The 2021 showcase featured the modern dance styles of Jazz, Hip Hop, Step, Afro Cuban and Afro Caribbean. A play on the theme of “Rebirth” accompanied each dance style providing insight into its genesis to the mainstream. Audiences were taken on a multimedia journey through the African cultural traditions and practices that helped birth each style. The rich visual spectacle layered authentic costuming, vibrant music, energetic dance performances and intimate storytelling to highlight the uniqueness of African and Caribbean artistic expression. The dance theatre production encouraged participants and viewers to connect to the story, either through their own cultural heritage or simply as active agents in the modern world.
Take back the truth
UNGANISHA was born with the intent of celebrating and sustaining the presence of African diasporic communities in Calgary. UNGANISHA, a Swahili word for “connection,” invites all to share, learn and connect through the beauty and diversity of African arts and culture.
UNGANISHA: Explore. Connect. Dance. is an annual dance theatre show that brings together dance genres with roots in the culturally diverse continent of Africa. The high-impact large-scale performance explores African diaspora throughout Western colonial expansion and its influence on several modes of modern dance. Dance, music, theatre, film and history meet to demystify dance roots and shine a light on the seeds of culture.
The dance theatre production invites Albertans to celebrate Black History Month by recognizing the presence and ongoing cultural contributions of thriving African Canadian communities.
UNGANISHA Short Story Writing
On July 5, 2019, UNGANISHA conducted an exciting new contest inviting members from the African and Caribbean communities in Calgary to a short story contest. With the theme of the 2020 production being “discovery,” the prompt yielded marvelous results from 17 writers. The winner, Chinemerem Oluchi Agbasi, had her promising story translated into a stage play, Girl Discovered, and received a $1,000 prize. Agbasi’s story was the foundation of the script for UNGANISHA’s 2020 dance theatre production. This dance theatre production strives to represent the people of African or Caribbean descent and the unique stories they wish to tell. Yielding successful results from last year, UNGANISHA is pleased to announce our 2020 Short Story Writing Competition! As part of our community engagement initiatives, we are inviting the community to co-develop the script for the UNGANISHA: Explore. Connect. Dance. 2021 dance theatre production. This competition is intended for original short stories. Individuals are welcome to submit folklore or fiction inspired by their culture or lived experiences centered around the theme of “Rebirth”.
The open invitation allows us to acknowledge and celebrate the many faces within the African and Caribbean diaspora by giving each of the distinct community associations an opportunity to promote their uniqueness within a broader network. The familiar Calgarian mantra of s standing “stronger together” rings true with this project as we introduce the city to a new collection of emerging writers and diverse voices to enrich our local community.
back to the roots
Dance has been an important means of social communication, ritual, celebration and entertainment since before the earliest human civilizations. The origins of dance are layered as it seldom leaves identifiable artifacts; it asks performers and audiences to experience it in the moment. Before modern forms of archival, communities and cultures relied on oral histories and embodied traditions to retain dance knowledge. Each culture developed their own dance styles, but with every migration and intercultural exchange styles evolved and adapted with and from one another.To celebrate Black History Month in Calgary, UNGANISHA highlights the cultural interactions that created mainstream dance styles influenced by African traditions, exploring the historical contexts of colonialism and slavery tied to them.The event intentionally takes an inclusive, multicultural approach, focusing on the creative possibilities that emerge when different peoples, cultures and artistic traditions intermingle.
UNGANISHA Professional Networking Mixer (UPNM) is an event that fosters and facilitates collaboration between industry professionals, academic institutions and other professional bodies. Individuals in arts and professional services stationed locally and abroad are given an opportunity to network and socialize in a comfortable setting while being empowered in their cultural identities. Entrepreneurs, businesses experts and creatives circulate through a series of expeditious rounds to break the ice and connect. The relaxed environment encourages successful individuals to speak candidly and one-on-one to make authentic personal connections. Participants can expect to venture outside of typical networking norms for a cultural experience with a plethora of diasporic professionals.
Our first presentation of UPNM in January 25, 2020 was a sold-out event with a gathering of 140 professionals and 15 students from the various universities in Calgary. We had 22 Black owned businesses in various sectors ranging from arts and entertainment, business and marketing, beauty and cosmetics, fashion and design, media and photography and restaurant services in attendance. The businesses generously donated $3080 worth of their services as door prizes to the guests which were accompanied by a brief description of their services read by the host as a means of business spotlighting. An engaging panel discussion on the topic of “Building Alliance for Excellence” featuring Michèle Moss, Charles Osuji, Dr. Samuel Iwar and Akolisa Ufodike concluded with anonymous question and answer period via an app. The evening showcased local Black talent including a spoken word artist and keyboardist pairing by Priscille & Zenas Bukasa, singer Jared Tobias Herring and dancers from Woezo Africa Music & Dance Theatre Inc amongst an array of authentic African and Caribbean food from local restaurants. With UPNM, Woezo Africa continues to advance our mission of reducing the career achievement gap for professionals of color by providing them access to resources and opportunities to advance their goals and form collaborative networks.
Educating the masses
We are the community we serve. Woezo Africa believes that at the core of sustainable communities is culture. In addition to highlighting African artistic traditions to promote diversity, Woezo Africa intends to develop social capital by forming safe spaces, cultivating interpersonal bonds and encouraging inclusivity.
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UNGANISHA Diaspora and Community Engagement (UDCE) Project
The UNGANISHA Diaspora and Community Engagement (UDCE) Project is a multi-faceted action plan during which members from 40+ Calgary's African and Caribbean community associations are invited to participate in cross-cultural activities and initiatives that foster greater intercultural understanding, empathy and inclusion. Supporting our African and Caribbean community begins with amplifying our collaborative efforts. We are honoured to provide the non-exhaustive list below of Black-led and Black serving organizations in our community that are paving the way for systemic change.