Seats squeaked as an entire auditorium of people turned to face the rear entrance of Norris’ McCormick Auditorium, as the first participants in Northwestern’s African Students Association’s (ASA) pageant-style show, Sarauta, appeared at the top of the aisle. The event took place on Saturday, Feb. 18, celebrating the cultural diversity of Africa and the accomplishments of African students at Northwestern.

Music thumped from speakers, propelling those representing the first country of the night, Ghana, toward the stage. The audience whooped and applauded for the representatives of every new country, and especially for their friends.

ASA has been putting on an annual cultural show for years, aptly named Jabulani, meaning “rejoice” in Zulu. The show is a celebration of African culture through dance, dress and music. This year the student group planned and executed a show to decide who would receive the titles of “Mr. and Ms. Africa.”

After all the representatives had walked to the stage, each participant presented their cultural dress to the audience. Two by two, they walked out from behind the curtains wearing an array of vibrant colors: purple, red, yellow, orange, green and more. Music pulsed through the auditorium as those on stage strutted like runway models.

Throughout the night, guest performances went on between sections of the pageant. Weinberg fourth-year Sean Dukes stunned with his melodic vocals, and students in Northwestern’s Swahili Department went on stage for a song with accompanying steps.

Later, more groups performed, including Nasser, the Afrothunda Dance Troupe and the ELEL Group.

After the Swahili Department and Sean Dukes’ performances, pageant participants began the “Boundless Expression” section of the pageant. Instead of a traditional talent portion, show organizers allowed participants the opportunity to do anything they wanted on stage for about three minutes.

One participant showed her beautiful photography, while others sang beautiful ballads. Several chose to incorporate their African heritage into their talent through dance, singing or instrumentation. There was soccer-ball-juggling, stand-up and poetry recitations. The participants could choose whether to express themselves in this section of the pageant, and many did.

After a few more guest performances and a (slightly heartbreaking) elimination round based on a combination of audience and judge votes, it was time for the formal dress section.

Dressed in formal attire, participants walked out two by two once more. This time, though, they stopped and were asked an interview question by the judges. The questions ranged from those about leadership skills to what object they would be, and every participant got the chance to answer.

After a few more guest performances, it was finally time to present awards. Weinberg second-year Rayan Tabidi won Ms. Africa, people’s choice and best dressed of the evening, and SESP third-year Faris Haghamed won Mr. Africa and Best Dressed.

ASA president and Weinberg fourth-year Wilma Tay presented awards to winners as everyone cheered, and with that, ASA’s Jabulani show, Sarauta, came to a close.

Editor's Note, Feb. 20, 2024 at 7:17 PM: A previous version of this article stated Faris Haghamed won the Best Boundless Expression award. He won Mr. Africa and Best Dressed. North by Northwestern regrets the error.