- RETRIEVE MEMORY AND TRANSMIT IT
- DANCING : ENGAGING WITH YOUTH
- ANTIDISCIPLINARITY: A NEW PRACTICE FOR ACTING ON THE GROUND
Qudus Onikeku is a Nigerian choreographer. As a young boy, he began to practice acrobatics and dance in Nigeria and continued his training in France at the CNAC (National Center for Circus Arts). He first created the YK company in Paris then returned to Lagos, his hometown, to open the QDanceCenter and the QDance Compagny in 2014. He leads many projects around the world that combine traditional African and contemporary dance with hip-hop and acrobatics but also music and video.
« I have managed to create a movement identity that fuses dance and acrobatics, while i make my Yoruba traditional philosophy my basis, and combining it with several other influences such as hip hop, capoeira, tai chi and contemporary dance vocabularies, to weave a certain understanding of dance, art, politics and everything in between. » Qudus Onikeku – The Quest
Qudus Onikeku explores in his work, different aspects of memory such as spiritual, cultural and bodily memory.
Third part of a dance solo trilogy, composed of My Exil in my head (2010) which deals with loneliness, and Still-Life (2011/2012) on tragedy, Qaddish (2013) questions memory, and more particularly that of the traditions of his ancestors. He works from his father's story, to find a buried memory. The choreographer lives this experience as a conscious journey where the dance makes it possible to embody the memories of his father. His dance is composed of movements from different cultures, accompanied by Maurice Ravel's Kaddish, Jewish song for the dead, performed live.
Qaddish (2013) - QDance Company
“My conscious memory is modernity, but my unconscious memory is tradition. [...] For us in Africa there is no conflict between tradition and modernity. They live together." Qudus Onikeku - rfi.fr, 2013
Spirit Child (2019) - Qudus Onikeku
Spirit Child is a solo choreographed and danced by Qudus Onikeku, created in 2019 and accompanied by three live musicians. Inspired by Yoruba mythology, it features Azaro, a spirit child who travels between the living world and the spirit world. The choreographer talks about entering a state of trance; it is for him a quest for truth which is the very purpose of the dance. Qudus Onikeku defines this state as transportation, transition and transmission.
“It's a trip you can't do physically, you have to go through a tunnel. You have to go through a transition. It’s a metaphor for how we can enter this transition, move to another register that is not on earth." Qudus Onikeku - rfi.fr, 2013
Re:incarnation is the result of five years of research focused on bodily memory, conducted with young Nigerian dancers. This project is built on the concepts of reincarnation (birth, death, rebirth) and a perception of time and a cyclical space. For Qudus Onikeku, it is about paying homage to Nigerian music, redesigned by dancehall, hip-hop, electro or afrobeat and composed of movements that express the energy of Lagos. These young dancers reappropriate these heritages to re-incarnate them in the present.
“It's the creation of a collective piece that will show the depth of black culture, its joy, pure and uncompromising.” Qudus Onikeku – Re:incarnation Note of Intent, 2021
“This transmission of memory aims to heal the dancers, the audience and even society.” Qudus Onikeku - France Culture, 2021
The choreographer sees his artistic practice as a committed act. It interweaves spiritual and intimate reflections with socio-cultural and political subjects that make up Nigerian and more broadly African society. For the artist, it is important to integrate youth into his creations because it is through them that the transformations will take place.
Yuropa, created in 2018, talks about immigration by featuring three dancers. The performers show with heavy bodies and repetitive voices the suffering and obstacles that African migrants undergo on their way to exile.
“I've been looking closely at the questions of 'contemporary Africa', its aesthetics and its identity in its widest sense; the differences, the discourse about it, the power play around it, the instability of reality, the chauvinism, the colonialism, the hegemony, the migration, exile and the noisy confusion that they all produce together, in my daily reality and that of humanity.” Qudus Onikeku - The Quest
The work of reappropriating a forgotten memory is essential for him because it allows new generations to assert their identity and take power over their present and over the issues that cross their societies. Rainmakers claims the individual's power to act in the collective. Created in 2017, it tells the story of the gathering of different people who through their union, their energy and their dance, manage to make the rain fall and thus change the order of things.
To be able to place art in a societal reality, Qudus Onikeku wants to remove the concept of discipline, which rigidifies artistic practice. He speaks of “anti-disciplinarity” and extends this idea to the sphere of the non-artistic.
According to him, removing the boundaries between disciplines makes it possible to talk about concrete subjects. It is the mix of people from all walks of life who, freed from prejudices, are able to bring creativity, collaboration and openness.
The choreographer expresses very strongly his desire to participate in the life of Nigerian society through artistic creation.
For this, he founded in 2014 with Harajat Ali the QDance Center in Lagos. The place is intended to offer a space for sharing and for amateur and professional training around artistic practices such as dance and theater. The structure's mission is the professional integration of young people and access to culture for all.
Qudus Onikeku also participates in the cultural life of the city by creating with Onye Ozuzu in 2017 the danceGATHERING, a festival that brings together people from all backgrounds and practices for a week of meeting and artistic experimentation, and ends with a great weekend. open to the public. The “anti-disciplinarity” of the festival gives rise to unique practices. These are an opportunity for participants to come together around themes related to the recognition and development of African artistic practice.