Some creative Calgarians are stepping up to celebrate Black History Month, showcasing some popular dance styles that share a painful past.
Performers with the Woezo Africa Music & Dance Theatre Inc. are presenting a production called “Unganisha” on Saturday Feb. 26.
“Unganisha means ‘connection’ in Swahili,” Unganisha producer Wunmi Idowu said. “I chose that name because I wanted to connect the history of modern styles of dance to its origins, to allow more people to understand that it came from a very gruesome and painful circumstance of enslaved Africans being stolen from Africa.”
Idowu hired several researchers to spend six month investigating the connections between dance styles that have evolved from their origins in Africa.
One of those researchers was dance historian Alen Martel.
“With the transatlantic slave trade — when you have people stolen from their lands and brought to a new place — a lot of things are stripped from them, things like language, clothing, musical instruments, etc.” Martel said. “But the dances would survive.”
Hip hop dancer Christahh Ahh is one of the performers taking part in “Unganisha”.
“People don’t know that there are common roots,” Ahh said.
“This is a great opportunity to educate the community. It shows a huge amount of respect for the art and where it has come from.”
“Unganisha” was organized long before the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions and organizers are sticking with their original plan to present the show only online.
Idowu said people from throughout North America and from several African countries have bought tickets for the event.
“There is this history and it’s important not to just ignore it,” Idowu said. “This is truly Black history.”