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Rujeko Dumbutshena; Zimbabwean, Guinea West African, and Congolese Dance

Submitted by Lisa Kwak on July 2, 2021 - 11:59am
Rujeko Dumbutshna cups her hands upwards while wearing a magnificently colorful African textile skirt that sweeps down and across the pedestal on which she sits.
Rujeko Dumbutshena, Photo by Pat Berret

To celebrate and to recognize that the contributions of Black Americans should be appreciated beyond the month of February, the Department of Dance is using its website and social media platforms to spotlight a different Black dance artist in the greater Seattle area every month through 2021. February, March, and April, and May  issues are also available. 

In June, we celebrate Rujeko Dumbutshena! 

Rujeko dancing on stage

Photo by Pat Berret

Rujeko Dumbutshena (she/her)

My diasporic performances are formed by choreographic experiments using rhythm, dance, gestures and memory to create symbolic ritualized narratives for the stage. The images I create combine my childhood memories of growing up in Zimbabwe, requiring a re-learning of my cultural heritage combined with my Pan African dance practices. I represent the aesthetic of these cultural dances while embracing their vibrant evolution. My creative processes become my empowerment strategy. My ability to thrive and survive centers around my utilization of a variety of Pan African movement vocabularies from the Congo, Guinea and Zimbabwe. I follow and am inspired by a lineage of African artists who find self-expression through their cultural arts praxis and performance which leads them to become contenders in all arenas of the contemporary arts world. 

                                    Rujeko reaches towards hanging fabric                Rujeko Dumbutshena dancing

Photos by Pat Berret

Do you identify as Black? If so, what does being Black mean to you? How does Blackness inform your art?

Yes, I am a Black immigrant living in the United States. Since living here, I have learned the multitude and infinite ways Blackness is represented. It is very different from my homeland Zimbabwe. I keep deepening my understanding about how my Blackness is seen which informs how I see my own Blackness. As a visual artist my Blackness shows up because I produce nostalgic images of people and memories, culture and histories of Zimbabwe. As a performer and choreographer collaboration produces a hybrid of cultural perspectives and peoples.

What is one thing you would tell the younger version of you based on what you have learned in your journey? 

You are more than enough. You have everything you need to succeed. Don’t shrink yourself and don’t be afraid to make bold moves.

What is something in your career that you are proud of?

Being a co-founder and director of African dance and music camps that happened in Santa Fe, New Mexico of 16 years (Bantu Camp, Camp Tumbuka and Camp Mabina). From that grew an incredible community of artists from a variety of countries. I loved building those relationships with master artists from Congo, Guinea, West Africa, Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba etc. What a blessing.

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