A Sankofa Dance Project

‘Sankofa’, a saying dating back to the Akan tribe in Ghana, which translates into ‘It is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.’ In this case, a Sankofa dance project refers to ‘Reaching back in dance in order to move forward,’ so that West African arts and culture may be understood through the lens of traditional drum and dance, along with its folkloric preservation. It is important to note that there are major differences between East, West, and South African cultures and traditions; this apprenticeship will focus on folkloric dances from Guinea, West Africa.

Master Artist: Afua Kouyate (Seattle)

Over the past 45 years, Afua has spearheaded annual events within the African American communities of Seattle and greater Washington. Her passion grew from a young age when a touring Nigerian artist, Babatunde Olatunji, exposed Afua to the beauty of traditional music, song, and dance. Afua has been teaching West African drum and dance to people of all ages at schools, teacher trainings, and business workplaces, to name a few. She continues to spread cultural awareness by opening the gateway for cultural growth, academic success, and personal development to all of her students.

“I have been a part of the continuous growth that is committed to the development and preservation of West African Arts & Culture in the Pacific Northwest communities.”

Apprentice: Giavonna White (Seattle)

Giavonna graduated from the University of Washington in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Research. She was first introduced to Guinea dance at a summer dance program at Duke University for the American Dance Festival. Shortly after, she joined 4Culture’s De Cajón Project, where she learned the Afro-Peruvian drum and dance technique. Giavonna started taking classes with Afua in 2015, bringing her back to the native dances of her West African ancestral origins.

“African dance connects me to a history that I don’t know much of. It reminds me that I belong to a larger community than just the USA. When I’m having the physical experience of dancing, I’m also having a spiritual experience; of empowerment, identity and a sense of belonging.”

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