to broadening one’s awareness, there is also a focus on breaking unsupported stereotypes presented about Africa.
“What is portrayed in the media about Africa is not always true,” said club Webmaster Cassius James. “The truth can be bent and one of the main things that this club does is to investigate what’s in the media ourselves so that we can get a better picture for ourselves. Most of the time, [things are] not always exactly what the media makes it.”

Bello noted that many Americans are under the misconception that investment in Africa is unnecessary because “they are helpless or that there is nothing there. The truth is that there is a lot of resources down in Africa just like Western countries,” which are used by businesses and for various needs.

Those interested in attending future events can do so through events listed in accompaniment to this article. They can also contact the organization through Get Involved.

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