Kulu Mele Cuba Photo

On November 30, 2019, (save the date!) Kulu Mele will premiere Ogun & the People, an-all new Afro-Cuban/Yoruba narrative dance and drumming work that commemorate Kulu Mele’s 50th anniversary. To develop this work, Kulu Mele company members and additional artistic and cultural collaborators traveled to Santiago de Cuba for intensive study in studio with world-renowned Ballet Folklorico Cutumba and outside investigations of Cuba’s “oriente” (Eastern region). Kulu Mele travelers were immersed in dance, music, and spiritual, historical and cultural traditions that inform the source story: an Afro-Cuban “pataki” (sacred parable) about how the world falls apart and is rebalanced. This handful of photos shares glimpses of the transformative week. Stay posted on the project here, or email kulumele50@kulumele.org.

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Ogun & the People has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Photos: Debora Kodish


Kulu Mele worked in studio for seven days, September 10-17, 2018 at Teatro Galaxia, the home of Ballet Folklórico Cutumba in Santiago de Cuba.


Kulu Mele artistic director Dorothy Wilkie and Kulu Mele company members discuss elements of the production in development with Cutumba’s artistic director, Idalberto Bandera Sidó and rehearsal director Maura Isaac Álvarez. Selina Morales translates. 9/11/18


Post-rehearsal discussion with Edward Smallwood (left), who dances Ogun. Cutumba artistic director, Idalberto Bandera Sidó, rehearsal director MauraIsaac Álvarez and Selina Morales (translating) are seated. Kulu Mele artistic director, Dorothy Wilkie and Aidan Un (videographer) stand. 9/14/18


Kulu Mele drummers Ira Bond, John Wilkie and Kenneth Fauntleroy rehearsing and learning with Cutumba drummers and singers, led by Diango Sánchez Cobas and Yunia Eni Cisneros Rodriguez. 9/15/18

Crystal Gatling and Cachet Ivey are fitted for costumes (for Oshun and Oya, respectively) for dress rehearsal by Cutumba’s wardrobe mistress. Dorothy WIlkie looks at costume construction. 9/15/18


Kulu Mele company members and Ogun & the People project team members climbed 300 steps up the mountain to El Cimarron, a monument crafted by Alberto Lescay in tribute to enslaved Africans who freed themselves. The historic site is also a shrine: testimony to the spirit of resistance, rebellion and freedom that lives on (including in the pataki in which Kulu Mele is immersed). L-R standing: Selina Morales, Cachet Ivey, Ife Nii-Owoo, Crystal Gatling, Payin Schley, Patricia “Peaches” Jones, Dorothy Wilkie, Tekeytha Amelia Fullwood. Seated on the statue/shrine: Ama Schley, Renelle Anansa Smith, Yusuf Young, Ira Bond. 9/15/18


Dorothy WIlkie and Ama Schley coming down the mountain at El Cimarron in El Cobre, Cuba: two generations carrying the torch for culture, walking side by side in a place of power and purpose. 9/18/19.