Traditionally, West African drum and dance have played a vital role in keeping the community united.
A West African proverb says, “There is no movement without rhythm.”
The continuity and grace in the rhythm of the drumming and dance kindles the spirit of togetherness. These African customs not only entertain, but also inform, inspire and motivate all at the same time.
The stories of history and struggle are communicated through intricate drum beats and dance steps that acknowledge and celebrate everything from harvesting crops to rites of passage, including marriage and childbirth. There are also mystical implications due to the spiritual connections that exist with various religious rituals and sacred ceremonies.
Because these same drum rhythms and dance routines came out of the hearts and minds of our African ancestors, their love and influence created an inheritance that must be carried on. The grassroots groups Djapo Cultural Arts Institute and The Griot Project are honoring their African ancestry by working together to bring West African drum and dance to the Woodland Hills community.
The Griot Project received funding from Neighborhood Connections and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture to support new community-based West African drumming workshops called Dono Ntoaso West African Drumming Battery. The workshops will be held at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Woodhill Homes Community Center. Participants will learn how to play West African drums and how to make and repair them.
If participants are interested, they are welcome to stay and accompany the dance class that follows run by Djapo. Djapo, which is a Wolof term that means “come together,” is a cultural arts organization that offers community-based cultural arts programming throughout Greater Cleveland. Specializing in arts and community, Djapo currently hosts drum and dance classes at John Adams High School, Tri-C’s Eastern Campus and now in the Woodland Hills neighborhood. Founder and Artistic Director Talise A. Campbell is the lead dance instructor and will be hosting a series of free dance classes and rehearsals.
These drumming and dance classes are free and open to the public every Monday in the new Woodhill Homes Community Center, 2491 Baldwin Road. West African drumming classes are held from 5 to 6 p.m. and West African dance classes are from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
The power of West Afrucan drum and dance has the potential to change and save lives. The spiritual connectin that exists in the vibration of the drum and elegance of the dance are mediums that can heal deep wounds caused by violence, poverty, racism and self-hatred. Its beauty reflects the spirit of our African ancestors and the possibilities that encourage community change and social development through the cultural arts beacsue that is what our African ancestors designed West African drum and dance to do!
In recognitiion of Juneteenth – the African-American holiday that celebrates the end of American slavery – the cultural arts alliance is also gathering community support for Djapo’s upcoming 15th annual Juneteenth Conference. This annual conference not only features drum and dance workshops facilitated by leading West African artists, there is also a full-scale West African ballet presentation choreographed by Djapo and the featured artist as well. More information coming soon.
~ Written by D.L. Wouré, a resident of the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood, which includes the Woodhill Homes Community Center.