Ogun & the People

Kulu Mele at Home

On Saturday, November 30, 2019, Kulu Mele will debut its 50th anniversary season (1969-2019) production, Ogun & the People, for one performance only, at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. In commemoration of Kulu Mele’s 50th anniversary, O&tP will be artistic director Dorothy Wilkie’s most ambitious work ever. Tickets will go on sale July 15, 2019, at the Annenberg Center Box Office, 3680 Walnut Street; online (CLICK HERE); and at 215-898-3900. Ogun & the People has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and is co-commissioned by the Annenberg Center.






PNC Arts Alive is the official sponsor of Kulu Mele’s 50th anniversary season.

About Ogun & the People

Ogun & the People is an all-new multi-media work of American dance theater, inspired by Afro-Cuban performative traditions. It was specially created by Kulu Mele artistic director Dorothy Wilkie as her gift to the community (and the world), in commemoration of Kulu Mele’s 50th anniversary. Ogun & the People incorporates live music, dance, film, storytelling, set elements and more. It’s world-premiere performance at the Annenberg Center features a cast of 23 professional performing artists, plus children.

Wilkie created Ogun as a staged version of a pataki (sacred parable) about the Yoruba deity Ogun – a warrior, protector and dispenser of justice who brought civilization to Earth. There are many interpretations of Ogun’s story. Wilkie’s version is a familiar one that she has held close to her heart for many years. Her Ogun is a leader, a trailblazer, and a protector of the people. He is a warrior, hunter and the blacksmith of humanity. He is symbolized by iron and deftly wields a machete.

According to legend, Ogun left his community for an extended journey. When he returned, no one recognized him. Angry and hurt, he retreated into the forest to live alone, taking all of his tools with him. Without Ogun and his tools, weapons, forces and powers, his people were unable to hunt, cultivate crops and defend themselves. They couldn’t work without equipment or cook without iron pots and kettles. The people needed Ogun to return and restore balance to their world. Various Orishas entered the forest and appealed to him with dance and offerings. Ogun refused everyone’s entreaties until the Orisha Oshun, representative of love and sweetness, tempted him out of the forest with honey.

Wilkie has replayed this pivotal scene in her mind countless times, as a function of her spiritual habits as a Yoruba practitioner, initiate, and devotee (priest). Each time, she has further refined her artistic vision of Ogun & the People, while strategizing her own best practices for dealing with personal and community strife.

As a pataki, Ogun & the People is replete with powerful themes, morals, and teachings. Recognizable and inscrutable, complex characters (Ogun, Oshun, other Orishas, and the people) are built out of movement and music. Like all patakis, Ogun & the People reveals new pathways for action; unforetold ways for all of us to find our way in life.

Wilkie’s Ogun uses elements of traditional ritual, dance and culture to explore contemporary concerns that are relevant right now, in Philadelphia and around the world. Her Ogun is rooted in the authentic folkloric traditions with which she is very well-versed, including Afro-Cuban, Haitian and Oriente (Eastern Cuban) Yoruba culture, and contemporary Yoruba culture as practiced in Philadelphia, as part of the Yoruba Diaspora.

With the loftiest commitment to her artistry and in support of this production’s richly informed development, Ogun & the People is Wilkie’s most original work, and her most ambitious artistic investigation, as was necessary in order for her to translate a pataki from oral tradition and ritual context, into a staged work of dance theater.

Wilkie is emphatic in her belief that the story of Ogun & the People must be told now, at this time of civic and cultural crisis, and in the face of rising violence and hate in Philadelphia and globally.

As Kulu Mele’s all-new 50th-anniversary production, Ogun & the People recognizes the value of Kulu Mele’s work in this moment, and it enacts Kulu Mele’s historic and ongoing role as a cultural guardian, a community connector, and an artistic change agent. It canonizes Kulu Mele’s half-century of artistry and activism, and it claims the company’s stake for the next 50 years ahead.

Tickets to Ogun & the People will go on sale Monday, July 15, 2019, at the Annenberg Center Box Office, 3680 Walnut Street; online (CLICK HERE); and at 215-898-3900. Order soon for best seat selection! Kulu Mele’s 2018 annual show SOLD OUT to standing-room-only capacity, so advance purchase is strongly recommended.


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