This article was curated from Books & Arts. Nigerian creatives in the diaspora have described the body – its vast and assimilated memories, as the key to their localisation.

Performing artistes: dancer and choreographer, Qudus Onikeku; dancer and dean, College of Arts, Florida, Onyekwere Ozuzu; antidisciplinary artiste, Native Maqari and dramaturgist and choreographer, Otobong Nkanga, spoke at the just-concluded Chinua Achebe @ 90 organised by the QDanceCenter and Afropolis.

Contrary to concerns of those in the diaspora bothering on their protection by the federal government as well as their inclusion and engagement in the nation’s affairs, the panel discussed “Home and Exile: Localising The Diaspora with focus on the transnational realities of the diaspora. “

For the artists, living and practicing in multiple countries, localisation goes beyond geographical space and a monoculture to include identification and unification to their places of birth/culture through their bodies’ memories.

“The key that opened the door that took me down the secret passage of life is the body,” Ozuzu said.

Illustrating how bodies connect humans to their history and land, she said that her memories of African mothers in Oyo State, where she was raised as a young child, who tied their young ones behind their back as they went about their daily living, helped her as a young mother pursuing a dance career, to navigate the modern American society, where maternity would have been a barrier.

However, Ozuzu currently researching the body as a technology that connects lives, land and history acknowledged localisation by way of geographical space as a grounding factor for it.

“Land in West Africa was not totally subjugated as the people by colonialism. Listening to what the land wants, doing what it wants is like the way farming was done by Africans where they plant different foods or whatever, else, the land could grow in one place. Our practice (dance) with the body as a technology/telephone connects us to the land,” Ozuzu said.

Affirming Ozuzu’s viewpoint, Nkanga noted that the body’s negotiation of temperature, air, and language to align and readjust to whatever physical location one finds oneself supports Ozuzu’s theory Approaching localisation of the diaspora from a different perspective, Maqari reviewed the concept of mobility and its meaning for Africans in diaspora.

He said that while mobility for white diasporas mean a rise in social status, for black people, it represents slavery, and most often requires starting-up from the lower rungs of society’s ladder.

While noting that mobility meant different things for different cultures, referencing his Tuareg background, a culture that thrives in nomadic lifestyle as a symbol of freedom, stabilising nomads, Maqari said that it is equivalent to slavery.

Nomad or sedentary, “our perception of life is not hindered by land or space. Our connection to our land (through our bodies) connects us to our ancestors,” Ozuzu stated.


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