Thursday, November 20, 2014

nzo.califa: Giving RIZE to Mama Kimpa Vita, Matriarchs & Martyrs...working notes

Mbote! [Greetings]
 Kongo ya Bakoko - Honoring Ancestral legacy | Altar Installation: nzo.califa
Muisi-kongo Malonga's Kimpa Vita - Counter Pulse San Francisco, CA

Good folks it’s been a minute, as I have been in another nzo[ne] working with my #KimpaVita compatriot Muisi-kongo Malonga. Serving another year as Curator with an additional role as Associate Producer, for the past 2 weeks we’ve been re-birthing our project Muisi-kongo Malonga's Kimpa Vita!, in its second year run at Counter Pulse San Francisco's Performing Diaspora series. Honoring #MyKongo propitiates deep Ancestral workings that serve to shed light upon the life of a cultural Martyr and revered Matron Saint -- if you will. Unearthing the life of our Ancient Matriarch, Doña Beatriz Kimpa Vita born near Mount Kibangu in 17th century Kongo Kingdom, lived her destiny under the spoils of Catholic colonialism with a guided mission to unite the Kingdom of Kongo. Often a conduit of spiritual vision while administering consultations to Mani Kongo and her community, she was well respected as an "Nganga Marinda" in Kongo traditions. In her own near death experience, it was believed that she channeled inspirations of Saint Anthony of Padua - Patron Saint of Catholicized Kongo leading to the formation of the Antonian movement, whose training and teachings purported that Jesus and Mary was Black and that Africans too, belonged in Heaven. Ultimately, this led to her demise carefully architected by Catholic authorities to burn her at the stake along with her dedicated companion João Barro – however, it said that her new born child was spared. Yet, even after her death her teachings and followers maintained remnants of her movement, one of many is the  symbolic ritual object that personifies an African image on a cross.

Click link for more info:
R.S. Basi author of "Black Hand of God"  in an exclusive interview with book reviewer joeypinkney.com, commented that his inspiration to write the book was from exploring the teachings of Doña Beatriz Kimpa Vita's life and also commented upon the impact of her followers known as The Antonian movement upon World History i.e. The Stono Rebellion of South Carolina of 1739; the late Historian Dr. John K. Thornton purports this phenomenon through extensive research of African European exchange, pre-enslavement, along with the vast influence of Afro Catholicism in the Americas.  

My first time travel to Haiti, August 2014, in kinship with Haitian Performing Company, Rara Tou Limen, I experienced a remarked first day encountering a visit to Le Péristyle de Mariani founded by Ati Max G. Beauvoir in 1974; It was at the table near the poteau mitan, where his daughter, Dr. Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, who is a PhD anthropologist and practicing Vodou priestess  lectured about the historical resistance of Vodou and its efficacious qualities of change through solidarity, she referenced Bwa Kayiman - and identified some of the African nations in solidarity to liberate Haiti. Given its historic year of liberation 1804, most definitely Kongo-Angola nations were a large part already predisposed to resistance and certainly revolutionaries of the first post-colonial independent Black-led nation in the world. I also might add that, in our visit to Musee du Pantheon National Haitien, Port-au-Prince,  I was particularly interested in the listing of approximately 102 African Ethnic groups, on display at the museum’s entrance. This display also cited 5,000,000 Africans brought froml'Afrique du Centre-Ouest” [Central West Africa]



In November 2012, California based organizations Congo SQ West Kinship Society in a unique co-producing role lead by De Rompe y Raja's Artistic Director, Gabriela Shiroma,
 produced a musical theatre adaption name "Cristo Moreno". Boasting an 80 member cast, “Cristo Moreno” [Black Christ] surrounded the legend of an enslaved Angolan named “Benito”, who painted a Black Christ on a mud-brick wall in 17th-century Lima known as Pachacamilla – this act was considered a miracle as the painting survived the devastation of earthquakes in the area. Through further research locating rare books at the San Francisco Public Library and reading numerous articles from research journals, then supported by fellow cast member and Master Drummer Zeke Nealy, we learned that a large number of Angolans were brought to South America during colonialism through slavery. A great number of them were brought to the Pacific Coast to build one of the most important colonies of the Spanish Empire – Peru. We surmised that perhaps "Benito's" “act” was a result of being pre-disposed to an already Catholicized Kingdom of Kongo and even influenced by the teachings of Kimpa Vita's, Antonian Movement. Today, one of the largest Catholic communal processions celebrated the world over venerated as Señor de los Milagros [Lord of Miracles] is in Peru, steeped in African historical roots.
"Giving Voice" to Ms. Laura Nelson
Civil rights sheroe, Ida B. Wells was a phenomenal human being whose works of force de jure always struck a resonant chord with me wielding unapologetic bravery in her tenacious efforts to expose the inhumane accounts of lynching in the South. As a fierce journalist, she waged an anti-lynching crusade publishing documented accounts and Southern laws “justifying” these horrors before the 1900’s. One of which: 
Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases by Ida B. Wells-Barnett. 
Very early on she’d quietly be and still is, a guiding force in my initiatives of activism.  Muisi-kongo and I were resolute to include stories of African American Women who suffered at the hands of similar tragedy as Mama Kimpa Vita. Amongst the countless, those who spoke to this project was Ms. Laura Nelson and her son L.D. Nelson - Oklahoma, 1911; Miss Amy Spain - South Carolina, 1865 and Mary Turner- Georgia, 1918.

