Collecting StrandNational Resource Centre for Dance
LevelCollection
Ref NoKO
TitleKokuma Dance Theatre Archive
Date1984-2000
Extent996 files of papers, 345 video tapes, 277 files of photographic material, 47 posters, 36 audio materials, 50 theatre programmes, catalogued material

1 box of files, uncatalogued material
Name of CreatorKokuma Dance Theatre; c1978-2000; dance company
DescriptionKokuma began in 1978 as Mystics and Israelites, an informal drumming group before joining with Unemployed Youth Activities in 1981 to become Kokuma Performing Arts (1982-1989). In 1990 it became Kokuma Dance Theatre. The company closed in 2000 owing to funding issues. The archive contents stops abruptly, reflecting the sudden closure of the company.

The archive contains records charting the development of Britain's first Afro-Caribbean dance theatre company from a small-scale company operating on a voluntary basis, to a large-scale company, with an education function. The archive includes material relating to performances including videos, photographs and music, and production files; video recordings of residencies, talks and conferences; publicity material, posters and programmes; books; dance industry periodicals. In addition, the administrative files include correspondence with the Arts Council; tour administration; correspondence with Birmginham City Council; accounts and financial records; marketing material including press releases and press clippings; records relating to staff; records relating to education workshops and education outreach; planning and management papers; executive producer's files; venue files; and lighting designs.
ArrangementThe files titles remain faithful to the company's titling, but where necessary, titles have been devised if they were missing. The files are best read from back to front because they were filed in that manner. Where a lever-arch file filled more than one archive folder, the sequence was added to the title (e.g. 1 of 2, 2 of 2). Some of the files have been grouped under subject categories which are as follows:
- Arts Council - arranged according to council: England, Great Britain, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.
- Audio
- Birmingham City Council
- Education: includes personnel, residencies, resource packs, officer's files, and workshops.
- Executive Producer's files
- Finance: awaiting a further deposit
- Jackie Guy's files
- Marketing
- Patrick Acogny's files
- Personnel: arranged alphabetically.
- Photographs: prints grouped by dance work. Additional categories: workshops and portraits.
- Productions: arranged alphabetically.
- Publicity: arranged chronologically.
- Venues: arranged alphabetically
- West Midlands Arts
- Video: the videotapes were arranged chronologically by dance work and film.
- Posters: arranged chronologically by dance work and festival.
- Theatre Programmes: arranged chronologically.


The deposit was received in 2000 after members at the NRCD cleared Kokuma's offices at The Custard Factory following the company's folding. Although the company provided an accession listing for the contents of their filing cabinets and shelving units, the archive was still largely disordered. Individuals' desks were cleared of their files and belongings, hence some duplication and then separated into format types when received by the NRCD.

Where information was not available for some of the photographs, an educated guess has been made to give a sense of how the works fit together. A proportion of the works are reworked traditional dances, using traditional African dress. It is for this reason that it has been difficult to differentiate one work from another. The archivist has grouped them when possible but there may be some inconsistencies.
Administrative HistoryIn 1978 Bob Ramdhami formed an informal 'jamming' group with a group of local youths in Handsworth, Birmingham. This was the origin of Kokuma Dance Theatre, later to become a full time professional company. The company's philosophy was consistent throughout their 22 years of development, making 'African dance more accessible to the wider community at large, and to encourage the development of positive attitudes to dance and movement based on African technique'. The company had a clear vision to bring African dance to the community, with their primary concern with education issues rather than profit. The company's style is distinctly African, using a lot of traditional but also contemporary techniques including Capoeira.
Ramdhani's original group, Mystics and the Israelites, became part of a larger community organisation known as Unemployed Youth Activities, broadening their education campaign. Unemployed Youth Activities met the needs of local youths, advising them on community issues, counselling and social welfare. In 1982 Derrick Anderson became the company's first informal director under its new title Kokuma Performing Arts. It was under Anderson's direction that the company produced its first full-length piece The Unwanted Prince. The company developed to semi-professional status in 1986, before becoming a professional company in 1987 with a committed core of 12 performers. In the same year, Jackie Guy was invited as a guest choreographer producing The Trails of Ado, introducing him to Kokuma. Guy was appointed artistic director in 1988, choreographing Soul-Less Game, Vibrations, Profiles in Black (now known as Kokuma Theatre Dance), Repercussions, Bankra, Panache, Spirit of Carnival, Dido and Aeneas, The Awakening, and Reflections. In 1995 Patrick Acogny became artistic director, choreographing Guddi, Isis, Reflections II, Masks, Passages, Bidonvilles, One, and Pagan Masses.
Kokuma Theatre Dance collaborated with SAMPAD, Adzido, Ex Cathedra, Black voices, and even the Birmingham Royal Ballet throughout its lifetime. Kokuma respected the choreographic contribution of their staff and understood the advantages of commissioning guest choreographers. Such individuals included: Barrington Moncreiffe, Francis Nii Yartey, Patsy Ricketts, Peter Badejo, Cecelin Johnson, Ursella Lawrence, John Hunte, Koffi Koko, Gail Parmel-Claxton, Lolita Babindamana, and Flora Thefaine. Due to a lack of funding, some planned projects fell through, including one with Ranjabati Sircar. They worked with vocalists, dancers, actors, children, the elderly, and those with special needs, pursuing their philosophy to bring African dance to a wider community. Kokuma had a strong reputation for its educational work, giving workshops in over 150 schools. In 1999 Kokuma produced One Story Many Moves in collaboration with DanceXchange and the Midlands Arts Centre with pupils from St Thomas Church of England Primary School. Outside of the United Kingdom Kokuma represented Birmingham City in Frankfurt at the Town Twinning Festival, toured Zimbabwe and Germany with Panache, and Patrick Acogny visited India on research.
The company suffered as a result of not receiving fixed term funding. They were, however, financially supported by Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Arts and variety of other funding bodies regionally and nationally. In 1990 the company received the Black Award for Dance. In the same year they were short-listed for the Prudential Award for Dance as well as receiving the Prudential Commendation Award for Dance for innovation and creativity coupled with excellence and accessibility in the arts. In 1999 they received a National Lottery Capital Grant before folding in 2000.
Kokuma Dance Theatre worked with a close knit group of individuals who often stayed with the company for years, changing roles as their interests developed. Nicky Reid is one example, developing from photographer, to drummer, to education officer, and Cecelin Johnson is another, developing from company dancer, to principal dancer, to choreographer. Some performing members of the company also doubled up as administrative workers. This aside, there were other non-performing members of the administrative team including Anita Clarke, Rachel Harrison, Gwen Van Spijk, Janet Smith, Lesley Green, Lizzie Chapman, Louise Sutton, Owen McKenzie, and Wanjiku Nyachae.
AccrualsNo further accruals expected.
Physical DescriptionStandard archival practice was used throughout the archive: removing staples, photocopying and removing faxes and post-it notes, photocopying newspaper print onto acid-free paper, and removing duplicates.
CopyrightWhere copyright in the items was held by Kokuma Performing Arts this this has been assigned to the National Resource Centre of Dance, University of Surrey.

In accordance with the deposit agreement, photocopying will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances and of single items.
Custodial HistoryIn September 2000, Kokuma Dance Theatre deposited its archive at the National Resource Centre for Dance, University of Surrey, when the company ceased operation. The uncatalogued financial papers were deposited by the accountants in 2004.
Persons
CodePerson NameDates
DS/UK/C409Kokuma Dance Theatre; c1978-2000; dance companyc1978-2000
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