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Experience West Africa

Signature Events

Event Details

Immerse yourself in the musical stories and rhythms of West Africa at MIM! Celebrate this region’s rich musical culture through fun activities, exciting performances, and informative talks. Be sure to visit MIM’s Africa Gallery to learn more about West African instruments, such as the talking drum, djembe, balafon, and kora.

Sponsored by APS
Supported by the African Association of Arizona

West African Gifts Available for Purchase
9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
The strong cultural and musical influences of West Africa will resonate throughout the Museum Store. Enjoy an amazing selection of instruments, home accents, jewelry, and music from various West African nations, including Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and more.

Photo Booth
9:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Have your picture taken with fun musical props at MIM’s custom photo booth, and instantly get your own copy to take home.

Xalam Craft-Making Activity
9:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
The xalam is a traditional instrument from western Africa associated with griots, a class of people who are storytellers, oral historians, musicians, and tradition bearers. Make a craft version of this important stringed instrument and tell your own story through song.

West African Music and Storytelling
10:30–11:15 a.m.
Keith Johnson is a percussionist, master drummer, craftsman of tradition, and educator who has worked with the Arizona Arts Council for the past twenty years. Since traveling extensively through Mali, Senegal, and Ghana, he has shared his knowledge of West African drums with eager audiences all over Arizona. Join Johnson as he presents his experiences of traditional music and folklore from West Africa.

Mini-Tours of the Africa Gallery
11:15 a.m., 12:30, 1:45, & 2:45 p.m. (Saturday only)
Join MIM’s Junior Museum Guides for an insightful trip through the Africa Gallery focusing on the seventeen nations that make up the West African region.

Drumming Activity
11:15 a.m., 12:30, 1:45, & 2:45 p.m. (Saturday only)
Take part in family-friendly drumming and enjoyable Ghanaian musical games led by MIM’s Junior Museum Guides.

Special Lunch Menu Available for Purchase
11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Enjoy a special menu at Café Allegro that highlights West African flavors, with dishes including merguez sausage, jollof rice, and peanut soup.

Curator Talk: “The Drum That Saved the World: Symbolism in West African Musical Instruments”
11:45 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Many traditional West African instruments are created to symbolically reflect different peoples’ philosophies and worldviews. The instruments are performed in ritual or ceremonial contexts in which stories echo collective knowledge that may be shared musically to instill cultural values. This presentation by Manuel Jordán, PhD, MIM’s deputy director and chief curator, will address some of these traditions among the Yorùbá of Nigeria, Mende of Sierra Leone, and Baule and Senufo of the Ivory Coast, among others.

Senegalese Drumming Performance
1:00–1:45 p.m.
Come hear Los Angeles–based master Senegalese drummer Dethie Sarr “Pape” Diouf together with Arizona’s only performing ensemble specializing in Senegalese sabar drumming, Ensemble Ndeye Soxna. Composed of former students of the late percussionist Dr. Mark Sunkett, the group was created to carry forward his musical legacy under the direction of Dr. Sonja Branch. Their energetic stage presence earned them an invitation to perform in the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl halftime show. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience the unique sabar drumbeats of Senegal!

West African Dance Workshop
2:15–2:45 p.m.
Discover the steps and techniques of traditional West African dances. On Saturday, members of Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance Theatre will share their captivating drumming and dancing as they celebrate more than twenty years of performance throughout the Southwest. On Sunday, join local dance instructor and drummer Lendo Abdur-Rahman, an active West African dance educator and performer who has led workshops throughout Arizona and performed at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute.

Afrobeat Music Performance
3:15–4:00 p.m. (Saturday only)
Experience the fierce individuality of the classic Afrobeat style with the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra (PAO). A mixture of Western jazz, funk, and soul combined with elements of traditional Yorùbá music, Afrobeat is a spirited genre that engulfs listeners in dense layers of horns, percussion, and voice. PAO maintains a large collection of time-honored Afrobeat tunes by pioneers Fela Kuti and Tony Allen as well as an abundance of original compositions that exemplify Afrobeat’s core values of collective unity and social change.

Burkinabé Music Performance
3:15–4:00 p.m. (Sunday only)
Arouna Diarra, an accomplished musician from Burkina Faso, plays the kamale n’goni, a fourteen-string harp-like instrument that he builds himself. His family name, Diarra, is associated with the griot, a class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain West African oral history. As a twelfth-generation musician, he carries pieces of Burkina Faso’s history in traditional folk songs while singing in his native language, Bambara. Come hear Diarra play his handmade kamale n’goni, as well as several other traditional West African instruments, and discover the music of Burkina Faso.

Café Allegro Lunch Menu Highlights

Western African Fish Stew with Tomatoes, Onions, and Okra

Peanut Soup with Ginger, Sweet Potatoes, and Paprika

Jollof Rice with Shrimp, Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, and Plantains

Merguez Sausage with Lamb, Beef, Couscous, and Yogurt Harissa

Sponsored by

  • APS Logo

Supported by

  • African Association of Arizona Logo