Diamano Coura West African Dance Company dedicates this piece, Resilience Medley – Africa Rising, to the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024).
Welcome songs from Liberian ethnic groups open this suite of four dances from various West African countries. The similarities in these dances—such as arm rotation and leg-leaping— point to a common and enduring cultural source: Africa’s prominent ethnolinguistic group, the Mandinka people. The Mandinka are descendants of the Great Mali Empire (1230-1600), an empire boasting four hundred cities, including Timbuktu, and the Sankoré University, one of the first universities in the world. When political lines were drawn during and after colonialism, boundaries divided cultures and ethnic groups. But Mandinka culture proved resilient throughout West Africa.
The dances are:
Soko, from Guinea, a rhythm played for ceremonial rites of passage of boyhood into manhood;
Kuku, also from Guinea, historically played and danced by women returning from fishing with gear;
Jomokai and Mandingo, social dances originating from the Mandinka people of Niger, Mauritania, and Ivory Coast.
The Mandinka musical/spiritual tradition is known for griot storytellers who sing history and play exquisite music on drums and banjo-like kora. The tall conical djembe drum—played here by Diamano Coura musicians—originated in the Mali Empire. Carved from one piece of wood, it’s known as the drum that talks, the heartbeat. A ceremonial drum, it’s been allowed to travel since the 1950s, inspiring musicians and dancers around the world. The smaller, double-headed, rope-tuned dunduns are played throughout West Africa. Dundun and djembe were once royal drums of the Mande people.
Diamano Coura West African Dance Company is dedicated to the preservation, education, and documentation of traditional West African music, dance, theater, and culture: It’s one of the oldest professional West African dance companies in the US. Since 1975, under the direction of Emmy Award Winner Dr. Zakarya Diouf and Artistic Director Naomi G. Diouf, the company offers workshops, performances, arts-in-education programs, touring and lecture demonstrations, community outreach and partnerships. In Senegalese Wolof, the name means “those who bring the message.” The company portrays West African cultural forms to communities, to educate, communicate, organize, and preserve their ancestral past.
July 13 & 14
Dance Origin: West Africa
Title: Resilience Medley - Africa Rising
Director: Dr. Zakarya Diouf
Artistic Director: Naomi Diouf
Choreographers: Ibrahima Diouf, Naomi Diouf
Dancers: Imani Abernathy, Esailama Artry-Diouf, LaTashia Bell, Ibrahima Diouf, Marquis Engle, Aimee Fields, Dedeh La Foucade, Jamila Fuller, Diony Gamoso, Alana Harbin, Ebony Henderson, Antoinette Holland, Coco Kelly, Carlos De Leon, Nikka Maynard, Alkebulan Penda Ra
Musicians: Madiou Diouf (djembe), Dr. Zakarya Diouf (kele), Darian La Foucade (dundun), Eric Bli Bi Gore (djembe), Mohammed Kouyate (djembe), Nimely Napla (sasa)
Photo: RJ Muna