Two Oakland artists take on a massive mural in the city's downtown, only to find themselves at the center of the debate over gentrification and cultural resiliency.

Naomi Gedo Diouf, an expert in West African dance, history, costume, song and culture, began learning Liberian dances at the age of five from her mother and grandmother in Liberia.  She also trained at the Kendeja Cultural Center for Indigenous Performers, studying not only with Liberian dancers but with prominent dancers and musicians from many other West African nations.  Her apprenticeship under Constance Taul of the Paris Ballet led her to research dance forms from around the world.  She is now the artistic director of Diamano Coura West African Dance Company in Oakland, California, and she has choreographed works for many other professional companies including a consultancy on the classical/African fusion choreography and music Lamberena.  She is an advocate of arts-in-education and has taught West African dance in schools throughout California and abroad.

African dance is characterized by its gracefulness, athleticism and rhythmic movements.  In Africa, dance is a part of everyday life.  Important in rituals and ceremonies, it can be used to mark life’s transitions, to heal, to tell a story, or for pure enjoyment.  Unlike forms of Western dance such as ballet, which are performed only by experts, African dance can be performed by all members of the community.  Naomi aims to preserve West African dance and introduce it to new audiences through her work in the schools and performances with her award winning company, Diamano Coura, which means “those who bring the message” in Wolof, a Senegalese language.

In 2003, Naomi was a master artist in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program with her apprentice and daughter, Kine Marcella Diouf.  Their apprenticeship focused on teaching Kine the klakan, a traditional female dance of the Kru people of Liberia that signifies passage to womanhood.

Select Performances

Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now, Theater Artaud, San Francisco, California, 2005

Diamano Coura West African Dance Company’s Annual Repertory Concert, Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, Oakland, California, 2004

Collage des Cultures Africaines, Calvin Simmons Theater, Oakland, California, 2004

Accomplishments

Isadora Duncan Award, Best Performing Company, 2004

ACTA's Apprenticeship Program Master Artist, 2003

Berkeley High School’s Teacher of Excellence Award, 2001

Who’s Who Among American Teachers, 1999

California Arts Council Artist-in-Residence, 1991-1994

International Certificate of Excellence Award, The Netherlands, 1991

Teaching Experience

Alvin Ailey/Cal Performances Dance Camp, Berkeley, CA, 75 students, 2003-2005

Kankouran Dance Conference, Washington, D.C., 150 students, 1999-2004

Laney Community College, Oakland, California, 135 students, 1995-present

Berkeley High School, Berkeley, California, 175 students, 1991-present

Malonga Casquelourd Dance Collective, Oakland, CA, 1000 students per year, 1987

Professional Services

Mentorships
Demonstrations
Lectures
Educational presentation to schools or community organizations
Exhibitions
Performances
Plans arts events
Cultural consultancies
Costume design
Facilitates tours to Senegal

LINKS:

http://www.diamanocoura.org

NAOMI DIOUF