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Fely Tchaco is collaborating with Diamano Coura West African Dance to create The Legend of Zaouli.  Tchaco is of Gouro tribal descent. This project is based in the history and culture of the Gouro people from Egypt who, fleeing Islam, traveled from Ethiopia to Niger, then Guinea, and ended up on the Ivory Coast where they were among the first inhabitants before the arrival of other tribes and of Portuguese and French colonizers. During the Colonial Era, the Gouro people suffered near extinction of their cultural artifacts and practices. In the 1960s, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the first president of Ivory Coast, discovered the Zaouli mask dance and, since then, it has come to be iconic there — often serving as a greeting for dignitaries. This partnership will lead to the first U.S. presentation of The Legend of Zaouli. While Gouro women occupied an important role in society, the mask in this Gouro legend always has been danced by men. This project will make history by allowing a female to represent it.

Fely Tchaco is an award-winning recording artist, dancer, performer, visual artist, and fashion designer. In 2005, she founded the African Arts Academy, which teaches arts and crafts originating in Africa and the African diaspora. She speaks and sings in multiple languages from Cote d’Ivorire.

Founded in 1975, Diamano Coura West African Dance is one of the longest-lasting African dance companies in the United States and has performed and toured extensively. Through this project, it will add the culture and history of the Ivory Coast to its repertoire of West African ballets.

Photo by Stephen Summertein