My overall artistic practice as an African-American theater artist is rooted in the traditions of the West African Griots who with their songs and recitations are the traditional story tellers and the repositories of the history of African peoples in oral culture. In African-American culture I consider preachers, spoken word artists, stand-up comics, blues singers and playwrights as part of that tradition. I have long been fascinated by the mysteries of the transference of those traditions from Africa to the new world through the transatlantic slave trade and how it managed to survive through subversion and rebellion the oppressive, subjugating atmosphere in which it shaped and transformed itself into one of the major cultural influences in the world.
The Atlantic Ocean is a cultural lake whose principal port is the West Coast of Africa from where it has been exporting its African-ness aesthetic for hundreds of years spreading across the Caribbean Sea into South America and the United States where Black Americans are its most noted beneficiaries. Black American artists who are aware that they are related genetically and aesthetically to the artists of West Africa have over time created a body of artistic expression so distinct and unique that American culture could not be what it is without it. This kinship and connection, this expanded sense of space, geography, history and the imagination are the African-ness ingredients that shape art making on both sides of the Atlantic. Contemporary West African and African-American text based theater and performance artists share these traditions and their history, as well as the common problems of creating art in opposition to a dominate culture saturated in racism and colonialism. The idea for the Camargo African-American/African Playwrights’ Residency Program is to bring together African and African American text based theater artists from opposite ends of the Africanist diaspora to share work, ideas and strategies for surviving as Black artists, without the veil of a white/western filter, without having to explain themselves, without having to represent an entire group of people, but to explore their craft, their voice and their African-ness in a beautiful, safe, supportive environment with like-minded individuals.
We are seeking to develop post residency events featuring residency playwrights including readings and round table discussions. If you have any thoughts, ideas or opportunities to share in this regard it would be greatly appreciated. Contact us here.
All the best,