Nanaimo dancer Tania Amaral is marking Black History Month with a series of presentations of African dance, music and folk tales, as well as stories relating to the immigrant experience.
Amaral’s African Connections 2021 is taking place each Saturday in February with support from Nanaimo’s Crimson Coast Dance Society. Amaral, who originally hails from Mozambique but recently moved to Nanaimo, first presented African Connections last year, performing and teaching her “Afro-fusion belly dance” in person. This year, however, all events will be presented online due to COVID-19.
“There is a challenge for this year because we are doing everything in Zoom but I also believe that it’s important to do certain activities and certain dates are important and we should not let them just pass by because of the situation that we are living in right now,” Amaral said.
When choosing events for this year’s edition of African Connections, Amaral said she asked people from Nanaimo’s African community what they would want to see and then set out to put together a program that responded to that demand.
“I didn’t want to just create something and then at the end of the day people of the African community here will be like, ‘But this type of event didn’t tell me anything,’” Amaral said.
The festivities start on Feb. 6 with a conversation and dance film screening with Kenyan dancer and choreographer Fernando Anuang’a, and later that day Amaral will give a talk on the representation of African dance culture.
The following week Kaslo-based performance artist Shayna Jones will present African folk stories for children, local musician Nicole Utulinde from Rwanda and fitness instructor Andiswa Crouch from South Africa will discuss their cultures and what it was like to immigrate to Canada, and Amaral will teach a beginner dance class.
On Feb. 20 Nanaimo resident Lethy Makwenge from the Democratic Republic of the Congo will read African children’s stories and Crouch will lead a beginner “Afro-Zumba” class.
On the final Saturday, African Connections 2021 concludes with a performance by Utulinde on the ngoma drums and dance by Amaral. Amaral said there is value to exposing people to the cultures of Africa through both discussion and demonstration.
“Sometimes people have so many misconceptions … but I think when we talk, when we share, then people will see, ‘Oh, this is how you guys do it, it’s just a different culture, different way of seeing, different perspectives,’” she said. “And that sharing will bring more awareness of the cultures and we will grow from that.”
WHAT’S ON … African Connections 2021 is happening online via Zoom each Saturday in February. Times and registration fees vary. For a full schedule of events and to register, click here.