     Possessing a dual heritage of Congolese and African American, childhood stories of Mama Kimpa Vita conjured up images of strength, spirituality and rebellion; inspirational elements that would catapult Muisi-kongo’s daunting attempt to venerate Mama #KimpaVita through her Art mediumship. At Counter Pulse’s Performing Diaspora, her spine-tingling, heart-stopping performance pummeled through circumstantial challenges in producing this work of great feat. Joined by stellar cast support, her creative vision has evolved into a brilliantly courageous choreopera re-telling historically violent heinous events of injustice, that mute African Women’s voices in an attempt to annihilate their memory as well as their legacy. 
Muisi-Kongo "Petitioning God" portraying Kongolese Matriarch Mama Kimpa Vita
Counter Pulse San Francisco, Performing Diaspora

In re-visiting the surrounding historical elements concerning these martyrs, I researched genealogical data surrounding their deaths, and was fascinated to see the death records of 2 of the 3 African American Women martyrs we honor [Nelson and Turner]. Further review of collected written articles from scholarly journals, well-researched books of witnessed accounts along with noteworthy blogs surrounding the story of KimpaVita, helped us to shape an idea of what the times might have been like, at least in our collective view.  Muisi-kongo’s 2013 sojourn to the Congo availed her brief exchanges with Congolese religious associations familiar with Kimpa Vita and who further support the return of her diaspora descendants of the Americas. Also early on in this process, I enthusiastically learned of the “Mary Turner Project” and was deeply moved by their fervor of collective works and communal activism, forging initiatives that commemorate the lives of those slain in the historic 1918 lynching rampage in South Georgia.

#KimpaVita is a call to venerate the voiceless of unsung African Women and of African American legacy, whose just cause stood in the face of injustice, danger and death; its transcendental nature of cosmic kinship invoked our call to action -- Our weapon of choice? - Art! We were guided by powerful creative forces aligned to uplift herstories, now yOUR story.

I take a moment and give praise to life to the featured martyrs and matriarchs of this project's evolutionary phase, and encourage your further interest to raise the awareness of these stories, while unveiling your own. Listed in order of appearance in our live presentation:

Ms. Laura D. Nelson -lynched  in 1911; Although her image lives in perpetuity through a heinous postcard created by her killers,  the story haunted the memory of folksinger Woody Guthrie who was born 14 months later, and whose father was a member of the lynch mob Okemah, Oklahoma
He wrote a song about it -- "Don't Kill My Baby" note: a featured audio clip in our presentation

Miss Amy Spain [African] - Darlington, South Carolina-lynched in 1865 under the ownership by Major Albertus Chambus, weeks before the fall of the confederacy. Notes: Interested to research how Miss Amy Spain came into the ownership of A.C. Spain.

Ms. Mary Hattie Graham-TurnerFolsom Bridge, Georgia 1918; maimed, riddled with bullets and lynched. Her memory has transcended into an Annual Commemoration Ceremony and operates as a project of racial justice & racial healing, carried out by a collective membership of Family, Valdosta University and growing national Community.  Note: We distributed the organization’s pamphlets at our finale performance. Plans are underway to attend the Commemoration in May 2015.  
Learn more: www.maryturner.org

Doña Beatriz Kimpa Vita- Evululu, Kongo 1706; Burned at the stake, yet her Antonian Movement has outlasts her with growing revolutionary spiritual leadership. We honor Mama Kimpa Vita as this project’s Guardian Matriarch giving voice to herstories of slain African-Ancestored Women, while raising awareness of the continued fight and Spiritual leadership to unite the Kingdom of Kongo.





~Matondo Kimosabe, indeed an eternal honor…

R. Califa Calloway,
nzo califa Dance Works
Congo SQ West Kinship Society

I dedicate the post article to my Grand Teacher 
Dr. Kimbwandende kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau

 … for his unfathomable works assuredly transcend his lifetime here on earth, continuing to expand the breadth of my life amd my works.




Cast and Friends - Muisi-kongo Malonga's Kimpa Vita 2014
Counter Pulse San Francisco, Performing Diaspora [Muisi-in green]
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Information gathered via select Field works and Research Notes of  R. Califa Calloway

  • The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement 1684-1706, John K. Thorton
  • Remembering Mary, Shaping Revolt: Reconsidering the Stono Rebellion, Mark M. Smith
  • The African Slave in Colonial Peru, 1524-1650, Frederick P. Bowser


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