BY CHRISTEL ALLISON
In the heart of Waterloo, African students are striving every day to stay connected to their roots.
Traces, an engaging show that highlights the rich history of Africa and its cultural diversity, is one of the ways they try to stay connected. It is theatre, dance, poetry, music and other forms of performance art fused together to paint a well-rounded picture of Africa.
Since the birth of this show in 2011, members of the University of Waterloo African Students Association (UWASA) have strived every year to create a unique experience that showcases how culturally diverse the continent of Africa is. For Africans who attend the performance, the show creates a safe haven that makes them feel less distant from home and remember that no matter how far they travel, they can still remain deeply rooted in their culture. Also, for non-Africans, it is a way for them to learn and appreciate the African culture in a way they don’t get to every day – a way that depicts beauty and rich traditions and not supposed hut accommodations and starvation, which the media continuously falsely portrays.
Traces has attracted crowds from within and outside the region. In the short period of time that the show has existed, it has gained unbelievable recognition, both from sponsors and the community.
“We’re constantly getting calls from sponsors, which is really crazy,” said Karo Oki, president of UWASA. “Something that started as a way for Africans to meet other Africans while being entertained has grown to be an event that people mark in their calendars.”
This year it will be held on Jan. 31.
Every year there’s a theme, which is usually linked to the African heritage. Last year it was Sankofa. As described by UWASA, this is the name of one of many Adinkra symbols, designed to portray messages of wisdom. It represents the idea of looking to your past with understanding, that both the good and the bad has helped you become who you are today.
With that show, organizers were able to pass along the message that looking to the past can make an impact on the way we do things going forward.
“Sankofa was really just a message to people that we are who we are for a reason,” said Oki. “Our roots have shaped us and we should not strive to stray from them. Rather, embrace who they have made us today.”
The event was a huge success and people are eager to find out what the theme for this year will be. Open calls and auditions have taken place, rehearsals are underway but there’s a lid on the vital bits and pieces. So far, organizers have managed to keep it under wraps in the hopes of building anticipation, and they are doing a very good job of that.
“I’m a little too excited,” said Aleisha Cousins, a University of Waterloo student. “I’m Jamaican but I think I get more excited than Africans. I’ve gone to all the events so far and I always want to know everything. I keep asking what it’ll be about this year but no one is saying anything. I can’t wait to find out.”
Traces in 2013 was titled Keza Kunda, which translates to beautiful love in Kinyarwanda. The association highlighted that Keza Kunda was a love story that captured some of the struggles of Africans in the diaspora as they return home. With mind-boggling themes like that, it’s not surprising that they have been able to build a devoted fan base that yearns for more.
This year, the UWASA team plans to deliver. They have promised a show that will captivate the audience from the very first second and have them intrigued and unwilling to leave when the show is over.
“The show is going to be epic,” said Kenechi Chidolue, creative director of UWASA. “We’re working so hard to make sure this is our best show yet. We know expectations are high so we’re striving to surpass them.”
The verdict will be reached come Jan. 31. Until then, there can only be speculations. Tickets are available now and sell for between $60 and $110.