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African Soul Dances

Oyindamola Babajide and Brianna Flowers

The primary focus of our course was the popular culture echoes of African-based religion. Some of the leading religious practices we studied were Haitian Vodou, Cuban Santeria, and Brazilian Candomblѐ. All these practices are a result of the trade of enslaved Africans catalyzing what we now conceive to the African diasporic movement. All these religions are influenced and can be historically traced to the West African religions of the Ifa belief system. A system that embodies the voice of the Orishas and the wisdom of their ancestors. Amalgamated to colonizers' Judeo-Christian religious systems, new world religions are identified as syncretic.

For our final project, we researched African spiritual dances, a term we then curated and embodied in class as African Soul dance. Religion is defined as the belief in and worship of an extra-human controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. While spirituality is defined as the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. We took the word soul and ran with it. When we thought of things related to soul, we immediately came up with soul food and how the word "soul" just makes us feel grounded and centered, and really comfortable with our spiritedness.


African Soul Dances

This is the kind of soul/spirit we see in the sacred dances of African cultures, which serve a complex diversity of social purposes. Within an indigenous dance tradition, each performance usually has a principal as well as a subsidiary purpose, which may express or reflect the communal values and social relationships of the people. In order to distinguish between the variety of dance styles, therefore, it is necessary to establish the purpose for which each dance is performed.

In our research, we first investigated the Kakilambe African dance, it’s a popular masked dance that is performed once every seven years. The masked dance was developed by the village people in Guinea. Many African spiritual dances have some form of possession and summoning which call spirits back to the human realm. These spirits can be the energies of plants or natural elements, ancestors, or deities. The Orishas are the Deities found in many forms of Africanist religions, such as Candomblѐ, Santeria, Yoruba mythology, Vodou. When we look into Candomblѐ, Santeria and Vodou they all had spiritual dancing in common. when we watched videos from each of these religions and showed them to our classmates, they all had some form of dancing that helps them move closer to or amplify the spirit. Somehow you can see that people were dancing from the bottom of their soul and were opening themselves up to the Invisible Realm. In all, different religions have different dances they use to call upon their spirits. Yet one thing they all share is to dance to express their soul which is, if done earnestly, is visible in practitioners’ movement.