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RepositoryNational Resource Centre for Dance Archive
Ref NoKO
Alt Ref NoGB 1881 KO
DescriptionThe archive contains a variety of resources covering 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 a strong focus on education. The company underwent a series of transitions from Mystics and Israelites (1978), an informal drumming group, to join forces with Unemployed Youth Activities (1981), becoming Kokuma Performing Arts (1982-1989), and finally Kokuma Dance Theatre (1990-2000). The archive provides detailed information on Kokuma Performing Arts and Kokuma Dance Theatre, but is missing detail on the earlier activity of the company.
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.
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
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. The archive contents stops abruptly, giving a sense that a latter part is missing, but it simply reflects the sudden closure of the company.
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.
There are 8 boxes of uncatalogued financial material
Admin_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.
Custodial_HistoryIn September 2000, Kokuma Dance Theatre deposited its archive at the NRCD, when the company ceased operation. The uncatalogued financial papers were deposited by the accountants in 2004.
Extent996 files of papers, 341 videos, 275 photographs, 47 posters, 35 audio materials, 29 theatre programmes, 10 oversize lighting plans.
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