New Victory Arts Break: Africa – Connect

Welcome back! We’ve spent the last few weeks exploring the arts in Africa, learning about musical instruments, opera and ensemble storytelling. As we end our visit to the African continent this week, we’ll experiment with transforming the art forms we see in our communities into exciting new performances.

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New Victory Arts Break Africa Connect

Art Transformation

Everything is a remix. When creating their own works of art, artists draw on many forms of inspiration from the world around them, transforming one thing into another or many things into one. Let’s join New Victory Teaching Artists Signe Harriday and Christina Eskridge as they show us how one artist’s talent can inspire the work of another artist.

As artists, we all have individual talents that we’ve learned from our friends, family and teachers. Our unique skills let us make choices about how to express ourselves when we’re inspired. Christina’s dad taught her how to whistle the ending of Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” and that inspired Signe. Signe didn’t know how to whistle, so she transformed the rhythm of the whistling into an artistic expression of her very own—body percussion!

Let’s all use Christina’s whistling as a source of inspiration! How can you transform the whistling and make it your own? Do you have a favorite art form?

Step One: Grab your New Victory Notebook and jot down a list of all the art forms and special skills that you practice. Here are a few that we came up with:

A list of art forms handwritten on a page of a notebook

Step Two: From your list, choose two or three art forms that are the most fun for you.

Step Three: Listen to the whistling section of “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” As you listen, use the art forms you chose and transform it into something new! Here’s an example of a drawing inspired by the whistling:

Hand-drawn image of a person whistling on a dock

And here’s a mashup of examples featuring puppetry, poetry, dance and drawing:

BONUS: Ask your family and friends what their favorite works of art are—movies, songs, books, plays, paintings, dances. How can you transform one of their favorite works of art into something new? Can you combine multiple art forms? Can you enlist help from your fellow artists?

Take a look at three different ways Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been transformed over the years, for film and for the stage. Isango Ensemble’s version is at the far right. What differences do you notice between them? What do you think their inspirations were? Jot down your thoughts in your New Victory Notebook.

Dieterle and Reinhardt film (1935), Robert Carsen production (2019), Isango Ensemble production (2015)
Photos (L–R): Warner Bros., Robert Workman, Richard Termine

When William Shakespeare penned A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he took inspiration from Ancient Greek mythology to write a comedy for 16th-century English theatergoers. Since then, his play has been transformed and adapted over and over again, and in 1960, composer Benjamin Britten took Shakespeare’s verse and transformed it into an opera. Then, in 2015, South Africa’s Isango Ensemble adapted Britten’s opera, adding the drums and marimbas that they’re famous for, alongside other elements from South African culture. Transformation through the ages!

An Epic Family Tale

When telling a story, all of your skills, knowledge and passion can lead to incredible transformations, expressions and performances. In this activity, you’ll share a family story or memory from your life and transform it into a performance using different art forms.

Start by thinking of a memory that brings you joy. Using the template below as a guide, take out your New Victory Notebook and write down all of things you remember from this joyous time.

My Memory worksheet

A handwritten list of memories in a notebook

Now, take this memory and think of a celebratory way to share and perform it. You could tell the story in your own words, or set your words to music. You could create a visual art piece, or film a short video. Choose whatever art form you love the most.

We checked in with New 42 College Corps member Anabel Rivera to see how she transformed and shared her story. She chose to create a photo slideshow! Take a look:

Have fun creating different ways to celebrate your memories and traditions. Looking for some upbeat inspiration? Watch as the members of Isango Ensemble gather digitally to transform a simple song into a beautiful heartfelt message for everyone about their hope for the future.

Youth Corps Spotlight

At the end of every fourth week of New Victory Arts Break: Explore a World of Arts, we spend some time with a member of the New 42 Youth Corps who has a connection to one of the art forms, themes or artistic processes showcased over the prior four weeks.

