In Fractured Mali, Dance Contest Offers A Sense Of Unity – African News – African News Network | Latest African News | Nigerian News | Breaking News
Connect with us

African News

In Fractured Mali, Dance Contest Offers A Sense Of Unity

Published

on

In Fractured Mali, Dance Contest Offers A Sense Of Unity

All 3 000 seats in the cavernous Palace of Culture in Bamako had been snapped up, and the mood was at fever pitch as the TV dance competition reached its climax.

The three finalists took to the floor one by one, dancing alongside a celebrity – a format familiar to viewers of talent shows around the world.

But here’s the difference: the three hopefuls each had to perform a traditional dance from a region of Mali that was not their own.

To outsiders, the format may seem odd – rather as if, in France, one asked a Corsican to don Breton folk clothing and do a jig.

But in the landlocked Sahel state of Mali, the show has been a raging success.

And it has bred a desperately-needed sense of unity in a country burdened by jihadist violence and ethnic tensions.

 ‘Cultural wealth’ 

The competition is the brainchild of dancer and choreographer Sekou Keita.

Just six years ago, he was wondering how he could reverse the decline of traditional dance in Mali, a country whose music is now achieving global fame.

“Our dances are so varied, we have a number of ethnic groups – we’re very lucky to have such cultural wealth,” he told AFP.

But the sad thing is that all of Mali’s dancers have one thing in common, he said.

“If you ask them to do the coupe-decale, a modern dance from Ivory Coast – which I have nothing against, by the way – they all know how to do it.

“If they go to (Senegal’s capital) Dakar, they all know how to dance the sabar,” he said.

“But they don’t know the traditional dances of their own country.”

 Exploring ancient roots 

From this came his idea for a programme that explored ancient cultural roots and built bridges across ethnic divides – “Faso Don” or “Dances of the Country” in the Bambara language.

Over six weeks, TV audiences shared the fate of eight young men and women from different regions, who shared a house “Big Brother-style” in Bamako, the capital.

Each week they performed before an audience and the TV cameras, their numbers progressively falling as a competitor was eliminated by a vote by the public and the jury – a device familiar to lovers of Britain’s “Strictly Come Dancing” or its US spin-off, “Dancing with the Stars.”

The final took place last weekend before an audience exhilarated by the ground-breaking, cross-cultural performances.

Dressed in traditional costumes, the finalists performed one dance from their region and one from another region, accompanied by Malian stars such as musician Bassekou Kouyate and singers Habib Koite and Oumou Sangare.

Among the finalists was Mohamed Kassogue, a member of the Dogon group who hails from the central region of Mopti.

His dream of dancing initially sparked a sceptical response from his family but in the end, Billy Elliot-style, their resistance crumbled and they became a source of “huge support and pride in me,” he said.

 ‘Dancing is useful’ 

“They always call me to congratulate me,” Kassogue said.

“They now see that dancing is useful, it’s not something bad.”

Kassogue, who donned dramatic masks for one of his dances, ended up coming second.

The winner was Rokia Diallo, a woman from the Fulani pastoral community in Sikasso, southern Mali.

Dressed in a flowing gown and a veil, she interpreted the takamba, a sinuous, sensuous dance from the Songhai group in the far north of the country.

Mali

 (File,AFP) 

“It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this,” said hip-hop dancer Oumar Tamboura, who had come to support a relative who was also one of the finalists.

“Until now, people weren’t interested in folk dance, tradition and costumes.”

“Faso Don” has not just revived interest in generations-old regional dances in Mali.

It has also reinforced mutual respect in a country whose reputation for hospitality is tragically being supplanted by one for violence.

 20 ethnic groups

The eighth largest country in Africa and one of the poorest in the world, Mali is a sprawling state whose external borders were defined by the French colonial era, often cutting communities in two.

It has around 20 ethnic groups, ranging from Arabs to the Bambara and the Songhai, each drawing on their own language and customs.

Mali

(File,AFP) 

Six years ago, problems flared when Tuareg separatists in northern Mali staged an uprising which jihadists then exploited to take over key cities.

The extremists were routed in a French-led military operation in 2013 but large stretches of the country remain out of control.

Chronic instability has inflamed competition for resources, especially between Fulani pastoralists and Dogon farmers in the centre of the country.

Across the country, around 600 civilians have died in “inter-communal violence” since the start of the year, according to UN figures.

Mali

 (File,AFP) 

African News

Kenya Committed To Improving Aviation Infrastructure

Published

on

By

Kenya Committed To Improving Aviation Infrastructure

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta says the government is committed to improving the country’s civil aviation infrastructure.  He credited the industry with enhancing the country’s economy and national development.

He said at the eleventh forum of the international civil aviation organization air services negotiation meeting in Nairobi that the aviation industry contributes four tenths of a percent to the country’s gdp.  He also said the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi provides seventeen thousand direct and more than half a million indirect jobs.

Kenyatta said about eight in ten tourists visiting Kenya use air transport.

He said these are some of the reasons his government is committed to investing in aviation infrastructure to help the industry play its critical role in the economy.

Continue Reading

African News

2 Persons Killed In Clash Between Security Forces And Protesters In Togo

Published

on

By

2 Persons Killed In Clash Between Security Forces And Protesters In Togo

At least two persons were reported killed in Togo over the weekend after security forces moved against protesters. Opposition has accused the government of using what it called “regime soldiers” it says opened fire on the demonstrators.

At least two persons were killed in clashes between Togo’s security forces and protesters.

Authorities reported finding a dead protester in Lome with an open wound in his left eye that indicated a bullet entry. Another dead body was also reported, this time with no bullet wounds.

The protests intensified after the government called for parliamentary elections to be held in late December.  Opposition is against the polls.  It has demanded reforms of the national electoral commission, and a two-term limit for presidents.

Continue Reading

African News

Cameroon Law Graduates-Turn-Musicians Sing For Peace

Published

on

By

Cameroon Law Graduates-Turn-Musicians Sing For Peace

Two Cameroonian Law graduates, who are now musicians, have been traveling through the country’s English-speaking regions singing messages of peace they believe will touch the rebels and help end the separatist conflict there.

The singers started their group in October when they both lost family members and friend in the secessionist struggle in the English-speaking regions.

The duo sing in both English and French reminding people about the grave repercussions of war, and urging all sides to embrace peace.

The conflict has claimed hundreds of civilian lives. Thousands have been internally displaced, and thousands more have fled, many to neighboring Nigeria.

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe to ANN News Alert

Be the first to receive the latest news from Africa and around the world.

%d bloggers like this: