Accepted paper:

"The sea washes forwards, backwards": continuities and disruptions in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean festival dramas

Author:

Omotayo Oloruntoba-Oju (Adekunle Ajasin University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses continuities and disruptions in the African Diaspora, with a focus on the search for ancient African signifiers in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean ritual and festival drama, and reverse signifiers indicating the influence of Cuban and Caribbean on African Nigerian festival drama.

Paper long abstract:

Continuities between Africa and its Diasporas are too easily taken for granted, and they often mask stark signs of disruption in the materiality and spirituality of Black existence in the Black Diasporas. Conversely, marks of disruption also mask signs of continuities. Comparison is the key to unraveling these continuities and disruptions. This paper juxtaposes ancient African signifiers of continuities in Afro-Cuban and African-Caribbean ritual and festival drama and dance with the reverse signifiers Cuban and Caribbean influence on African Nigerian festival and literary expressions. Classic African-Caribbean ritual theatre representations by Errol Hill and Derek Walcott, and the Afro-Cuban theatre classics of Hernández Espinosa's (such as Oba y Shango) and Pepe Carril's (Shango de Ima: A Yoruba Mystery Play) provide compelling comparative perspectives. Afro-Cuban theatre festivals such as the Miami based Ife-Ile annual Dance Festival and the New York based Oyu Oro Afro Cuban Experimental Dance Ensemble offers performance satellites for the Afro-Cuban literary experience as well as connections between African scholars on the continent and in the Diaspora. Reverse influence echoes from diverse literary sites: from the Nigerian Calabar and Lagos Street Carnivals to Nollywood movie series such as Igwe Jamaica, and novelistic expressions such as Aribisala's The Hangman. There is palpable irony in the preservation of ancient African modes of thought, religion, speech and cultural or literary practice that have long been forgotten, largely modified or ignored on the African continent itself. This often leads to a reverse quest for these ancient signifiers and their connections across the Atlantic.

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