Sharing African Arts with the World

i hope this message finds you well and warm, basking in the glow of a New Year!

i write to you from sunny West Africa—Diébougou, Burkina Faso to be exact. i am working on an exciting new project here and am reaching out to ask you if you are able to support.

i came to Diébougou in December with festival organizer Miyu Leilani and Butoh dancer Yuko Kaseki to help launch the second iteration of NyamaNyama, Burkina Faso’s first-ever international arts festival of the genre: garbage into art. in six jam-packed days, we did Butoh workshops inspired by the themes of water and waste, drawing, painting, and sculpture workshops with numerous street kids, marched in a parade with giant marionettes and live music while picking up tons of trash littering the landscape, and performed in numerous contemporary dance improvisations and rehearsed pieces while being energized by traditional Burkinabe music and dance performances. we sampled traditional foods, visual arts and artisan products created by the local and national community. i created a collaborative theater piece in what little time there was between the maelstrom of activity. “Le Famille de NyamaNyama” combined traditional theater and contemporary dance in one piece that captivated and delighted the audience in surprising and inspiring ways. so much so, that i was asked to stay on and continue working with the actors and dancers on a new workshop.

i was really touched by this request, and by the talent and dedication of the performing artists here. we accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, despite a host of challenges and snafus. there is a hunger here that differs from “modernized societies.” their passion for learning new ways to improve the socio-political conditions here results in an ability to transcend some very powerful obstacles. for example, during the theater workshop, i learned that the majority of actors could not read or write. so we paired them with other workshop participants to dictate their text to compose the piece. one of the actors named Sulaiman spoke his piece while Clara transcribed it. afterwards, i proposed that they read it as an ensemble, Clara reading and Sulaiman repeating. we were shocked he leapt up and basically said, “I got this.” he recited his piece verbatim! Clara said it matched the text she wrote almost exactly word for word. this was only one moment among many where i was astounded by their capabilities.

working in theater and dance is not only a passion for these artists—it literally frees them. it gives them a livelihood so they don’t have a be a servant and clean someone’s house day in and day out. many of the performers still need secondary jobs: Dauda and Jules fuse metal to build houses; Adama is installing water systems in nearby villages. Cadi brings her baby to rehearsals or she can’t come at all. however, performing arts give them a purpose and the possibility to help other villagers understand new ways of living. they do it so that they might articulate a new Africa.

how could i say no to helping, even though i also need to find a means to support my being here?

so i decided to start this Patreon jam and reach out to you to see if making magic is possible. i’ve raised $500 toward the goal of $2500 to support this project. might you have some extra funds to contribute toward this cause? or maybe you know of some other organizations or individuals who would be interested in supporting this work? even being inspired to forward this to your network would go a long way towards helping me help these artists.

in my remaining time, i am going to share my experience of Suzuki Method and Viewpoints training with the Burkinabe performing artists. this training profoundly altered my artistic existence and continues to give me new life. i am indebted to SITI Company for sharing this important work that has given me a language for creation and connection all over the world. the ways this training deals with freedom within structure echoes the ways of living here. given the culture here in Africa, i think it will serve these artists to develop work long after i’m gone. likewise, i feel that their artistry has an important message for the world. we are aiming to create another performance at the end of this workshop to document and share with you. our goal is to continue building a worldwide connection through art, heart, and cultural exchange. we plan to bring these artists to New York, as well as continuing to grow NyamaNyama into an NGO. then we can bring more international inspiration here and share local African art products and performances with the world. 

if this project resonates with you, we would really appreciate your support. planning is underway, but outside funding is essential to make this happen. i need a financial commitment by Friday (the 13th!) to move forward with the performance. the funding will go toward daily living and travel expenses, artist fees, and production costs.

i really appreciate you taking the time to read about our adventures and i am truly grateful for any support you may be able to give. it allows us to connect the world with art, which we believe the world needs more than ever.

donating to my Patreon in this month goes toward covering the costs of this project. and there are many more exciting arts, healing, and spirit activities forthcoming in the months ahead. i thank you for your support for this and all things. you make the world an awesome place to be.