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Flanders-Crosby lectures at Smithsonian

El Cabildo De Ma Gose

Jill Flanders-Crosby Speaks at Smithsonian

Dr. Jill Flanders Crosby presented a lecture titled Dancing at the Edge of the Sacred: Fieldwork, Art & Archive in West Africa and Cuba at the Smithsonian Folklife and Cultural Heritage Center in Washington DC February  6.

Flanders Crosby set out to conduct dance research in Ghana, West Africa in 1992. Her trajectory would lead her six years later to Perico and Agramonte, Cuba, with a focus on Arará sacred dancing. Here, the historical contexts, oral histories of elders, and stories of African connections would resonate and stand out boldly inscribed over the research data and her dance making landscapes. Flanders Crosby conducted over sixty-two Cuban oral history interviews and carried messages back and forth between two communities in West Africa (Dzodze, Ghana; and Adjodogou, Togo), and the Cuban communities.

These contextual histories, stories, and connections underpin, inform, and are embodied in continuing Arará dance, music, and ritual. Working with a group of scholar/artists, the collaborative team combines methods and processes from art and multisensorial ethnography to both archive the social memory of Perico and Agramonte and to honor the elders’ stories. This collaborative arts-based team presented a multi-disciplinary art installation based on the fieldwork in Havana, At UAA, in Ghana and in San Francisco titled Secrets Under the Skin. This team included Brian Jeffery, Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre and Dance. 

The Smithsonian presentation discussed this arts-based research project focusing on the methodology and process of archiving through “art as ethnography” and more traditional methods such as interviews, video, and photographs.

 Flanders Crosby is in dialogue with the Smithsonian, the Cuban Heritage Collection and Curator for Latin American Collections at the University of Miami, and Fundación Fernándo Ortiz in Havana, Cuba in order to archive her extensive fieldwork and elder oral history interviews.


Photo Credit: “El Cabildo de Ma Gose” - by Susan Matthews, member of the collective arts-based research team from the Secrets Under the Skin installation