By Alfred Tamakloe
(In Berlin – Germany)
The entire premises of Theaterhaus Berlin, located in the Mitte district of the German capital, hosting the third edition of Kuyum Dance Festival, was a tapestry of visually captivating dance moves, drawing wild cheers and applauds from the audience.
Featuring diverse neo-contemporary African dance from the African continent and its diaspora, the dancers, and choreographers’ pieces mirrored themes of personal experiences in life, challenges in the environment in which they practice their profession, spirituality, reflections on current global challenges, resistance, artistic language that embodies both trauma and the ecstasy of liberation and the urge for freedom and identity, among others.
The highlight of the festival was a conference that touched on the “Embodiments of Dance Transformation,” where participants discussed among others; how the living body produces its own knowledge and stores its memory while providing dance expressions that are embedded in its own corporal experience, rather than being imported.
The dancers and choreographers also touched on how they can conceive a future of African dance that empowers and is empowered by a progressive global dance knowledge versus colonial and racist thinking that creates false hierarchies and discrimination between forms, content, practises, origins, and embodiments.
Daphne Brunet, who was at the festival, participating in the workshops and as an audience, observes that, it was a rich and intimate experience with deeply personal works by very talented artists, providing opportunities to engage with the artists about their various performances, and practices in the workshops.
“I have seldom experienced such high-quality art in such an accessible program, financially for all, including for people with disabilities. The festival team, did a tremendous job of bringing together and highlighting artists from the African continent and its diaspora in a relaxing and friendly environment in which culture and personal connections could be cultivated.”
“I think the festival Director, Felix Dompreh, also proposes an important dialogue on African dances and how to position them within a Eurocentric dance scene, which increasingly appropriates from them, a practice common in most of the so-called modern arts, exemplified in the works, fame, and fortune of Picasso and many since.”
“Such positioning is an important question of access to certain funding and venues restricted to the so-called “higher arts”. It is a matter of addressing and increasingly dismantling structures of exclusion and exploitation within the art world”, she emphasised.
Kuyum Dance Festival aims to present new forms of African dance or neo-African dance, raise awareness, and stimulate debates around a new transfer of knowledge in the dance field that primarily emerges from dance practitioners and extends to bridge the gap of discourse between dancers in Africa and the diaspora, as well as those operating in the larger field of dance globally. The fourth edition is slated for September 2024.
It received funding from Hauptstadt Fonds under the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Senate Administration for Culture and Social Cohesion. Cooperating partners include Berlin Mondiale, Tanz Fahig, Taz and Theatrehaus Berlin Mitte.
Pix – Thabo Thindi