Christelle Kamanan Artistic Profile Research
“the Transatlantic cultural Memory”

It is often said that Caribbean, or even dances from the Americas, such as dancehall, salsa or breakdance have African roots.
How did it actually happen? What are these roots? How have they kept on living until now? Where is this cultural legacy still observed?
Here are the main questions leading to this research project.

I started this journey about 10 years ago, first through music, while I studied Languages and Civilisations. Then, it became more empiric through my practice of Afro-Cuban dance. Also, it brought back to the surface my West African move practices. From that I point, navigating through my personal cultural legacy has allowed me to enlarge my research to the Caribbean and the Americas.

I invite you to travel through time, history and across the rivers of the Atlantic Ocean.

Summary of the research introduction

Historical background to find in the presented results

The Transatlantic human trade and enslavement are the key focus explaining this cultural transportation.
However, I also look at the period of time before that to overview the already existing cultural practices.

Then, it briefly goes to the XXth century to end with what can be observed now.

Map of Slave Trade from Africa to the Americas 1650-1860

Geographical area of focus of the current results

On the one hand, the Atlantic African coast from Senegal until Angola, with spotlights on:
- the Ivory Coast/Ghana area
- Benin/Nigeria area
- and Angola/DRC/Congo area (former Kingdom of Kongo)

On the other hand:
- Salvador de Baiha (Brazil)
- Cuba
- San Basilio de Palenque (Colombia)
- New Orleans, Louisiana (USA)
- Haïti
- Martinique/Guadeloupe (France)

These countries are said to hold the largest African descendant’s population outside of Africa. The case of Martinique & Guadeloupe is also particularly interesting, as they are EU overseas territories.

After having set the context, a major question that comes if the following:

How can transmission and learning happen, when there are no material archives available? The deported and enslaved people didn’t carry any belongings with them. So, what were their teaching, sharing methods, that they had brought from Africa?

For sure, they were raised with the rich oral African traditions. The research introduces some of them.
- griot
What is a griot?
- storytelling
What is a storyteller and the difference with a griot?
- singing
- dancing (and other creative practices)

On the learning side, there are:
- peer-to-peer learning groups
- mentoring
- initiation groups
- repetition and memorising technics

Organised groups enable one to get general knowledge and the most specific one, that should be passed on to the next generation.

Looking at it through music:
An interesting exhibition that I visited in Amsterdam a few years ago: Rythm and Roots at the Tropen Museum (Amsterdam).
Trailer (Dutch):
Interview with the Africa Curator of the Tropenmuseum: (Dutch with English automated subtitles)
From 3’15 to 4’12 she speaks about the travel of rumba between the Kingdom of Kongo and Cuba, then back to Congo.

Coming next
From February 2022, find the new development of the research on the following website:

Christelle Ahia Kamanan
French and Ivorian creative, mainly involved in writing and dancing. After Modern Jazz, hip hop dance, and Afro-Cuban dance, Christelle Ahia keeps on enlarging her West African dance skills.
She is also the founder and editor of the cultural online media AMANIE, sharing artistic news from the worldwide African diaspora.

Read more on her website:

Cuban dancer

Colombian dancers

Yoruba dancers

Moving Margins Chapter II
moving arti|facts from the margins of dance archives
into accessible scores and formats

Shady Emad Greis

Joseph Tebandeke