The New England diversity project is a collaboration between the Akwaaba Dance Ensemble (NH) and the Shidaa Projects Inc. (VT), two sister organizations whose main objectives are centered on promoting diversity in their respective states through the use of West African drum and dance performances and workshops.
The Akwaaba dance ensemble is led by Theo Martey who never runs out of artistic accolades.
In 2019 he won the Governor’s Arts Award for Arts Education;
He is the NH Artist Laureate for 2022-2024
He’s the winner of the US International Collaboration award for 2022
He is well known as a song writer and producer.
The Akwaaba dance ensemble has done their fair share of contribution when the subject of diversity is mentioned. The team organizes a group of both francophone and anglophone drum and dance experts originating from West Africa and carries out artistic performances and educational programs across New England (pls see image of NE below
Shidaa Projects Inc. is led by Artistic director and founder Jordan Mensah, a juried artist of the Vermont Arts Council since 2004. Jordan is a widely respected resource person on African Traditional studies, who has organized extensive cultural residencies in schools across Vermont and New England. Jordan is an artistic instructor of the Summit school of traditional music in Montpelier, as well as of Ballet Wolcott of Morrisville. Since moving to Vermont in 2003 Jordan has been inspired to share cultural education about his home country through artistic programs including drumming and dance; while speaking to the importance of diversity through these activities as well. Jordan is often invited to share his skills and knowledge by local schools and organizations and is always looking for the next opportunity. His quarterly drumming education sessions are eagerly anticipated by a large number of students. Jordan also has a passion for giving back, which has inspired the dual mission of Shidaa Projects Inc.. He has facilitated and shipped many donations to schools, libraries, families, teachers and those less fortunate in West Africa.
WHY PROMOTE DIVERSITY?
This collaborative effort at promoting diversity was precipitated by recent waves of heightened interests in racial justice and cultural diversity that swept across New England following recent events which created upheavals across the entire United States. The spontaneous calls and positive responses by corporations and institutions issuing statements to affirm their commitments to equality, inclusivity, and diversity are evident for all to see. It is in this light that the Akwaaba-Shidaa collaborations have been energized to present our programs as effective means to contribute to the realization of these intercultural and/or interracial expectations.
On November 5th, 2022, the Akwaaba-Shidaa collaboration was invited as guest performers at the Norwich University during their Annual “Celebration of Nations”. We provided comfortable space for the International University students, from different nations and backgrounds, to participate and celebrate with the dance drumming repertoires performed. The highlight was about the values of celebrating differences across communities and “breaking down” cultural, national, and racial barriers for all to find a common dance floor to share and benefit from. Please see pictures from the “Celebration of Nations” at the Plumley Armory (Hall) of Norwich University, VT. The Akwaaba-Shidaa collaborations prioritize the engagement of ONLY open-minded and educated artistic instructors who value and promote inclusivity