Ubirajara Almeida, CK Ladzekpo and the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts (Richmond)
Award: $35,000 Traditional Arts grant awarded in 2007
Premiered: October 15-16, 2011
Capoeira Master Ubirajara Almeida and Ghanaian/Anlo Ewe Master Choreographer, Dancer, and Drummer CK Ladzekpo collaborated with the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts to create Konyifafa. The artists merged the complex rhythmic structure, vocabulary, and grammar of traditional Anlo Ewe dance-drumming with the spontaneity of Capoeira to create a memorial to those who have given their lives for freedom from slavery, apartheid, and war. Among its themes, the music/dance work evoked the flight of the Ewe people from persecution in their native land of Benin to their present home in Ghana, and it foreshadowed the forced migration and struggles for freedom of African peoples in the new world. A cast of artists from Ghana and Brazil participated in the premiere along with teens and young adults who study at the East Bay Center. Konyifafa coincided with the the grand re-opening of the Center following an extensive renovation.
Ubirajara Almeida has been practicing Capoeira since his childhood in Bahia, Brazil, and has been a propelling force in the growth of in-depth study and practice of capoeira outside of Brazil. He has released eight CDs and written Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form (North Atlantic Books, 1986).
Sub-Saharan dance-drumming, continues to be a living and productive art form, sustained by such highly skilled master artists as CK Ladzekpo whose experience encompasses both the depth of subtlety of the traditional performance context, and the demands of performing to modern audiences.
The East Bay Center for the Performing Arts is a leading Bay Area school for rare and non-commercial minority performance skills. Its work reaches some 40,000 low-income, inner-city families annually through classes, in-school programs, and productions.