The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Monday, December 10, 2018


In war-torn C. Africa, ballet provides glimmer of unity
Traditional dancers from the National Ballet perform at the museum square in Bangui, on February 2, 2018. The traditional ballet of Bangui brings together a mix of traditional dances from the 16 regions of the Central African Republic. FLORENT VERGNES / AFP.

by Charles Bouessel


BANGUI (AFP).- The sound of drums rips through the air in a dusty alley scorched by the afternoon sun in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.

Passersby stop in their tracks, entranced by the hypnotic rhythm pounded out by the musicians of the national dance company.

In a country bloodily divided by ethnic and religious strife, the National Central African Ballet is a rare unifying factor -- a melting pot, professing no favouritism or allegiance to any group or sect.

For at least two days a week, the conflicts that ravage most of the country seem far away in downtown Bangui, where 30 or so professional artists come together.

"It's for all Central Africans, whether they're Christian, or Muslim, or even if they're foreign. We can train them. That's how we like it," says Kevin Bemon, the dance company's 37-year-old technical director, as he puts on his costume.

The remarks may seem surprising given the sectarian strife that has torn the country apart for years.

Following Bemon's cue, the dancers also shed their everyday clothes and don instead crowns of feathers, pearls or shells, animal skins, skirts and multicoloured traditional costumes.

Then they leap into action. Digging into forms of music and movement beyond recorded history, they sway and bend to the melodies of the horns and the electrifying beat of the drums, their half-naked bodies quickly bathed in sweat.

Faces, previously dour and serious, light up in smiles. The trials of everyday life are forgotten for a while -- and so are the armed militias patrolling a few kilometres (miles) from the capital.

Unity in dance?
Like the costumes, the dances and the music are a mixture of traditional cultures from the 16 different prefectures of the strife-torn country, two-thirds of which are under the sway of some 18 armed groups.

For all its aspirations of national unity, the Central African Ballet has no dancers from the far north, the area from which the Muslim Seleka rebels originated who overthrew Christian leader Francois Bozize in 2013, sparking a cycle of intercommunal violence.

But even if almost all of its current members come from Bangui, the troupe is adamant that neither ethnicity nor religion play a role.

"I don't have dancers from the Vakaga but I would like to have some," says company director Dieudonne Koumba, 59, referring to a region in the northeast of the country, near the borders with Chad and Sudan.

He insists that despite this lack, the troupe's composition is "solidly representative" of the country as a whole.

Originally set up under former president Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the national ballet has regularly travelled abroad since it was founded in 1969.

"It's a symbol of the unity of the country. Here there are no differences, no divisions. It's like football," says Maurice Souanenbgi, who has played as a musician in the company for 32 years.

A ballet advisor and very much the company's living memory, 77-year-old Souanenbgi says the troupe has performed in Ivory Coast, for King Mohammed VI in Morocco, for Moamer Khadafi in Libya, in Algeria, in France, and even in China.

The company undertakes one to two trips per year, at the invitation of various festivals. Its most recent was to Douala in Cameroon, where it performed at the Ti-i festival in December.

"The aim was to promote social cohesion by celebrating with Central African refugees in Douala," says Koumba.

In addition to music and dance, Koumba also has ambitions to put on theatre performances. But his hands are tied by lack of funds.

"We have financing allocated in the state budget. Unfortunately, we haven't been paid yet," Koumba says.

He says he has recently sent an application for funding to the country's arts, tourism and culture ministry. True to the company's optimistic mission, he hopes that it will be successful.

© Agence France-Presse





Today's News

March 9, 2018

Musée Jacquemart-André opens a major retrospective devoted to Mary Cassatt

Major painting by Bartolomé Pérez de la Dehesa identified at Hearst Castle

Row erupts over new Frida Kahlo Barbie

Case dismissed in Guggenheim vs Guggenheim spat over Venice museum

David Byrne brings cheer with vision of US 'utopia'

Chinese photographer undeterred by rooftopper's death

Christie's to auction Carole King's piano

Indian architecture laureate Doshi has no plans to slow down

Marian Goodman Gallery presents a selection of photographs by David Goldblatt in its bookshop

Women artists deconstruct domesticity in Women House exhibition at National Museum of Women in the Arts

Littlejohn Contemporary opens exhibition of works by Lily Prince

Christie's to offer Diego Rivera's "The Rivals" as a highlight in the Peggy and David Rockefeller Collection

The Armory Show announces blank projects as the winner of the second annual Presents Booth Prize

Nancy Pelosi donates historic Speaker's gavel to the National Museum of American History

Royal Ontario Museum announces appointment of Chief Digital Officer

Simon Lee Gallery opens the first solo exhibition in America of new works by Chris Huen Sin Kan

In war-torn C. Africa, ballet provides glimmer of unity

Julia Stoschek awarded the 2018 Art Cologne Prize

Exhibition at Anton Kern Gallery introduces a new body of work by Sarah Jones

Charlotte Jackson Fine Art opens exhibition of works by Natalie Arnoldi

Huis Marseille opens exhibition devoted to the so-called Düsseldorfer Photoschule

Mahatma Gandhi photo sells for almost $42k at auction

Daniel Shea wins Foam Paul Huf Award 2018

Why Video Games Will Never Be Form of Art

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- The Morgan receives a major Renoir drawing unseen for over 50 years

2.- Recording console built by Elvis Costello and used to record Stairway to Heaven stars at Bonhams sale

3.- On December 9, estate jewelry & more goes up for bid at Turner Auctions + Appraisals

4.- French museum chief hits back at call to return African art

5.- David Castillo Gallery to present works by a stellar group of artists at Art Basel Miami Beach

6.- Ancient Chinese painting auctioned for almost $60 million at Christie's Hong Kong

7.- Exploring the watery remains of France's sunken Roman port of Olbia

8.- Exhibition examines eroticism in paintings and drawings of the male and female nude

9.- Thieves nab Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting from Vienna auction house

10.- Israeli archaeologists unveil rare stone mask dating to the Neolithic



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez


Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org avemariasound.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful