History (region: Africa; concentration: dance & performance history)
Dr. Ofosuwa Abiola is the inaugural Associate Dean of Research and Creative Endeavors and Associate Professor of Africana dance history, in the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts at Howard University. Abiola's research interests include the study of Africana (African & African Diaspora) dance history. Her research seeks to underscore Africana dance narratives and their capacity to immerse all who engage them in the global collective memory of peoples of African descent. Abiola's research also seeks to address deficiencies in knowledge of Africana culture and to bring into the conversation elements of human experience that are frequently not discussed in academia.
Abiola's latest publication is titled, Fire Under My Feet: History, Race & Agency in African Diaspora Dance (Routledge, 2021). Additional publications include, History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional Mandinka Dance (Routledge, 2019), and a short-form documentary as a visual companion to it titled, History Dances: African Dance Systems as Methodologies. She also published an introductory textbook for undergraduate students, Historical Perspectives on Dance in Africa (Intelligentsia Press, 2020). Her current book projects, Afrikinesis: A Paradigm for Research on African and African Diaspora Dance, and Unwitting Witnesses: Unearthing Narratives of African Dance in Pre-Colonial Logs, are works in progress. Abiola presented her research in and directed other short-form documentaries as well including the short-form documentary, Grave Revelations, which exposes viewers to the myriad instances of Africanisms in the performance of 19th century African American funerary rituals in a recently discovered burial ground in Washington, DC. Abiola founded the peer-reviewed digital journal, Evoke: A Historical, Theoretical, and Cultural Analysis of Africana Dance and Theatre, to provide a venue for scholarship on African, and African Diaspora dance, theatre, and film. Evoke has a global readership and attracted nearly one thousand readers within the first year of publication.
Abiola received numerous grants, awards and fellowships from national and international institutions including: the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), Department of Education, US Department of State, The Mary Ellen Multi-Country Research Award, Howard University’s Deans Cabinet Award, the Outstanding Student Advisement Award, Howard University Research Grant, the Outstanding Assistant Professor Award (Howard University), and the George H. Bennett Fellowship, among others. In addition to a fellowship, Abiola was also awarded a grant from NEH to establish an Africana Theatre and Dance Collection in Howard University's historic Founder's Library (For more information click the "NEH" tab in the top banner of this page). Abiola's artistic awards include: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) Master Folk Artist Award, SeVAA Excellence in the Arts Award, VMEA Outstanding Contribution to Music Award, among others. During her summer tenure as Archivist for the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Abiola established their first archival system.
Abiola was invited to Recife, Brazil, by the U.S. State Department to mount her African dance ballet, RITES, and to be a speaker in the International Cultural Summit in Brazil, hosted by a joint venture of the U.S. Consulate in Brazil and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, to facilitate the launch of the Smithsonian's first International Engagement Program.
She was featured on ABC's Good Morning Washington, in the Afro-American Newspaper, and on the American Historical Association's (AHA) Perspectives on History as a Spotlight Scholar (AHA is the oldest and most prestigious academic historical association).
Dr. Abiola founded and served as Director of the international conference, The Nankama African Dance Conference, where participants and presenters from Africa, the African Diaspora, the US, and representatives from the US State Department attended.
**The video link below is a short-form documentary that serves as a visual and contextual aid for my book History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional African Dance. The links below it provides more information about my three books.
Prior to her academic career, Abiola garnered three decades of performance and choreography experience. When Abiola founded the traditional African dance company, Suwabi African Ballet, in Newport News, VA, she specialized in African dance ballets. She served as Artistic Director for 15 years until she relocated to Washington, DC to peruse her Ph.D. at Howard University. During her tenure as Artistic Director, in addition to hundreds of performances, Abiola researched, wrote, directed, choreographed, and produced historical African dance ballets.
Abiola performed nationally and internationally. She received numerous grants and awards, and was consistently featured on radio and TV broadcast stations including PBS, NBC, CBS, and WHRO.