I walk in, Biggie starts playing. Already I can tell it’s going to be a great set.
On the first day of February, the St Andrews Afro-Caribbean Society (ACS) held a launch party in Club 601 for their charity cultural showcase called UBUNTU. The event was a good chance for the student body to come together and enjoy a great mix of Hip Hop, Afrobeats and rap from across the decades. Founded in 2017, UBUNTU is a student-run charity showcase that incorporates fashion, dance, music and other performances in homage to the Caribbean, Africa and the diaspora. It has proven to be a very popular event, seeing as there are students from all over the world at St Andrews, and the fashion shows are one of our university’s trademarks.
The atmosphere was reflective of this year’s Afro-Futurism theme: 601 was awash with purple, while deep pinks and electric blue cut through the space in sweeping arcs. The room came to life with people meeting the models who had starred in the promo film for the launch party, as well as the ACS committee members. Not everyone in attendance was an ACS member: lots of people had also just come along to support their friends, or to see what it was like, and ended up being really interested in UBUNTU.
The concept of Afro-Futurism is so intriguing because it is up to interpretation: you could view it as traditions from Afro-Caribbean cultures being reimagined in a cybernetic future, or you could approach it from a speculative history angle as exemplified by the 2018 Black Panther movie. I think that a lot of times when people think about black culture, the mind is drawn to past events and heritage. These are undeniably important facets of culture, but culture is also about reinvention and perpetuation: Afro-Futurism asks how culture might adapt as the world changes around it.
As a black student myself, it feels great to have a space like UBUNTU to see my culture celebrated in different ways. Even more gratifying than that is the fact that such a showcase allows for the whole student body to share that experience too, which I think is a good way to build cultural understanding and just generally broaden your horizons. It was also clear to me, after talking to the committee members, that they were passionate about the showcase and what it stands for as well. They said they were inspired by the UBUNTU showcase in 2022 and wanted to be a part of it this year. Others had previously been models last year and decided to apply to the show committee this year. Having such an invested committee not only impacts the success of the showcase and events but also the ACS as a whole: more students will hopefully be inspired by them to join in other cultural societies, and make St Andrews even more inclusive. It’s through grassroots, student-led initiatives like these that prospective students also get to see how being a minority in a large organisation doesn’t have to be isolating. After the past few years of COVID restrictions, the sense of community continues to be rebuilt by social events like this.
One thing I liked especially about the launch party was the music mixing: how the DJ segued from one genre to the next was an experience in itself, in my opinion (which other guests agreed with). It would go from 90s east coast hip-hop to 2000s RnB, modern UK RnB to modern Afrobeats. You’d have a thematic link between the current and subsequent song, so you’d get a nice flow of tracks that really explored an era and the genre. Or you’d have one artist playing and then the next artist would be someone influenced by or associated with the former, so the transitions to new genres and eras felt very satisfying (the Biggie song at the beginning was followed by Jay-Z, for example; we also had Jorja flow into Burna and then into Wizkid, and so on). If you’re looking for a night out featuring those kinds of genres as your soundtrack, then UBUNTU should be on your list. Such attention to detail was also present in the drink menu, too: the UBUNTU launch party featured themed cocktails like Asase Yaa and Osun, all named after mythological creatures from African cultures. Are those clues to what’s in store for the final showcase, perhaps?
Overall, the UBUNTU launch party was a chance to raise awareness about the show and give people a taste (literally!) of what to expect on the night of the showcase. If this is anything to go by, you can expect to have a great time at the final showcase!