The fifth annual “Cinema Africa” film festival held its Village of Nations Culture Celebration Tuesday not just to the beat of an African drum, but to the aromas of North African dishes, Ethiopian coffee and the sights of an African Fashion Show and short film. Hosted by the Training and Doctrine Command Culture Center, U. S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, or TCC, along with the University of Arizona Sierra Vista, Cochise College, Sierra Vista Public Library and the Boys and Girls Club of Bisbee, the event took place in the Mona Bishop Room at the Sierra Vista Public Library.
Marilyn Willis-Grider Ph.D., deputy director of the TCC, talked about her own experiences living and traveling in Africa as a missionary for 14 years and seeing 15 different countries.
“One of the things that I learned quickly was that Africa gets in your blood,” Willis-Grider said. “You develop a love and a passion for the continent of Africa and if you do not, Africa gets under your skin and you can’t handle it for more than a couple of weeks.”
On her travels, Willis-Grider mentioned how instead of taking photos, she would collect a traditional outfit from the area she would visit.
Willis-Grider was not the only TCC speaker to share experiences in Africa. TRADOC Cultural Training Specialist David Tannenbaum lived in Ethiopia for two-and-a-half years working on freelance writing, photography and teaching math and science at an international community school. He also served as an assistant track coach.
“There is no better place in the world to be a track coach than Ethiopia,” Tannenbaum said.
He shared with event attendees the Ethiopian history of coffee. According to Tannenbaum, coffee originated in Ethiopia and not in Brazil, a common misconception due to the large quantities of coffee coming from Brazil.
Using illustrative slides, Tannenbaum showed the Ethiopian tale of how coffee was discovered and said how a painting similar to the pictorial he displayed can be found in every Ethiopian coffee shop due to the people wanting to relive the discovery of coffee every time they go. He explained how Ethiopians will roast the beans in an open pan over fire. Next, the coffee beans are ground.
“When I lived in Ethiopia for two-and-a-half years, every morning I was awakened by the rhythm of my neighbor’s housekeeper grinding coffee,” Tannenbaum said.
To brew the coffee, Ethiopians would traditionally use a clay pot to bring the coffee to a boil three times before serving.
After guests had the opportunity to sample the African food and coffee, they were invited to watch and discuss the Zambian short film, “Mwansa the Great.” Participation was highly encouraged during the event, whether it was sharing personal experiences traveling to Africa, giving points of view and reactions to the movie, or getting up and dancing to the beat of an African drum.
“Part of what makes these events meaningful, yeah you can watch a movie, you can listen to people talk about things, but it’s when you really participate in the discussion that you begin to really own the experience,” Willis-Grider said.
Near the end of the event, attendees were treated to a fashion show displaying various traditional African attire from Morocco, Liberia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Ghana and regions of North Africa. In addition to African casual wear, the show included childrens’ outfits and a wedding sari.
The Village of Nations Culture Celebration was the finale of the “Cinema Africa” film festival, which started Feb. 21 and showed films from the African continent at different locations throughout Cochise County. All events were free and open to the public. During the finale, the public also learned more about the TCC and its significance to Soldiers from John Bird, director.
“At the Culture Center, we think culture is important; we think it’s important because it provides Soldiers with a deeper understanding of the environment that they’re in, and it enables them to better connect with the populations that they’re working with,” Bird said.