The Beautiful Struggle: Agolo
Updated: Jul 4, 2022
History always repeats itself.
Johns Hopkins University, April 15th, 2017 Homewood Art Program Project, Co-produced by Benjamin Pierce
Funded by: The Homewood Arts Program, The Arts Innovation Grant, The Creative Use of Technology Grant
Song: Agolo by Angelique Kidjo
"I love being covered in color. Using the projectors created an ever-changing outfit of light that Kemi and her characters wore with great style."
- Benjamin Pierce, Collaborative artist, Co-director
"One specific thing I remember was lining up to get body paint done and I remember seeing everyone's excitement when we finally got to see what we looked like under the black lights with our Ankara and beads. Overall, I think we had so much fun, and definitely produced one of the most memorable shows my peers and I have witnessed. I'm so glad I got to be a part of it."
- Fatima, Young Olajumoke, Ensemble
"Agolo to me was a piece with a lot of emotion exuded throughout. I remember being very nervous coming out on stage as a skull, but whenever I did it always drew a lot of attention. The skull was a turning point because it brought clarity to a lot of what was happing on stage. I knew I wanted to embody the role as much as I could and I had never been in such a character before so it was definitely a challenge, but exciting nonetheless and honestly, I felt very powerful when I was in full makeup and the lights turned off. It was a really cool project and I was happy I got to play that part!"
- Jasmine, The Skull
About the Project :
Inspired by the Yoruba folk tale of Olajumoke and the skull, Agolo follows Olajumoke as she relays the story of her past to teach her daughters about wisdom and foolishness as they are next in line to inherit her legacy. In the end, the daughters have a decision to make when she is gone: either to repeat her mistakes or rise above them. Agolo portrays a culture of oral tradition and African folktales that we often forget. It is a piece that brings the folk tale to life in a visually dynamic performance that incorporates dancers and projections.
A deeper look:
When I was thinking of ideas to portray for the African dance showcase, I wanted each piece to tell a story but I didn't know where to start. While sitting at my desk "studying" for a structural engineering exam, my mind kept wandering to a single chair in the corner of the family room with a white kaftan draped over it. Peeking under the rough cloth, my grandfather's weathered but strong feet restlessly scuffed the floor as he sat there guffawing over the last folk tale he just told. All I can say is that it concerned a lion, a monkey, Akara ("bean cake"), and a "not so very nice word." It had been hours where he had been telling us all sorts of amazing stories that he learned growing up, and one of those stories was about Olajumoke and how the famous song "Agolo" by Angelique Kidjo was inspired. Now the Agolo story my grandfather told isn't exactly the same story told on stage. It's a what-if sequel. What if Olajumoke survived? What if she became successful and had children? Would her children learn from her mistakes or repeat them? Even if the stories were inspired, one thing was important to me. I remember how wild my imagination ran when my grandfather spoke. He was an amazing storyteller if you could guess by now. The way he told those stories imprinted them in your mind. They were vivid, almost tangible but not quite. In and out of a dream. He created a whole new world beneath my eyelids with his voice. I knew what I saw then, was what I wanted the people who came to the show to see.
Behind the Scenes:
Watch a Re-run of the Stage Piece Here: