John Bae / Diaspora Showcase

Sights, sounds and tastes of Africa will come to the Northwest Side this week at the Fourth annual Diaspora Showcase Africa, an event intended to teach people about African culture through a fashion show and live entertainment.

The Saturday showcase at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Road, will feature African food, music and dance, and a fashion show spotlighting traditional and modern African-inspired designs by national and international clothing designers.

There also will be a silent auction that includes items such as jewelry, paintings, African masks and a Volkswagen Jetta.

Proceeds from the silent auction will benefit the Ghana Education Project, a national nonprofit organization started by Princeton University students in 1999 to help provide aid and education in Ghana.

The organization has sent numerous college students to Ghana to complete volunteer projects such as leading AIDS-awareness workshops and helping establish local libraries, according to the project's literature.

Showcase producer Kwevi Quaye, who is on the Ghana Education Project's board of directors, said he created the Diaspora Showcase Africa as a way to introduce community members to African culture in a lively, entertaining setting, while supporting humanitarian aid in Africa.

"I don't think very much is known about the continent, especially in America," Quaye said. "I wanted to present the continent in a form that has never been done, and I thought the best way to do that was in a very entertaining way. People can learn about a different culture, a different tradition, in a very sophisticated format."

Quaye said the event now draws one of the most culturally diverse audiences he's seen in Tucson, making it a celebration of cultures around the world.

"It's Africa, but the audience is everybody, so when you're coming to see the show you're coming to see the world," he said.

"Diaspora" means "dispersion," which Quaye deemed appropriate to the event because people of African heritage are so dispersed across the globe.

The event also shares its name with Quaye's Tucson-based architecture firm, Diaspora International Inc., which has designed buildings throughout the world, including some in Africa.

Local and visiting musicians will perform at the showcase, including members of the Arizona Jazz Academy and Nigerian drummer Rasaki Aladokun, who plays the African talking drum.

Food from 10 to 15 African countries will be prepared by African chefs living in Tucson, Quaye said, and the fashion show will feature the work of designers from locations including New York, Paris, London and Nigeria.

"It's an occasion for us to be known in the U.S.," said Bezem Kassan, a Paris-based designer taking part in the show. "It's a celebration."

Models in the show come from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

Eulalia Gaston, who owns Angels of Color, has participated in the showcase since its debut and calls it an edgy event that presents Africa "with a twist."

Actress Vanessa Williams, of the Showtime television series "Soul Food," (not to be confused with the Vanessa Williams who stars on ABC's "Ugly Betty") will host the event, which begins at 6 p.m.

Tickets are $45 in advance or $50 at the door and can be purchased at Suwatana Imports, 2748 N. Campbell Ave., or Casa de los Milagros, 6370 N. Campbell Ave.

If you go

• What: Diaspora Showcase Africa.

• Where: Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Road.

• When: 6 p.m. to midnight Saturday.

• Tickets: $45 in advance or $50 at the door; available in advance at Suwatana Imports, 2748 N. Campbell Ave., or Casa de los Milagros, 6370 N. Campbell Ave.

• For more information: Visit the Web sites or

● Alexis Blue is a Tucson freelance writer.