Students will initiate the project with an African dance chosen to represent the nobility of a great civilization which is not always portrayed in the media. Unfortunately my students often think of earlier Africa as a primal spot somewhere on the map where their ancestors were hunters and fisherman with no great claim to fame or contribution to the civilized world. Although these myths have been challenged and are now portrayed with honesty in the media, they are far and few between so the myths seems to take more time to fade into nonexistence.
It is important to start with Africa too , so students will know their history did not begin with Blacks arrival in the New World on slave ships. Africa was a source of western culture and also the cradle of mankind. Dance was detrimental to the African cultures because it was used as a form of communication well before any formal language even existed. We will use the ancient empire of Ethiopia as our first model. “ this was the first ascertainable African state to attain prominence and power’.
It derived it’s name from the Greek word “Aithops” which means dark skinned people. Ancient Ethiopis shared borders with another great empire, Egypt. Both Ethiopia and Egypt benefited from a shared coexistence which resulted in a sharing of cultures through trade and considerable intermarriage. There are wonderful pictures of these two ancient powers in
The Ebony Pictorial History Of Black Americans
. These pictures include symbols, religious artifacts, and clothing from that period which will serve as sources when considering costumes and backdrops for the video. Drums will serve as a sole source of music since they too were used for communication.
Our second picture will depict the famous portrait of Cinque, one of fifty two other Africans who spent three years trying to return to their native land after they were kidnapped for the purpose of slavery. Cinque and his men seized control of the vessel that was to carry them to a land of slavery. During the three year period , the liberty of the kidnapped Africans was defended in the United States courts by a community of people from New Haven and New York who believed in freedom for all. The actual story involves a brutal revolt. We will use modern dance as our vehicle to present the movements needed to depict struggle and finally freedom and independence. African dance will undoubtedly be used as well and will actually complement the modern dance. Quincy Jones has recorded excellent music for the soundtrack of
that will work well with the choreography.
Though the famous portrait of Cinque will be used to start the dance, we will also read sections from Alex Haley’s
. These selected passages explain life in Africa in detail. The villages and culture are detailed well enough to incorporate some of them into the dance as well as the scenery used. The students will make the final decisions regarding scenery and props.