Muisi-Kongo Malonga, a traditional Congolese dancer is collaborating with One East Palo Alto to create the multidisciplinary work, “Congo Danced a Nairobi Blues.” The piece seeks to explore the intersecting stories of traditional Congolese dance in the United States and the community of “Little Nairobi” (East Palo Alto).
Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, Little Nairobi, California – as it was called in the 1960s and 1970s — was the birthplace of an African cultural awakening. In that community, African culture thrived, and schools, organizations, and institutions were created to affirm the rich heritage of people of African descent and restore traditions, values, and cultural mores. Little Nairobi institutions included Nairobi Day School and Nairobi College. Among artists who put down roots there was Congolese master artist, Malonga Casquelourd. His daughter Muisi-kongo Malonga, a gifted dancer choreographer, vocalist, visionary artist, and impassioned keeper of African arts traditions in her own right, now is looking back at East Palo Alto’s legacy as Little Nairobi, and creating a new work that incorporates traditional Congolese dance and music with community art installations and multimedia. The project seeks to draw attention to an important community history and engage multi-generational and multi ethnic community members.
One East Palo Alto’s mission is to develop resident leaders, broker resources and services, build the capacity of individuals and organizations, and advocate for change. It will recruit community historians and journalists to participate in and conduct interviews, oversee outreach efforts, and serve as a hub for workshops, rehearsals, and performances. “Congo Danced a Nairobi Blues” is being designed and developed over a two-year period.
Pictured: Muisi-Kongo Malonga (right) in Fua Dia Kongo performance; Photo by RJ Muna for World Arts West