A timeline detailing African
Created by uncgdcl on Aug 12, 2008
Last updated: 08/11/10 at 04:58 PM
Go to Blackboard to take Global Test 2.
African Chore-O-Tool Click here to complete the Chore-O-Tool exercise.
Companie TcheTche. A women-only troupe set up in the Ivory Coast in 1997. Excerpt from Sans Repères (1998). Chor: Beatrice Kombe Gnapa (Ivory Coast). Click here to watch the video: Companie TcheTche in Sans Repères David LaChapplle reveals a groundbreaking dance phenomenon from the streets of South Central Los Angeles in the documentary film Rize. The aggressive and visually stunning dance modernizes moves indigenous to African tribal rituals. Click here to watch the video: Rize IMAGE REFERENCE: [tchetche.afrikart.net]
Today, the Republic of Mali is located in the Sahel and extends into the Sahara. Mali’s history and geography have been greatly influenced by the Niger and Senegal River systems. Bamako is the capital, located in the western part of the country on the upper Niger River. D. T. Niane’s Sundiata, An Epic Tale of Old Mali takes us back to the royal courts of Mali and the formation and creation of the Great Malian Empire. Sundiata became king of Mali in 1230 and built the Empire of Mali until about 1255. Because it was located on a caravan route, over which slaves, gold, and ivory were transported to the Middle East and Europe, the Malian Empire was prosperous. Sundiata: An Epic Tale of Old Mali is told as if by a griot, Djeli Mamoudou Kouyaté. The art of storytelling, of passing along history through oral tradition, prevails in many African cultures and is often accompanied by song and dance. The story of Sundiata, the first ruler of the Malian Empire, is carried on by the Mande. The Mande cover a huge part of West Africa, intermingling with other groups but dominating wide areas. Mande languages extend from Senegal in the east and Guinea on the Atlantic coast through parts of Liberia and the Ivory Coast. The Mande heartland is in eastern Guinea and western Mali. When we think of the term “Mande” we are also making a linguistic distinction as the term refers to all speakers of Mandekan (Mande language) which links these ethnic groups geographically. The Mande should be considered as a fluid “federation” of culture and genealogy linked together by history, myth, and social (caste) structure. Culture is the patterned behavior and thinking that people living in social groups learn, create, and share. A people’s culture includes their beliefs, rules of behavior, language, rituals, art, technology, dress, and political and economic systems. The Mande share these defining characteristics. VIDEO: DCE 232 Dance excerpts. This is an example of the dance of the griots (jeli don) performed by the students of DCE 232 at UNCG. Also included in this segment is a discussion of the musical accompaniment and its importance in the presentation/preservation of the dances. Please remember that Sundiata is not a dance; it is an epic story – like the Greek Iliad and Odyssey or the Indian Mahabharata and Ramayana—which was passed down orally from generation to generation. In 1965, the scholar D. T. Naine published an account of the story which had not been written down before. Until then, it had been passed down by griots, the storyteller-historians of many traditional African societies. Dance and music often accompanied the stories and here we are going to watch a dance of the griot which may have accompanied the telling of the Sundiata but it is just a small part of the Sundiata epic tale, if even that. Click here to watch the video clips. IMAGE REFERENCE:Robin Gee (2005)
Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali is a written version of an oral epic. In the early 13th century, Sundiata Keita (“the hungering lion”) led a Mande revolt that marked the ascension of the Mali Empire. Griots (or jalis), storytellers with inherited knowledge of history, genealogy, and music, are important to the Sundiata story and to contemporary Mande culture. Again, as with the courts of France and Russia in the Ballet Unit, performance is used to glorify and increase the power of rulers. Sundiata becomes a way to remember a great civilization and to maintain a sense of national or ethnic pride. Dance is integrated with location. Take a few moments to read how dance has been used in the following ways: Dancing helps people shape and comment upon the priorities of their societies and cultures. People dance to maintain or re-establish traditional social and cultural ideals. People use an imaginary sense of place—envisioning a great society of the past or imbuing people from other places with imagined nobility or exoticism—in order to manage change in their own lives. Dancing helps people create interconnections between disparate groups and helps people form new social configurations. Dancers are often cultural nomads, carrying artistic practices to new places or carrying back new practices to their communities Accompanying the oral epic is a trio of drums—mali, snare, and tiki. With each bass, slap and tone created by the drum, the dancers proceed to carry out the story. When the drumming comes to a momentary halt, the dancers change their costume before the drumming begins and the story continues. This combination of dance and music help bring the centuries-old Sundiata tale to life. West African Historian D.T. Niane published his version of Sundiata in 1995. IMAGE REFERENCE: Robin Gee (2005)
