The bass of a Nigerian pop song thumped while a student strung flags around the perimeter of the Back Alley. In a few minutes, three students would crowd around a podium on the stage and introduce an audience to the culture of their home country, which a neon-colored map depicted behind them.
According to speaker Pearl Oduyebo, to discuss the country, one must first describe the importance of its people.
“Nigerians are known for their vibrant and friendly energy expressed through their diverse creative expression. Some may say they are proud and extra. I won’t call names,” Oduyebo said with a laugh and gestured toward the giggling front row. “I say what makes Nigeria so unique and beautiful is the diversity.”
Freshmen international students Oduyebo, Harriet Emeh and Theresa Ike-Njoku shared about Nigeria at the first rendezvous event of the spring semester on Feb. 9. The International Programs Office and the Augustana International Club routinely put on the events, which the club’s promotional director Mariya Mamman said connects students with other cultures on campus.
“I think [rendezvous] are a great way to bring exposure to the people who don’t get to go to those places,” Mamman said. “Most of these countries, we’re probably never going to go to. Part of bringing international students to Augie is displaying why those students are important, and it’s important to show different parts of their country to show that it’s equally as beautiful.”
For Oduyebo, Emeh and Ike-Njoku, a Nigerian poem was a beautiful place to start.
Oduyebo began the presentation with a recital of “Nigeria, My Lovely Home,” a poem by Abdulraf Muhammad.
“Nigeria indeed is my lovely home, a great nation with countless blessings, a famous nation among all the rest,” Oduyebo read. “God bless my lovely home. God bless my father land. Nigeria indeed is my lovely home.”
The rhythm of poetry would eventually give way to a discussion on another Nigerian value: quality cuisine.
“Food is part of entertainment,” Oduyebo said. “We hold our food with so much pride because of all the amazing flavors. The best African jollof is the Nigerian jollof.”
The crowd approved as they clapped and let out a few cheers.
According to Oduyebo, Nigeria and Ghana are in a constant feud over who has the best-tasting jollof, a West-African rice dish.
Oduyebo and Ike-Njoku then invited the audience to participate in a test on their knowledge of Nigerian slang. Those who answered correctly received a tupperware filled with jollof the speakers prepared.
“God done buttered my bread,” Ike-Njoku said.
One student swiftly translated the phrase.
“Make my life easier,” freshman Abel Alene said.
The popular culture references continued as the presenters shared music videos of throwback Nigerian songs.
Snippets of P-Square’s “Chop My Money” and Bracket’s “Mama Africa” poured through the speakers, and the presenters swayed on stage.
“[Nigeria is] always bringing up upcoming artists, and they just have this fresh vibe,” Emeh said. “There’s never any time there’s no music.”
Rendezvous attendees gained more than popular song recommendations. Freshman international student Gabby Rabboni and sophomore Schaler Starks said they enjoyed learning more about Nigeria and its subcultures.
“I honestly didn’t know much about Nigeria, so I learned a lot,” Rabboni said. “A lot of the international students are in the same boat, so for me, getting out of the campus life and to just hear about another country once a week is like a piece of home.”