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, at Howard University's Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts. Abiola received her PhD in History from Howard University with a specialization in African and African Diaspora (Africana) dance history. Abiola's research interests include Africana dance history, research paradigms in Africana dance, the African dance aesthetic, and dance and identity. Her research seeks to underscore Africana dance narratives and their capacity to immerse all who engage them in the worldview of peoples of African descent, and their global collective experiences.
Abiola's latest publication is titled, Fire Under My Feet: History, Race & Agency in African Diaspora Dance. Additional publications include 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. Her latest book project, Afrikinesis: A Paradigm for Research on African and African Diaspora Dance is under contract. 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. She is currently in the process of establishing a second peer-reviewed journal, At the Cutting Edge.
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, the 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, 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 my book History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional African Dance. The links beneath it provide more information about my three books.
History Dances: African Dance Systems as Methodologies
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.
B.I.S. (Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies)
Virginia State University
My expertise and research interests include the study of Africana (African & African Diaspora) dance history, its ability to immerse the individual in the collective memory of peoples of African descent globally, and its capacity to enable one to approach and understand current cultural developments from the perspective of experience. My research 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. My research seeks to highlight the significance of these elements for the understanding of world culture and history, and the interdisciplinary application of that understanding to diverse fields. Through digital humanities platforms, my research also focuses on the historical representations of Africana performative phenomena, particularly the performance of ritual, and other non-theatrical depictions of performance in Africana life.
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.
WAC - Writing Across the Curriculum course.
WRTG - Writing Intensive course.
WAC - Writing Across the Curriculum course.
I created this course to enhance students' analytical skills and to provide a deeper engagement with the infinite ways in which the arts impact society.
I created this course to provide performance students with archival skills and methodologies for the arts fields.
I created this course to further enhance performance students' skills in research methods.
My research has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH); the U.S. State Department; the U.S. Department of Education; the National Park Service (NPS); the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH); The Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), Howard University's Office of Research Development; The Center for African Studies; and diverse cultural and humanities academic and non-academic institutes and agencies.
National Dance Education Organization (NDEO). Awarded for my contributions to African and African Diaspora dance history research.
Appointed the inaugural Associate Dean of Research and Creative Endeavors for the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts. Howard University is the first HBCU to contain this position.
Awarded the Deans Cabinet Award.
Invited to be a panelist in The Atlantic Council, Africa Center, High-Level International Summit on the African Creative and Cultural Industries. The summit was hosted by Ambassador Rama Yade. Panel speakers included Nana Addo-Akufo (President of Ghana), Cyril Ramaphosa (President of South Africa), Felix Tshisekedi (President of Democratic Republic of the Congo), and other high-level American and international officials. I spoke about the benefit of investing in dance in the African Diaspora.
Appointed interim chair for the Department of Theatre Arts.
Awarded this NEH fellowship to continue research on my next book.
Awarded the Council of American Overseas Research Centers Fellowship to conduct research in Senegal and The Gambia, West Africa, for my monograph, Unwitting Witnesses: Unearthing Narratives of African Dance in Pre-Colonial Logs.
Awarded the Mary Ellen Lane Multi-Country Travel Grant for writing the top research proposal.
Invited 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, to facilitate the launch of the Smithsonian's first International Engagement Program.
Invited to Recife, Brazil, by the U.S. State Department to mount my African dance ballet, RITES, performed by 5 dance artists in the Dance program at Howard, and teach African dance workshops while there.
Was awarded an NEH grant to establish an Africana Theatre and Dance Collection in Founders Library.
This award acknowledges the accomplishments of Assistant Professors in the College of Arts and Sciences in the areas of teaching, research, and service.
This award acknowledges the professor's advising and guidance of students who won the Most Outstanding Presentation in Howard University's Research Week.
Awarded a $3,000.00 grant from the Department of Education through the Center for African Studies to supprt the Nankama African Dance Conference. I proposed the conference to the Theatre Arts Department and serve as director.
Awarded this grant to travel to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York to conduct research to complete my book, For Every Thought There's A Dance: The History of African American Dance.
I was awarded this five-year fellowship to pursue my Ph.D. in History at Howard University.
Office of the Mayor, Washington, D.C.
Special Commendation, Public History Lecture Series, District of Columbia Archives, Washington, D.C.
Fulbright award to study Gnawa dance and music in Morocco, North Africa.
Was bestowed the title "Master Folk Artist" by the Virginina Foundation for the Humanities.
The Virginia Music Educators’ Association.
For a performance above and beyond expected. Department of the Navy, Pentagon, Arlington, VA. Newport News, VA branch.
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…
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…
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…
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/
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.
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.
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.