Mbongui Square Festival is an annual festival that celebrates the performing and visual arts. Organized by Kiandanda Dance Theater, the festival gathers dance, music, visual arts and spoken word artists of varied styles and artistic choices, from the Bay Area and across the world. What defines Mbongui Square Festival is interdisciplinary arts and multicultural community.
Launched in 2012, Mbongui Square Festival came from the aspiration to strengthen the concept of community through the arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. The artists from diverse art forms and backgrounds present their creative and artistic work on a shared and unique platform.
Mbongui a word originated from the Congo refers to togetherness. It refers to a place where family, neighbors, passers-by and foreigners from different ethnicities come together to share meals, stories, and knowledge, and receive assistance from the community.
Now is the time to return to the Mbongui, the time to take action and to show and speak about how the arts can lead to a deeper human connection.
Mbongui Square celebrates the Arts.
Mbongui Square is the wealth of our differences.
In Mbongui Square, we break with the formal performance setting and artists perform a piece of their professional repertory, a piece they think is worth sharing with the world. Mbongui Square is a place where artists meet and give themselves the opportunity to collaborate in daring and risk-taking projects of various forms. It is a transformative place; an inspiring place in which each person’s story may represent a new direction, a new way to take one’s artwork, another way to keep breaking with boundaries. The artists have five to ten minutes of performance time.
We invite our diverse Bay Area communities to witness the artists’ journey to divulge their experiences, to offer feedback and to help create a sense of interconnectedness amongst all.
“Blood and Ink”: Joti Singh’s inspiration for this piece comes from her great-grandfather, Bhagwan Singh Gyanee, who had risked his life to liberate the Indian subcontinent from British rule. In the 1910s, he presided over the Ghadar Party, a movement that some scholars credit with contributing to the struggle for India’s declaration of independence in 1947. This piece reflects Joti’s interest in how the Ghadar movement crossed ethnic, racial and socio-economic lines to organize for the cause of Indian independence. Independence therefore, was not just replacing the British with nationalism and another capitalist economy; it meant a class revolt as well. Joti examines parallels with contemporary politics, and many in the South-Asian-American communities turning a blind eye to the ways in which their own successes have been built on the backs of the native, black and latino populations and even the oppression of their own selves. Joti explores a contemporary poetry, paralleling in her own way the poetry of her great-grandfather, calling on his fellow country-men and -women to resist. This piece is a work in progress and will eventually be a 20- to 30-minute theater piece. “The Gadar party understood that a true movement for equality consisted of not just independence, but also racial and economic justice and equality.” Read more at https://www.saada.org/tides/article/joti-singh
About the Artists: Joti Singh is a dance creator and dance innovator. She is the Artistic Director of Duniya Dance and Drum Company and also directs the World Dance program at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts. Duniya’s mission is to cultivate respect for traditional forms, foster cultural exchange, effect social justice and engage in community building. The company performs and teaches traditional and innovative performance pieces from Guinea, West Africa and Punjab, India. Joti has created works such as “Half and Halves,” about the Punjabi-Mexican communities of California, and, in collaboration with her husband Bongo Sidibe, “The Madness of the Elephant,” about Guinea, West Africa’s first president, Sekou Touré. Joti and Bongo lead bi-annual trips to Guinea and in 2012 opened the Duniya Center for Arts and Education in Conakry. She teaches all over the SF Bay area, including Dance Mission Theater and ODC.