By Elizabeth A. Hanley
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Extra resources for African Dance, 2nd Edition (World of Dance)
Several sturdy men, who tread heavily and powerfully through the village, threatening spectators who stand at safe distances, accompany Agaba. Agaba’s movements are irregular and erratic, and when taunted by the accompanists, Agaba shakes its rattling body furiously, stamping and rushing at spectators until attendants who hold a rope restrain him. In the arena, the mask, followed by elders, goes around greeting guests. Then the leader of the ogene men dances toward the mask and retreats, symbolizing the relationship between the living and the dead (Agaba).
Like all African popular dance, highlife emphasizes syncretism, which is the melding of stylistic aspects from two different cultures—in this case, Ghanian and British. The British came to Ghana in the early nineteenth century, so highlife may have originated nearly a century before the term first came into wide use; however, the dance really became established in the 1920s. Many Ghanians were employed by the British in the lower levels of the colonial government, so they were forced to learn about British culture in order to move up the ranks.
Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Mauritania all have climates that reflect the dryness of being adjacent to the desert. Dances from Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal are the most numerous in this text because scholars have done more research and documentation in these countries. Generally, more research has been done on West African dance because of the region’s relatively close proximity to Europe and the United States. In addition, in recent years, many West Africans have come to study, work, and live in Europe and the United States and have brought with them their cultural dances.
African Dance, 2nd Edition (World of Dance) by Elizabeth A. Hanley