Project Arts Centre
Òwe means “proverb” in Yoruba, and in this dance solo Mufutau Yusuf uses proverbs, particularly those compiled by Oyekan Owomoyela, to reconnect with his Yoruba roots. As he left Nigeria for Ireland when he was nine, these proverbs provide an artistic scaffold and personal roadmap. How does an individual connect to a past that is not remembered yet always formative?
Physically. Words might be the springboard, but Òwe is a testament to the power of the tactile. At times Yusuf, who now lives and works mainly in Belgium, plays cassette tapes and gazes through strips of camera film, each part of an archive that passes through hands, experienced through touch. But in his dancing Yusuf shows that identity is in the bone and marrow. Our present physicality is the summation of our embodied past. This physicality peaks in moments of strife, his body flailing in a red circle of light in reaction to projected images of war. Elsewhere his introspection is more considered and cerebral.
Not afraid of silence or inaction, Òwe is a work that consolidates historically embodied memories with the transience of dance. In this, it reflects the quoted words of Nigeria’s first prime minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, in a speech to the United Nations, when he spoke of “eternal truths which will inevitably persist long after we ourselves are utterly forgotten”.