The Acogny clan reborn in “Somewhere at the beginning”
By Langi Ramashia
The Digital JOMBA! Legacy programme comes to a close at the hands of acclaimed choreographer and creator, Germaine Acogny’s Somewhere at the beginning. The Senegalese icon and co-founder of ECOLE DES SABLES presents more than a mere dance piece in her introspective take on her father’s war with religion.
She forefronts their matriarch Aloopho, a Yoruba high priestess who bore her father Togoun through a sacrifice when she was over sixty. Her grandmother’s utmost belief in Voodoo made the taboo of her father’s conversion to catholism painfully conflicting — a phenomenon he spoke to in his autobiography. Through the aid of Mikael Serre, Acogny picks up this trail, assigning action to his words and simultaneously sorting through the gendered politics of her culture. The piece materializes as being text driven and highly charged, as Togoun Acogny’s thoughts are weighed against the narrative unfolding in his daughter’s speech.
Her solo performance suggests a tortured history, and an uncanny connection to Aloopho. She steps in and out of her matriarchal figure both literally and figuratively, assuming her heritage as she boldly emerges through her grandmother’s image as its projected on the slatted screen of threads. She repeatedly speaks of the “power [that] passes from women to women” and is seen to be fighting against her own body in her movement, tugging at her clothes and patting her chest, a phrase she is to later revisit. She recounts a story Aloopho had told them of man named Tiviglititi, who had ascended into Kingship under extraordinary circumstance. The tale translates fairly didactically in nature, and alludes to the idea of the reward in remaining faithful to ones beliefs, a nice touch on the part of her grandmother.
The internal struggle embodied on stage extends beyond realms of the pages from which it originates and was inspired. It is possible that Germaine Acogny also refers the war waged against the African identity by its inhabitants as incited by its colonisers. The detail she draws towards her body is a site through her intense yet subtly curved choreography, houses greater effect for this resistive narrative and seamlessly draws better attention to the feather-filled slaughter that serves as its end.
Riddled in colourful symbolism, the piece leaves the stage in a surge of heightened energy complete in a closing act.