Dr. Ofosuwa M. 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. Abiola received her PhD in African History from Howard University with a specialization in the history of African and African Diaspora (Africana) dance and culture. Abiola's research interests include the history of traditional dance in Africa; research paradigms in Africana dance history; the history of the African dance aesthetic; and the intersection of history, dance, and identity.
Abiola's latest publication is titled, Afrikinesis: A Paradigm for Research on African and African Diaspora Dance. Additional publications include, Fire Under My Feet: History, Race & Agency in African Diaspora Dance; History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional Mandinka Dance; a short-form documentary visual companion to it titled, History Dances: African Dance Systems as Methodologies; and an introductory textbook for undergraduate students, Historical Perspectives on Dance in Africa. Other projects are works in progress and include, Unwitting Witnesses: Unearthing Narratives of African Dance in Pre-Colonial Logs and Voiceless Shouts: Danced Conversations on Women, Identity, and Activism in Africa and her Diaspora. Abiola founded the peer-reviewed digital journal, Evoke: A Historical, Theoretical, and Cultural Analysis of Africana Dance and Theatre. 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 Outstanding Dance Education Researcher Award from the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), the Mary Ellen Multi-Country Research Award, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (NEH), the Council of American Overseas Research Centers Fellowship (CAORC), US Department of Education grant, US Department of State grant, Howard University’s Deans Cabinet Award, the Outstanding Student Advisement Award (HU Office of Research Development), Howard University Research Grant, an Outstanding Assistant Professor Award and the George H. Bennett Fellowship, among others. In addition to the NEH fellowship, Abiola was also awarded a $100,000 grant from NEH to establish an Africana Theatre and Dance Collection in Howard University's historic Founder's Library. 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 among others.
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, Europe, the US, and representatives from the US State Department attended. (For more information visit the website https://www.oabiola.org/).
**The video link below is a short-form documentary that serves as a visual and contextual aid for the book History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional African Dance. The links beneath it provide more information about Abiola's four book publications.
History Dances: African Dance Systems as Methodologies
Afrikniesis: A Paradigm for Research on African and African Diaspora Dance
History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional African Dance
Fire Under My Feet: History, Race and Agency in African Diaspora Dance
Historical Perspectives on Dance in Africa
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'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.
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.
Afrikinesis: A Paradigm for Research on African and African Diaspora Dance
Afrikinesis: A Paradigm for Research on African and African Diaspora Dance provides scholars and non-specialists alike, with a roadmap for effectively conducting culturally aware, historically relevant research on African dance and on any dance style that contains African elements. The book explains why Western research paradigms are inadequate for research on Africana dance. It exposes the value of utilizing an appropriate research paradigm that offers researchers a broader perspective, and a transparent, unfettered process for analysis in under-researched topics such as African and African diaspora dance styles.
Fire Under My Feet: History, Race & Agency in African Diaspora Dance (Monograph)
Fire Under My Feet: History, Race & Agency in African Diaspora Dance, seeks to expose the diverse, significant, and often under-researched historical and developmental phenomena revealed by studies in the dance systems of the African Diaspora. This work showcases a blend of scholars, dance practitioners, and interdisciplinarity, and engages the relationship between African diaspora dance and the fields of history, performance studies, religion, identity and Black agency. In Fire Under My Feet, written documentation and diverse methodologies are buttressed by the experiences of those whose lives are built around the practice of African diaspora dance. Replete with original perspectives, this book makes a significant contribution to dance and African diaspora scholarship simultaneously. Most important, it highlights the work of researchers from Ecuador, India, Puerto Rico, the United States, and the United Kingdom, and it exposes under-researched and omitted voices of the African diaspora dance world of the aforesaid locations and Puerto Rico, Columbia, and Trinidad as well.For more information: https://www.routledge.com/Fire-Under-My-Feet-History-Race-and-Agency-in…
Historical Perspectives on Dance in Africa (Textbook)
Embedded within the dances of Africa are repositories of historical narratives, invaluable insights on the mindset of ancient and contemporary peoples, and revelations and budding hints of developing cultural phenomena. Historical Perspectives on Dance in Africa introduces students, scholars, and the general public to previously under-researched African dances and their meanings, and the cultural history that gave birth to them.For more information: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1733357106?pf_rd_r=B88JHXX1MG8DC75Z2M…
History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional Mandinka Dance (Monograph)
The field of history is founded on the interrogation of written documents from the past. However, culture is the centre of life in Africa. As a result, in the past – and to a degree in the present – the process for documenting events in Africa was not written, it was performed. History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional Mandinka Dance, argues that a wealth of information is housed within traditional Mandinka dance, and consequently, the dances can be used as an African derived primary source for writing African history. History Dances highlights the overall value of studying Mandinka dance history specifically, and African dance history generally, and it addresses the issue of scarcity with regard to primary sources for writing African history.For more information: https://www.routledge.com/History-Dances-Chronicling-the-History-of-Tra…
Editor-in-Chief: Evoke: A Historical, Theoretical, and Cultural Analysis of Africana Dance and Theatre (Journal)
Evoke: A Historical, Theoretical, and Cultural Analysis of Africana Dance and Theatre is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed digital journal that fosters research, critical analysis, and vigorous discourse, on Africana dance, acting, and filmmaking. Evoke seeks to bring Africana performing arts into scholarly discussions thereby documenting, preserving, and providing exposure to under-researched narratives in Africana vernacular and professional performing arts. Accordingly, Evoke also provides a venue for scholars of African, African American, and African Diaspora dance, theatre, and film.For more information: http://dh.howard.edu/evoke/
AHA Member Spotlight: Ofosuwa M. Abiola | Perspectives on History
https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on… Historical Association, the oldest and the most presitgious academic historical organization, featured Dr. Abiola as a Spotlight Scholar in their Perspectives on History magazine.
Howard Fine Arts Professor Shows How African Dance Chronicled History | Afro American Newspaper
https://www.afro.com/howard-fine-arts-professor-shows-how-african-dance… Afro American Newspaper, sometimes referred to as simply, The Afro, was founded in 1892 and is part of a small group of long established African American newspapers in the United States. The Afro ran an article on the publication of Dr. Abiola's book, History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional Mandinka Dance.
Fine Arts Professor Making Strides in Increasing Awareness on Importance of African Dance Through New Book
The Art of Stepping - and How It's Brought People Together for More Than a Century | Dance Spirit Magazine
https://www.dancespirit.com/the-art-of-stepping-and-how-its-brought-peo… premier dance magazine, Dance Spirit, interviewed Dr. Abiola to obtain historical information on the emergence of African American Step Dancing in US colleges.