THE ART OF PERFORMANCE IN AFRICA
Professor Frederick Lamp
Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT
Africa has given us some of the most spectacular performances on earth, combining the arts of dance, music, theater, as well as painting and sculpture into a single indivisible form. Masquerade has reached its pinnacle of achievement in Africa, and African music, with its unique polyrhythms is a heritage unparalleled. In this course we will look at ten specific works of African performance from antiquity through the twenty-first century, examining documentary films, archival and contemporary photographs, and audio recordings, guided by the lecturer's first-hand experience in research into art and performance of all kinds on the continent of Africa and in its export globally. We will investigate works from throughout the African experience, in contexts of royal display, religious ritual, rites of passage, ancestral veneration, social and political commentary, protest, generational and gender conflict and resolution, popular celebration, street theater, nationalism, theatricalization of tradition, and creative work by Africa's foremost choreographers and musicians today. We will explore all aspects of the production of performance from conception through the choreography of movement, the composing of songs, the rigorous training and rehearsal of dancers, singers and players of musical instruments, the preparation of masks and costumes, the considerations of space, lighting and timing, the preparatory social negotiations, the total involvement of actors and audience in the performance itself, and the post-production aspects. We will look at performances from all ages and contexts with regard to concepts of individual agency and creativity, timeless tradition, ritual repetition, cultural conventions, and transition into the present.