By Kariamu Welsh-Asante
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Extra resources for African dance
It is integrally connected to the idea of the perpetuation of generations and their progeny. All living creatures tend to move in nonlinear ways and everywhere in the world people have traditional dances that are circular. Snakes are generally perceived to represent the circle because of their ability to coil and connect their heads with their tails. In addition, it is widely believed throughout Africa that snakes have the ability to rejuvenate themselves. This circular dance format, with choral audience oriented toward the drummers and surrounding and interacting with the leading dancers, remains, in fact, the dominant format throughout Africa—and in many other cultures around the world as well.
Girnya is a Nigerian (Tiv) dance performed by men at the burial of an important man who has been victorious at war. Fila and Kamuru are Senufo (Ivory Coast and Mali) funeral dances performed by male and female youths. In the Kamuru, performers wear a one-piece knit suit, belt of iron bells, and waist skirt of raffia. Gbon is a dance for funerals or initiations performed by men who wear high raffia polychrome collars that hide the base of a helmet-like mask. q 3/25/04 8:34 PM Page 59 West African Dances wraps are attached to a full-bodied, dome-shaped mass of cream and crimson raffia.
Nature is offended and fantastic creatures, including a towering stilt walker, a roly-poly, and a hemp-skirted wood spirit set upon him in revenge for the destruction of their home. The turtle, master of the forest, saves the woodcutter and, to ceremoniously mark that moment, gives him a huge golden bell; the first bell of the Mandingo civilization of Guinea. The woodcutter takes it back to his gloomy village and it marks the arrival of a new, happier time for the village, which in turn begins a round of exuberant dances.