Western societies hold the written word in high esteem, going so far as to separate cultures into “pre-literate” vs. “literate.” However, all over the world, these so-called pre-literate societies had sophisticated ways of communicating using all five senses: dramatic performances, storytelling, singing, instruments and dance. It is this last art form that Ghanaian filmmaker Rebekah K. Frimpong tackles in her upcoming project, Adowa: Oral Literature in Dance and Preserving the Culture of the Ashanti People.
The movie takes its name from an elegant dance performed by the Ashanti people of Ghana during marriages, funerals and other significant community gatherings. “The film explores how the Adowa dance came to be and the tradition and history behind this dance using language, music, and the movements of the Adowa dance to reveal the story,” a blurb explains on the Adowa blog.
In the recently released teaser, Frimpong, the film’s writer and director, explains that the dance relies on symbolic hand movements and footwork to tell a story that is understood by other members of the Ashanti culture. “We get to see up close, Adowa, as we break down the elements of the dance including the costumes, including the elements of the story that are behind the dance itself,” she says.
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Adowa features a combination of Adowa dance troupes in Ghana, cultural scholars and others with unique perspectives about the dance and its importance to the Ashanti traditions, especially as western culture continues to reshape key aspects of life in Ghanaian society and societies across the continent.
This feature-length documentary is the third film for Frimpong, who won an African Youth Excellence (AYE) Award last year for outstanding contributions in the arts. Ghanaian actress Ama K. Abrebese (Beasts of No Nation) came on board as Adowa’s producer earlier this year. The crew expects to spend the next three months shooting the last scenes in Ghana and New York City before releasing the film later this year. Some scenes were also filmed in Washington, DC.
Dance Films Association, a New York-based arts nonprofit, is handling the financial management for Adowa and is accepting donations in support of the project’s completion.