“Dance is an ephemeral art; the convergence of content, context and form is primary in the construction of meaning shared by its participants.” -Omofolabo Ajai, Yoruba Dance & Cultural Identity Salia Sanou and Seydou Boro formed the dance company Salia Ni Seydou in 1994 in Burkina Faso. “Content, context, and form”? “Primary in the construction of meaning”? “Shared by its participants”? Context is especially important in these readings. Nicholls considers the importance of dancing to affirming cultural traditions in Africa. Edmondson explores the usefulness of dancing to a developing nation. Barnes investigates the importance of dance to Africans living in Europe. The authors also move beyond the meanings constructed by participants to consider how outsiders make sense of Africans dancing. Levinson, writing from Paris in the 1920s, writes from the perspective of a dance critic used to Russian ballet. Hahn, Schmidt, and Barnes are contemporary dance critics. In previous lessons, we have studied traditional dances. The following dances are contemporary, built from African traditions and in conversation with contemporary dance around the world. Here are some questions to think about while viewing the dances: Describe the movement in the videos in this section. What do you think the dances are about? Discuss how these dances are contemporary and how they are traditional by comparing them to dances viewed earlier in the unit. What do these dances suggest about the people who perform them? What is at stake in thinking about the dancers and choreographers whose work is presented here as contemporary artists who are part of a global arts community or contemporary African artists? The following is a performance at the Kaay Fecc Festival of Contemporary African Dance in Dakar, Senegal. This company represents a new generation of African artists who are redefining “tradition” and creating a new wave of dance expression that embraces a modern sensibility. Click here to watch the video: Salia Ni Seydou. IMAGE REFERENCE: [www.salianiseydou.net]
This exercise will help you see how well you understand the link between Brenda Dixon Gottschild's article Stripping the Emperor and the elements of the Africanist dance. To get ready, be sure to read Stripping the Emperor in the Intersections textbook and watch the videos in the exercise. This information will be covered in the next Global test. Click here to begin the activity.
Gottschild Reading Brenda Dixon Gottschild lists five movement elements that are common to West African dance. Do you see these elements in the Ballets Africains video clips? Be specific, listing the element, its definition, and describing an example of it in the tapes. What else do you see that Gottschild doesn’t mention? Intersections textbook reading “Stripping the Emperor: The Africanist Presence in American Concert Dance,” by Brenda Dixon Gottschild, pp. 249-257 IMAGE REFERENCE: Robin Gee (2005)
Africa is a land of great diversity. If you were to trek across the continent you would pass through lush, green forests and wander vast, grassy plains. You could cross barren deserts, climb tall mountains, and ford some of the mightiest rivers on earth. You would meet diverse people with a wide range of cultures and backgrounds and hear hundreds of languages. You would pass through small villages where daily life remains largely the same as it has been for hundreds of years as well as encounter sprawling cities with skyscrapers, modern economies, and a mix of international influences. In African Dance, you will look generally at dance in West Africa and the role it plays in society, then look more closely at Mali and the Mande culture. In the final section of this unit, you will study African dances in evolving contexts, especially contemporary African dance. Here we see parallels with the Ballet Unit, as African dance migrates to new places and takes on new meanings. African dances exist within the framework of community and are defined as such by their ability to bring individuals together in a complex society. These events can celebrate, commemorate, politicize, and organize communities. They are a significant unifying component within the social milieu. The essays in this section help situate black dance aesthetics within the framework of critical theories. Robert Nicholls, in African Dance: Transition and Continuity, investigates the clearly defined dance contexts that exist in traditional African cultures. Nicholls examines the “extreme functionality” of African art and the extent sociological, historical, political, and religious considerations that inform its production. Dance contexts have patterned meaning that is shared by those who contribute to the collective consciousness of the community. Nichols explores the concept of “place” as a defining feature of dance content, amplifying the importance of the why and what of activities in which individuals interact. He argues that dance has been a vital force in individual, family, and community formation. In turn, dance symbolism is the connective feature of ritual performance and its meaning is accepted by contributing community members. As such, dance is the means by which individuals are acculturated into their communities. Brenda Dixon Gottschild adds a list of aesthetic principles common to West African dance. The National Dance Company of the Republic of Guinea presents traditional Malinke dances in Jubilee! These performers travel around the world sharing their traditions with diverse audiences. Click here to watch the video clip. Created in France in 1952 by the Guinean poet and choreographer, Keita Fodeba, Les Ballets Africains was born in the middle of the fight of many African countries against colonialism. Created to showcase a vision of justice for Africa by giving witness to the humanity of the black man through his choreography, Les Ballets Africains was a model of African art and culture. The following clips come from the Les Ballets Africains performance of Heritage in 1996. Click here to watch the video. IMAGE REFERENCE: Robin Gee (2005)