Chief Sekou Awosanmi Osuntogun Alaje

Oshun Festival Workshop Series
Artistic Discipline: Folk Arts
Category: Brooklyn Arts Fund
Grant Year: 2020
Location: East New York

As indigenous cultures from around the world continue to die, Chief Sekou Awosanmi Osuntogun Alaje is committed to transmitting African culture into the future by presenting and preserving it as a vehicle for improving the community. As an artist, composer, pianist, percussionist, and vocalist, African culture is the blueprint for his work. The stories of his ancestors have become the themes of his productions; the colors and styles they created have become the designs of his costumes; the harmonic and melodic approach to sound has become the unique identity of his band. African culture is the thread in all that he does.

Every year after the celebration of the Yoruba New Year (Eku Odun) in June, 256 Healing Arts Center invests its time and energy into the study, workshop, and praise of the Orisha Oshun. This culminates in the Oshun Festival at the end of July in collaboration with Ile Osunfikayo in New York and a trip to Osogbo, Nigeria to participate in the world renown Oshun Festival in the beginning of August. The Oshun Festival Workshop Series is an exploration into the sacred arts connected to the Yoruba Orisa (deity/goddess) Oshun. Oshun is the Yoruba goddess known for her fertility and for being “the mother of all.” In Yoruba mythology, she is synonymous with water which is the essential element for life making her an important deity to explore and connect with. The workshop series is designed for participants to explore their connection with Oshun, the healing power of water as well as build community, learn about Yoruba history, language and culture and explore traditional African cultural arts forms.

This year, he is planning an eight week series of three-hour sessions dedicated to movement (dances for the Orisa as well as the healing dances from the African diaspora), song classes on the patakis (stories) of the Orisa, drumming, self-care lectures using methods connected to water, herbology, and the balance of feminine power, and fabric dying (specifically adire, a form of tie-dye specific to Oshun). Each session will allow participants to build on the previous session, ask questions and develop their own mindful healing practice. The workshops will occur in three locations centrally located in East New York: 256 Healing Arts Center, located at 427 Newport Street; Arts East NY, located at 534 Livonia Avenue; and at Shirley Chisolm National State Park, a newly opened state park located at 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue. Participants will have the option to join the session in-person or via livestream.