Afropolis 2022: 100% Afro

AFROPOLIS is a three-branched entity that operates as a hybrid media, which uses design thinking and digital technology to express new methods of professional engagement for the performing arts. Between a dynamic roster of creatives (afropolis tribe), a community of audience, producers, and presenters (afropolis app), as well as an annual travelling festival (afropolis gathering). Our purpose is to generate creative synergy within a distributed network of global Africans and incubate innovative works by affiliate creatives and producers. We work to expand this small world network to an interconnected world where people initiate new ideas and continue to participate in ongoing practices of the future.



Afropolis is the brainchild of Qudus Onikeku, the renowned Nigerian dance maker, culture curator, creative/tech entrepreneur, and community organiser. He is currently the first “Maker in Residence” at The Center for Arts, Migration and Entrepreneurship of the University of Florida. His research is in developing interactions with cutting edge technologies and interactive systems, to create new economic opportunity for creators of value, by building a bridge between new technology and Afro-Diasporic experiences. After his higher education in France in 2009, Onikeku created his first production company YK projects in Paris, with which he created several solo and group dance pieces of critical acclaim. In 2014 he returned to Lagos with his partner Haji, and together they co-founded an artistic development project, the QDance Center, an incubator for art practices, talent development and community engagement, a unique structure with which they examined and experimented the possible intersections between arts and society. It was in this context that they initiated danceGATHERING in 2017 – a dance lab and antidisciplinary gathering of antinational artists, thinkers, activists, and researchers collectively rehearsing the future.

POST COVID RENAISSANCE: After the 2020 edition of danceGATHERING that was entirely virtual, due to Covid restrictions, in 2021 danceGATHERING became Afropolis and developed into a nomadic hybrid (virtual and physical) gathering, with the aim of evolving a technocultural model that brings together this antinational cooperative to experiment with hybrid forms. The first trial took place during the GREC Festival in Barcelona in July 2021, under restrictive sanitary conditions. Building on this foundation, #afropolis2022 will take place in Marseille in June 2022, with a special focus on highlighting the vitality of African and Afro Diasporic youth energy and creative excellence expressed through dance. One of the dividends of the pandemic, is that it has forced many creatives to engage in the reflection on the use of new technology, that seek web3 alternatives to dominant social media networks. Afropolis is putting in place an innovative approach that is unique in its mastering of both real life and digital interactions. Afropolis is not a website, it’s not YouTube, it’s not Instagram, and it’s not Netflix, but our model combines the best part of them all. It is most importantly a gesture of reappropriation, for a secured dissemination of creative content and data, an original performing arts alternative to the models offered by big tech companies, which monetize our contents and data that they did not help produce. It will be a techno-cultural tool for the rethink of the future of the performing arts, and to curate a community of followers/audience/partners/citizens around creative contents, to expand the space for creativity, discovery, and patronage.

THEME | 100% AFRO: In January 2021, Qudus Onikeku with his gang of Nigerian Afro dancers, premiered Re:INCARNATION at the prestigious Centre Pompidou in Paris to a critical acclaim, and went on a European tour throughout the summer, this fresh work appeared unexpected in major European festivals as a living proof of a new global mapping of dance. A world map where the global southern dance is no longer quite the suburb of the North. A map finally inclusive of the exciting territories that thousands of young Africans have been drawing for several years, in the sprawling arteries of their Lagos, Dakar, Abidjan, Luanda, Accra, Johannesburg, Maputo or Kinshasa. In urban Africa, each city invents her musical and choreographic “emblem” …an entire dictionary of dance vocabularies; in street-jams, in underground club scenes and music video clips, oftentimes in response to or in relation with that of the neighbouring community; Coupé-decalé in Abidjan vs Ndombolo in Kinshasa vs Jazzé in Libreville, or Naija fusion in Lagos vs Amapiano in Johannesburg vs Azonto in Accra; Afro dances update themselves by cropping, collaging, capturing and uploading at the speed of an Instagram post, to be virally transmitted through the smartphones of diaspora communities around the world. Our theme: 100% AFRO, seeks to find a common ground between the many variations of black and African choreographic expressions which we refer to as AFRO DANCES, hence afropolis2022 in Marseille will be a major gathering of dance creatives from around the world, who are engaged in contemporary dissemination of African and Afro Diasporic dance forms.

UNDOING CREATIVE INEQUITIES: In the institutional circuit, the rumour of this trend is arriving slowly it seems, just a handful really appreciates how these young dancers independently became social media sensations with millions of followers, and how much these social networks have reshuffled the dance cards and serving as a viable stage for a rich intercultural dialogue between the various, distanced communities. This lack of appreciation from professional institutions, is undeniably responsible for the violent gap between what these Gen Z and millennial dance makers are making, and the economic and symbolic value that is due to them. There are new and equitable ways of doing, without redoing the colonial gaze upon African aesthetics, nor a patronising make up for such past, #afropolis2022 is an attempt to reinvent the methods and the platforms that are no longer future proof. Afropolis is investing in making inclusion of African excellence mass accessible, to produce lasting equity for marginalised communities, which means more than afrospectacularism or exhibiting exotic symbols, our work is a prompt for an intentional economic reframe.

AN EQUAL SPACE FOR AFRICAN AESTHETICS: In the institutional circuit, the rumour of this trend is arriving slowly it seems, just a handful really appreciates how these young dance artistes independently became social media sensations with millions of followers, and how much these social networks have reshuffled the dance cards and serving as a viable stage for a rich intercultural dialogue between the various, distanced communities. Their practice has proven to us that there are new and equitable ways of doing, without redoing the racist gaze upon African aesthetics, nor a patronising make up for such past, afropolis2022 is an attempt to reinvent the methods and the platforms that are no longer future proof. Afropolis is investing in making inclusion of African excellence mass accessible, to produce lasting equity for marginalised communities, which means more than afrospectacularism or exhibiting exotic symbols, our work is a prompt for an intentional economic reframe. For 8 days, at Friche de la Belle de Mai, different spaces will be occupied (dance studios, performance halls and the roof top). The morning sessions will be for the Dance Camp, a convention that gathers 20+ master dance teachers, offering over 80 hours of classes to 200 participants of the various afro and Afrodiasporic dance styles. The afternoon periods will be for afropolis co-Lab; a maker space among the various participants that will collaborate to experiment and workshop new ideas to be presented during the final weekend along with other public presentations; showcase, dance battle final + a DJ dance party.

PARTNERING FOR EMERGENCE: In partnership with the Festival de Marseille, we will transform Friche de la Belle de Mai into our space station, for a curated selection of the finest of the global Afro dance world, to generate several creative contents for a hybrid audience on the final weekend. We intend to connect this innovative choreographic practice with a hybrid audience of both connected youth as well as international dance professionals (presenters, journalists, institutions) and through these expanded audiences, we facilitate its proper discovery and subsequent distribution. This institution/independent partnership is our way to raise awareness among professional circuit, and to encourage systemic embrace of current African and Afro-diasporic creative excellence. AFROPOLIS blurs the production/distribution, real-life/virtual binary classifications, in the sense that everything is created for and with the local and the global in the same unit of place and time. In this, the concept proposes a fresh response to the production-touring crisis of our time, by investing in artists who are invested in their individual projects within a specific community. By placing current technological advancement at the service of the creative process we accentuate the inflection point. By highlighting creativity and access as a core value system, we begin to form economies of ideas network, and consider the next stage of our creative economy beyond production and touring, but to imagine creativity itself as currency, and consider the community of audience, followers, partners, and citizens we build around the values that artists generate as investors.

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