Africa Umoja wows Lagos

Posted: May 4, 2012 in art/entertainment, arts/culture

The platform stage of the expansive Expo Hall of the Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, is still reeling from the heavy impact of the two-hour high octane dance steps and drumming from last Sunday’s performance by the visiting Africa Umoja dance company from South Africa.

The marathon of songs and dances by the Africa Umoja which held the audience in excitement and awe has become the trademark of the group known for its beautifully designed costumes and award-winning, internationally acclaimed choreography.

Performed for kings, presidents and members of the public in over 30 countries worldwide, the Lagos performance which was facilitated by First Bank left barely a dozen seats empty as the packed auditorium marvelled at the explosion of songs and dances by a theatre company which would not be out of place on Broadway stage.

The first show, a matinee performance, was earlier staged in the afternoon, and it was watched by hundreds of arts and entertainment lovers, which was followed by the command performance in the evening that drew a full house of guests from all walks of life.

The one-day performance, which is aimed at celebrating arts, and ultimately restoring the culture of theatre, arts and stage performance in Nigeria, attracted high net worth individuals in private and public sectors, corporate organisations and the diplomatic community.

Africa Umoja (Umoja is Swahili word for ‘spirit of togetherness’) not only celebrates the southern African country of South Africa, but also the human spirit which also explains the ease with which the average African relates with the story the dance tells.

Told by a narrator, the Africa Umoja which also incorporates a western musical band called the Africa Umoja 5-Star band relives dances that have been performed for hundreds of years in South Africa including the Vende snake dance and the tribal Zulu ceremonial and war dances.

The showpiece also chronicles the musical evolution of the country and revealing how both the negative and positive historical and political events had shaped the evolution of the country’s music genres as the people in an attempt to survive those events created songs and beats.

The Africa Umoja captures the memory of the legendary Sophiatown, infused with passionate voices as they tell their story; the adventure of the gold miners and their intense gumboot dancing that tell some of the history of South Africa, the remarkable journey travelled to the current sounds and dancing of the Kwaito that make Hip Hop and rap look like it is standing still.

Created by the duo of Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni, who were originally part of the iconic Ipi Tombi troupe that had toured Nigeria and other parts of the continent before its dissolution, the Lagos show was produced by Nyandeni.

According to the creators of Africa Umoja the idea was to provide a platform for assisting the youth of South Africa to remember their heritage, and to keep the underprivileged youth of the country off the streets and give them a chance to live a dream.

This dream has become a reality for many of the South African-born Africa Umoja cast members over the years going by the success of the company on account of the now traditional applause that greets every performance by the troupe including the one last Sunday night at the Expo Hall.

The choice of Africa Umoja, according to First Bank’s Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications, Folake Ani-Mumuney, was predicated on the share values between the bank and the group in the areas of contributing to the economic and social development of the people.

While Africa Umoja is committed to the empowerment of underprivileged South African children, First Bank, a leading financial institution is committed to deploying its financial expertise to provide quality, accessible and expertise affordable financial services to the populace with a view to enhancing the standard of living of Nigerians.

‘’The show offers networking opportunities for high net worth individuals, it offers a good platform to relax and enjoy good artistic performance by one of the foremost dance group from Africa’’, she said.


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