Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

African theatre15 obituary


Published on

F Nii-Yartey

Published in: Art & Photos
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

African theatre15 obituary

  1. 1. Obituaries  xvii in international theatre festivals. It is to be hoped that his death will have the effect of drawing international attention to his achievements. Khalid Al Mubarak F. Nii-Yartey (26 January 1946 – 21 November 2015) Dance in Ghana became firmly united with drama under the direction of F. Nii-Yartey who died in India at the age of sixty-nine while leading the Ghana Dance Ensemble to per­ form at the India-Africa Summit. An accomplished choreog­ rapher, Yartey had worked in different contexts and different countries, teaching, promoting change and extending the range of contemporary African dance. Though his passing was very untimely, it was appropriate that he should die ‘flying the flag’ for Ghanaian culture. That he should die in Asia was particularly poignant in the light of this publication: the summit was held in Asia; Africa was partly represented by a performance tradition. As a student at the University of Ghana, Nii-Yartey, then known as ‘Francis Nii Yartey’, came under the influence of diverse researchers and practitioners including Ephraim Amu, Odette Blum, Peggy Harper, Albert Mawere Opoku, Kwabena Nketia, Efua Sutherland and Drid Williams. In what was then the School of Music and Drama, he earned a certificate and a diploma in Dance (1968 and 1971), and was recognised as having the ability to take Ghanaian dance forward. He completed a Master of Arts degree at the University of Illinois (1975) with a thesis on a Ga-Mashie (Accra) puberty rite – that is to say on one of the performance conventions that formed part of his creative hinterland. Just a year after earning his MA, Nii-Yartey took over from Opoku – whom he referred to as ‘The Master’ – as Artistic Director of the Ghana Dance Ensemble at Legon. He held that challenging position for twenty years until,
  2. 2. xviii  Obituaries following a rearrangement that remains controversial, he moved to the National Theatre – a gift from the Chinese Government to the people of Ghana – as Artistic Director of the National Dance Company of Ghana. He was with the Company for thirteen years before embarking on a tricky journey that took him back to the Ensemble and, on his last earthly journey, to India with that group. Nii-Yartey’s many admired productions included Musu – Saga of the Slaves, Asipim, Solma, Legend of Okoryoo, Sochenda, Bukom, The Journey, and Fire of Koom. In Ghana, he operated in an artistic environment in which versatility and flexibility were vital for survival so it was not surprising to find that he turned his hand to directing the opening and closing ceremonies of major sporting tournaments. Though his service was primarily to Ghana and in Ghana, Nii-Yartey travelled extensively conducting workshops, lecturing and choreographing. Engagements abroad, some­ times in the company of creative Ghanaian intellectuals such as Kofi Anyidoho and Mohammed Ben Abdallah (see this volume), included time spent at Northwestern, University (Chicago), Swarthmore College (Pennsylvania), and Keene State College (New Hampshire). He also worked in the Carib­ bean, continental Europe and the UK where he explored, often in collaborative ventures, the contribution of African dance in a variety of social and performance contexts. While sitting on numerous committees and contributing to the work of a variety of organisations, Nii-Yartey main­ tained an academic profile, and wrote scholarly articles on, for example, the work of Alvin Ailey, the presentation of traditional African dances, and the development of con­tem­ porary choreographic expression in Ghana. That is to say, his academic and reflective writing complemented his praxis. For some years and with support from international bodies, Nii-Yartey conducted training sessions in a teaching space beside his house in Madina and, after 1998, he expanded that work at the Noyam African Dance Institute he established in Dodowa, Greater Accra. Away from the congested streets of
  3. 3. Obituaries  xix the city centre, Noyam enabled him to continue his explora­ tion of ways that dance both reflects society and con­tri­butes to positive change.  Nii-Yartey’s contributions as Artistic Director, his ground- breaking choreography and his role in developing dance in Ghana were recognised by the award of the Grand Medal (Civil Division) by the Head of State of Ghana (2000), and his national stature was indicated by the fact that his body was given a state funeral. However, a truer measure of his achievements was provided by the excellence of the productions he staged, and the accomplishments of those he inspired. While a state funeral marked the transition of a national figure, his real homecoming was at the Thanksgiving Service held later in Bukom Square. James Gibbs Christopher F. Kamlongera (20 January 1949–20 May 2016) Anactor,playwright,director,researcher,teacherandinfluen­ tial thinker on participatory methods of communication, Kamlongera made contributions on national (Malawian), regional (Southern African) and world-wide levels. A list of the positions he held indicates the range of the contexts in which he made an impact: he was, for example, the first Professor of Drama in the University of Malawi, the Founding Executive Director of the Malawi College of Journalism, the Director of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s Centre of Communication for Development, and Principal of Chancellor College (in Malawi). His versatility has already been hinted at above, and this versatility was accom­panied by intense commitment. He was supportive and reliable, a conscientious scholar, a generous colleague and a valued family friend. Kamlongera attended Zomba Catholic Secondary School, and became an undergraduate at Chancellor College in the late