Faustin Linyekula and Panaibra Gabriel Canda Perform at the Walker

Faustin Linyekula

Faustin Linyekula

This Friday and Saturday, the Walker Art Center presents two solo dance pieces created by choreographers from the continent of Africa: Faustin Linyekula, from Congo, and Panaibra Gabriel Canda, from Mozambique. The works, which will be performed on different nights, are billed together as "Tales of Home: Congo/Mozambique." Both pieces examine each artist's personal journeys within the context of colonialism and post-colonialism in their respective countries.


Linyekula and Canda have known each other for 11 years, having first met in Portugal when Canda was putting together a training project in Mozambique, of which Linyekula became a part. Since then, they've developed a relationship of mutual respect and coordination.

"It's not easy for artists to meet and work on the continent, because we don't have much money," says Linyekula. "Most of the time, we're relying on European institutions for projects."

Their current tour was put together by New York-based Mapp International Productions after it successfully toured a group of female choreographers from Africa in the United States. When the group proposed the opportunity to him, he said yes, as he would get to work again with Canda. "Because I know his work, and I know how it resonates with my own work, it made sense," he says. "[With Canda's work], I can see my own questions, and how I approach those questions and answers he tries to understand for himself."

Panaibra Gabriel

Panaibra Gabriel

According to Canda, the two artists share similar historical backgrounds in terms of the colonial past of their respective countries, though the countries are on different sides of the continent. Both artists address the social impact of that history. "It's a kind of memory that we share," says Canda. 

Though issues of Mozambique's colonial past are part of the context of his work, Canda is really looking at the human condition. "Looking into my own journey, looking into my own country, the colonial issues are a part of the implication of human conditions," he says. "I have a history that impacts my own life, that shapes me in a particular way as a human being." That history and memory shape his work in terms of his aesthetics in connection to his body. His current work includes a reflection on his experiences growing up, and how those experiences still influence him today. 

"For most of us, we didn't choose what we are," he says. At times, he re-imagines his body free from all those influences. "I cannot go back, but give me a chance to open the gate and learn and discover myself again."

"Colonial history was a very violent rupture in the organic evolution of societies on that continent, and it's led to the nation state that the continent has today," says Linyekula. "But once you've talked about that as a rupture, as a violent encounter with Europe, know that the fact remains that it is our history, it is part of us."

For Linyekula, the question becomes not about getting rid of that history, but taking that discomfort and using it to build something "not prescribed by any outside force, even within our own country," he says. "What does it mean for Congo to say we are independent when we know that at least half of the budget of the country depends on foreign aid?" As an artist, he is acutely aware of his relationship with Western institutions, the Walker included, that provide support for his work. "I don't want to cut them," he says. "Because it's a part of myself. It's my history."

Music plays heavily into both pieces. Canda uses live music, incorporating a music style from the 1950s that was used at the time as a kind of resistance. "It resonated with questions that I'm still asking today," he says. 

While Linyekula doesn't use live music for this performance, he says he always approaches music as a partner. "It's not like you're choreographing to the music," he says. "I have dance as a layer. Text could be another layer, music is another layer." 

Canda says he sees his body as an instrument that can also influence the music. "There's a constant dialogue between movement and sound," he says. 


"Tales of Home: Congo/Mozambique"

Walker Art Center

Faustin Linyekula: Le Cargo shows 
Friday at 8 p.m., and 
Panaibra Gabriel Canda: Time and Spaces: Marrabenta Solos performs 
Saturday at 8 p.m.