west african soumu
The second annual West African Soumu was held in Asheville, N.C. on June 5 at the local concert venue, The Orange Peel.

A West African Soumu is a party of music, dance, food, art and rich culture. There were performances by Zansa, an afropop/ zouglou group starring Ivory Coast native Adama Dembele, dancer Barakissa Coulibaly also from Ivory Coast, as well as acoustic side group to Zansa entitled Mande Foly, North African dances by Lisa Zahiya and members of the Juan Benavides Group.

Barakissa Coulibaly impressed the crowd with a solo dance about the plight of the African women.

“The title of my solo is ‘Without a Shadow,’ which speaks about the revolution of African women,” said Barakissa. “As a young adult, I myself have experienced a direct connection to this pain and suffering that all the women of Africa have endured. However, it is time to be free. It is time to speak out. It is time to live. Through each step of my solo, I speak out for all of the women around the world, ‘You SHALL, be known.’”

Part of the proceeds from the event went to her organization named Mouaye, located in the Ivory Coast. Mouaye was created in the 2000s after a violent crisis of the Gbagbo regime to provide a safe haven for kids and young adults during the difficult wartime.

The children and young adults are given hope and a safe space to study drumming and dance from young artists from the Ivory Coast and other West African countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

Collaborating with the Mouaye organization was LEAF International, a nonprofit that prides themselves in “connecting cultures and creating community through music and arts.” LEAF International (LI) works in 10 countries and has helped over 1,035 kids since its creation in 2006.

By partnering with local teaching artists and organizations such as schools and orphanages, LI teaches youth traditional music and arts as a way to cultivate a healthy, happy community and in doing so, help children boost their self esteem. These learning experiences can be used as a tool for healing, positive development, learning skills and most importantly, hope.

The second annual Soumu provided a space for Zansa, Mouaye, LEAF International and the Asheville community to collaborate. By working together, these incredible organizations and artists can help the children of the world in difficult situations find hope through music and art.

Kim Tierney

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