dI Community Corner

 


Hello,

My name is Zahra Badua and I am the administrative assistant here at dance Immersion – welcome to my blog. Over the next few weeks, I will be hosting a community corner where I will be discussing various topics that affect the African Diaspora.  In addition, I will be speaking with prominent people within our community to get their perspectives on various topics. In this first blog, I intend on starting a conversation about the upkeep of African and Caribbean traditions, primarily our traditional/folk songs and dances.  

Let me begin by introducing myself. I am a Ghanaian dancer/ teacher/ choreographer originally from Montreal, Quebec. My passion for dance started at a very young age as a means to learn and understand my African heritage. I moved to Toronto to pursue a career in criminal justice until I realised that dance was my true calling. 

My artistic journey has brought me to a place where I am fascinated with the art of storytelling and dance. In the African culture, song and dance are the ways our history and culture are passed down from one generation to another. Our elders are the ones that teach us, they are the ones that uphold and keep our traditions in their purest form. Their knowledge and expertise are passed down orally. 

Lately, I find myself questioning if our rich traditions will become extinct, since they are taught orally. What happens when an elder dies and we did not get the chance to gather the information before they transitioned? 

 

There is an African proverb that says: 

“When an Elder passes on, it is like losing a library”

 

How do we trace back our rich history when the elders are no longer present?

 

I am curious to know what your thoughts are. Please comment on this blog if you would like to participate in this community discussion.

If you have thoughts that you would rather not share publicly, please email me at info@danceimmersion.ca.

 

Yours truly,

Zahra Badua

10 replies
  1. Helen
    Helen says:

    I am not part of the African or Caribbean community but speak humbly as someone who fell in love with African diaspora literature as a lit student in university. The West African proverb that I once read that helped me the most as a young adult dealing with the loss of my father was “We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors”. The idea is to imagine your family as a living tree and your loved ones that have transitioned as always carrying you through life as you stand proudly on their shoulders and the fine example they have set for you. With that being said, just by existing we keep our ancestors and the culture alive and I do not think the traditions become extinct but rather transform and can be communicated differently through different channels today, storytelling through social media, for example. Even if we only tell parts of the story to the next generation and we do not get it perfect, we honour those before us in the best way we can and keep them, the culture, their stories, and their spirit alive, just by existing. Since there is so much value and wisdom in the rich African culture, I hope that we can prioritize the education of it because just having access to African wisdom and ways of being transformed my entire outlook on life in my 20s and could have the same effect on so many others if education is prioritized.

    Reply
    • Zahra
      Zahra says:

      Hello Helen,
      I want to start by thanking you for commenting on the blog. I love the proverb you used. We definitely stand on our ancestors’ shoulders. It is because of them that we are here today and are able to enjoy the liberties they have blessed us with. I also feel it is an interesting point you brought up ” just by existing we keep our ancestors and the culture alive “, indeed we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. Since you mentioned social media, do you believe it is enough to preserve the cultures?

      Reply
      • Helen
        Helen says:

        Social media is definitely a far cry from the rich songs, dance, and storytelling of African oral tradition, transmitted by wise elders. It alone can definitely not preserve culture but may be a different vehicle to transmit African culture and wisdom in a succinct form that seems as of late to be the primary means of captivating today’s youth, as there seems to be an undervaluing of storytelling overall. It is but one vehicle that can prevent the erasure of African culture. It is also vital that we see more authentic voices in the education system: opportunities to learn African song and dance, guest speakers who tell rich and wise stories from the African ancestral point of view, African drumming, and an education system that values African ways of being and does a better job of communicating that there isn’t just history but histories and not just one dominant culture but many to be learned from. I mention schools because children spend more time there than at home. It seems like a very far away dream- an education where African ways of being are honoured and teased throughout the curriculum but it is possible if we stop paying lip service to learning about culture and actually get the authentic voices into the schools and working with children. Our youth and schools need more Zahras.

        Reply
  2. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    This discussion is extremely vital! Thank you Zahra and dance Immersion for opening up this conversation. I consider, how are we carrying the stories of our Ancestors forward? How do we collect, and disseminate the truth of or Elders, while honoring the beauty of their existence and lives? Many stories of our Ancestors have been lost, and there are marked memories which are etched in the minds of our Elders that are still with us. To watch our Elders speak, to know that each smile, each wrinkle, each nod holds the memory of a momentous journey is powerful. I’m excited to see the continuance of this conversation as we access an endless garden of pathways and life stories that have changed the course of our world and our lives. Thank you God. Thank you Ancestors. Thank you Elders. May we listen, learn, and may our stories live on.

    Reply
    • Zahra
      Zahra says:

      Hello Nicole,
      I want to thank you for participating in this important conversation and also applaud you for everything that you contribute to dance Immersion and the great works you do for your community. We are truly grateful for the giftings of our ancestors and hope we can carry the torch forward and make them proud. I am also looking forward to the conversation continuing so we can finds ways to keep our history and culture going.

      Thank you
      Zahra

      Reply
  3. Mic Truth
    Mic Truth says:

    I love and agree with the sentiments expressed in this blog.
    We are , now the ones to pass on what we have learned culturally learned. In an attempt to culturally “fit in “ and get a “better life” a lot of parents watered down our cultures in order to fit. As someone in a financially privileged place, I have to engage my elders about older songs, dances, traditions and customs. I have to take that trip back home and build community with my compatriots. That’s the approach I want to take.

    Reply
    • Zahra Badua
      Zahra Badua says:

      Hello Mike,
      Thank you for your input. I like your perspective on assimilation. You brought up a good point on how our elders had to change certain things or omit certain teachings to the next generation in order to fit into the new society or environment they migrated to. Also I am glad that you still have access to our elders to benefit from their teachings.

      Also I am thinking of others ways to learn our songs, customs and traditions if we are unable to access our elders financially.

      Reply
  4. Esie
    Esie says:

    I think it’s necessary to acknowledge that we can preserve these traditions through a connection to our Ancestors. I feel we underestimate the information we possess with the generations of griots that might be present in our lineage. As we are looking to preserve our stories how do we care for the ones that are present in our own families. I present this as another option to broaden the ideas of how we can connect with our elders. By being a vessel, we can bring forth many hidden or forgotten stories by being connected to our Ancestors. We possess a well of stories that are present within us if we choose to tap into it.
    Just playing devil’s advocate and presenting a different view to the question.

    Reply
    • Zahra Badua
      Zahra Badua says:

      Thank you for your insight Esie. Thank you for providing a different angle and perspectives of keeping our traditions. Our ancestral connection is truly something precious that we often miss and may not be able to understand how we tap into it.

      Reply

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