The Neustadt Lit Festival will premiere the dance film “Black and Blues” by Boubacar Boris Diop, highlighting the history and culture of West Africa | Culture
The Neustadt Lit Festival returns to the University of Oklahoma campus after two years of being held virtually.
This year’s festival will feature Boubacar Boris Diop, a prominent Senegalese novelist, playwright, journalist and screenwriter. Diop is the winner of the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and will be honored as the festival’s flagship writer.
A dance film inspired by Diop’s creative non-fiction story “Black and Blues” will be presented at the festival to honor West African culture in coordination with Diop’s appearance at the festival.
The film’s artistic director is Marie Casimir, a Haitian American interdisciplinary artist. She is currently curator of public programs and performance at the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center and an adjunct lecturer in Clara Luper’s Department of African and African American Studies. Casimir is also the film’s lead choreographer and worked on the project alongside Jessica Karis Ray, the film’s artistic coordinator. Ray is a multidisciplinary artist from Oklahoma City. She now works at Lincoln Center and is a freelance videographer in New York.
The film features Vitoria Correia, a student at the University of Oklahoma School of Dance.
Correia is a ballet major from Brazil. She started dancing at age seven as part of a social project. She then joined the Bolshoi School of Brazil, where she studied classical ballet for six years before coming to OU in the spring of this year.
Correia became involved in the film project through Casimir, who has worked with students from the OU School of Dance in the past.
“Black and Blues” is about Senegalese migrants who travel by boat in search of a better life. The dancers and the choreographer began the process of creating the film by reflecting on Diop’s text.
“When rehearsals started, we were already aware of the story and we started the process of setting the text we were representing in motion,” Correia said. “We tried to represent in the film the story of a couple who separate because the man embarks on a journey to bring about better conditions. The woman stays because the journey is risky and she has the task of take care of what is left in the village.
Correia said her favorite part of creating the film was the process of bonding with her partner.
“The process we had to go through to connect with each other, it was super interesting,” Correia said. “And that connection that we created…was essential to the film, so that we could convey that to the audience.”
Correia said she was honored to be part of the project.
“We are very honored to be part of it and to represent a special project, a special text,” Correia said. “It means a lot, not just for the writer, but…I think for any community that lives with this issue.”
The Literature Festival will be held October 24-26 in the Oklahoma Memorial Union and includes ten in-person events that will be streamed live as well as two Zoom-only events. Events include panel discussions on African cinema, history and culture and reclaiming African history, culture and languages as well as understanding Diop’s work. Diop will talk about writing Africa today and give a keynote address about his life and work. Registration is available online and is free and open to the public.
“Black and Blues” will premiere at noon on October 26, followed by a discussion with the choreographer and two dancers.