Nowshin Tabassum headshot

Meet Nowshin Tabassum,
New 42 Youth Corps Member

When we think of artists, we often think of the visual or performing arts, but with words as their medium, poets, playwrights and authors are artists, too! Our New Victory Education Fellow, William Porter, spoke to third-year New Victory Usher Nowshin Tabassum about her love of creative writing. Let’s get to know her, hear what inspires her, and then read a sample of her work!

William: What do you hope to accomplish through writing?

Nowshin: What I hope to accomplish throughout my writing is finding ways to use my voice and expressing to others how I feel and how I interpret life from my perspective. I have many values and beliefs, and as a woman of color, people can take away something from my writing.

W: What’s your favorite writing piece?
N: I don’t have a specific writing piece, but I have a bunch of genres that I’d love to write about—mystery, romance, thrillers—and pieces that inspire people to make the world a better place.

W: Who’s your favorite writer and why?
N: My favorite writer would have to be Nicholas Sparks. Actually, one of his classics is the book A Walk to Remember, and I remember that it was one of those books that lifted me and inspired me to look for the best in life when I was in a challenging time in high school. That book taught me to practice gratitude and being kind to others. Plus, it was a “bad boy and a good girl” romance, which personally I think a lot of people are fans of!

W: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
N: Wow, that’s a tough question! I think if I had a superpower, it would be to fly. I’d love to fly because I’m such a huge fan of the beautiful blue sky and the white clouds and sunrises and sunsets. If I could, I would fly.

W: What’s your favorite color?
N: I have so many colors that I absolutely love! But my main three would be green, gold and purple.

W: What motivates you to write?
N: My writing motivation had developed throughout the years, especially when I was taking literature classes. I did well in those classes because writing has always been my strongest suit. I journal my feelings and ideas when I’m going through any stage in life. I guess my motivation for writing has to be the fact that I was just born to do so, and I’m so happy that those are some of my superpowers!

W: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to start writing?
N: The one piece of advice I’d give to someone if they were to start writing would be to be yourself, especially in your writing. Personally, writing is also about expressing one’s voice. Even if everyone doesn’t agree with it or they may not like it, that’s okay! People can always learn and benefit from what you put on paper, literally!

Here is a short story Nowshin wrote about her memory of Saturday mornings with her mom:

It’s a sunny Saturday morning. About 9am, my ma calls me downstairs, where I meet her in the kitchen. I see my mom has flour over her apron, I see the rolling pin in her hand, and I see that she’s making my favorite rotis. Typically my family eats roti with a sunny side up egg and curried vegetables. It’s delicious and one of my favorite breakfasts to eat.

She tells me to heat the pan and hands me a raw roti in my hand, and I put it on the pan. I flip it a couple of times until the roti has developed quite a lot of brown spots; that’s how you know it’s done. I proceed to eat, and I talk to my mom, because this is the only time I get to talk to her throughout the week. I love doing this every morning, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

Just like any other story, Nowshin’s story could be adapted and transformed into something new using the original story as inspiration. Can you think of ways to transform elements of this story into a different genre? How could this story be told as a mystery? A musical comedy? An epic adventure?

Grab your New Victory Notebook to start brainstorming ideas. Pick a story genre (a genre is a category or type of story, like comedy or mystery), and think of new and exciting ways you might reimagine Nowshin’s story within that genre!

For example, if this were a musical comedy story, perhaps when Nowshin comes downstairs to the kitchen, her mother could be singing a song about how rotis are made more delicious if you flip them with flair (insert a dance break!). How else could we reimagine this scene to take on different tones? Write and draw out your favorite ideas! Here is our example:

For artists like the members of Isango Ensemble, reimagining the story isn’t the final step—performing it is! Practice reading and performing your story out loud as dramatically as possible. Try adding music, movement or any other art form that you love.

Here’s Education Fellow William giving a dramatic reading of his story, a memory of his first time traveling alone:

That wraps up our exploration of the artists and art forms of Africa. Tune in next week as we return to North America and meet some artists a little closer to home.

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.