Walking With My Ancestors, an original play about enslaved Africans in West African slave-holding dungeons, will be presented at 8 p.m. Saturday, October 24, and at 4 p.m. Sunday, October 25, in Illinois State University’s Kemp Recital Hall. Admission to the performances is free.
Performances will combine drumming, dance, song, and words to depict the experiences of Africans held in slave-holding dungeons before being sent to plantations in the Americas. Following each performance, there will be a Q-and-A session with the performers and audience participation activities involving call-and-response singing, storytelling, and polyrhythmic hand-clapping.
The show’s playwright, Illinois State University Professor Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum, will also discuss the inspiration for Walking With My Ancestors. The show is based on her personal experiences as an ethnomusicologist while visiting the former slave-holding dungeons in her native Ghana. She describes the dungeons as “the tombs and wombs in which Africans were buried and reborn as slaves.”
“By disrupting our understanding of the status quo and giving voice to previously unheard narratives, a most important but neglected past that still defines who we are and how we interact with each other, Walking With My Ancestors offers important perspectives on slavery in its connection to today’s racial problems with truths of this past,” said Aduonum. “In the aftermath of Charleston, Ferguson, Staten Island, and Baltimore, Walking With My Ancestors compels us to deepen dialogue and engagement needed to address racial violence, and begs us to rethink how much has changed, or not, in race relations and policies, helping us to move towards healing.”
Walking With My Ancestors is choreographed by Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum and directed by School of Theatre and Dance Professor Kim Pereira. The performances are presented by Illinois State’s College of Fine Arts and School of Music, with funding from the School of Music and MECCPAC, a Dean of Students Diversity Initiative.