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Maybe you're not a fan of opera, but you still love drama and music. And perhaps because it's Black History Month, you want some entertainment with an ethnic flair. The Carolina Theatre has an event practically tailored to your tastes. "The Mandinka Epic" is a "history lesson full of poems, rhythm, ceremony and dance" all rolled into one. Performed by the Ballet d'Afrique Noire (pictured above), this electrifying saga follows the Mandinka (or Mandingo) people of West Africa throughout the centuries' commercial expansion, conquests and cultural changes. Note that it's "centuries": The Mandinka trace their roots to ninth-century Mali and controlled trade across the Sahara Desert when Europe was still floundering in the Dark Ages. It may not be the history you learned in school, but "The Mandinka Epic" proves that civilization is not solely the province of the West. A word to would-be spectators: The production is sung in the Wolof language, but it's packed with theatrical gestures and terrific choreography that can be understood universally. Get your tickets now; there's only one performance in the Triangle, on Friday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $23 and $30. Call 560-3030. --Cynthia Greenlee

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