Manimou Camara, the founder of Dounia Djembe Drum and Dance, aims to create a cultural experience that exhilarates, educates and forms deep cultural awareness. Dounia Djembe honors the many traditions of Guinea, West Africa, the country of founder, Manimou Camara. Each individual who participates in a Dounia Djembe class, workshop or performance is invited to celebrate life through African culture. Their hope is that Dounia Djembe Drum & Dance fosters an environment of cultural awareness and creativity. In the Susu language they say Wontanara! We are all one together! Let's Celebrate!

Watch video from Manimou's residency in Bellingham here:

I spoke with Manimou to get a sense of who he is. Our conversation is below.
Perhaps this can inspire some dialog...

Q: Why do you drum and dance? What does it feel like?
A: It gives me joy. It gives me patience and passion and energy...it gives me power. I feel so happy. It is like love.

Q: When did you start to drum and dance?
A: I have been drumming and dancing since the age of 2. In Guinea, where I grew up, we didn't have TV. We played music and danced to entertain ourselves and our family. Everybody dances in Guinea...everybody dances...men and women. It is usually the men who play the drums but then everyone dances. My Grandma was a singer and dancer, my mom made instruments and was a dancer and my father was a dancer.
I began formal training at the age of 12. My mom encouraged me to do music and dance. My father encouraged me to focus on school. I was fortunate in that I was able to do both. Many other children in my community did not get to go to school. I attended school from 8:00-1:30 and then danced and drummed from 2:00-6:00...everyday.  
Only about 40% of the Guinea population is literate. My father worked in passport services in immigration, he worked for the government, and he wanted all his children (there were 11 of us) to become like him, to be able to have a good job and achieve things in life. This is why he was strict about all his children attending school.    

Q: Why did you move to the United States?
A: I met Jessica when she was visiting Guinea. We fell in love and got married. We moved to her home, Seattle, WA, after we got married.  

Q: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you, your home country, or your art?
A: Africa is a continent. Guinea is a small country about the size of Oregon located in West Africa. Guinea is not a desert. In Guinea you won't see lions or elephants, but you might see hippopotamus, monkeys, alligators and crocodiles.
Guinea music and dance traditions may have similarities to neighboring West African countries such as Mali and Sierra Leone, but it is quite unique and specific to Guinea. Within Guinea there are many ethnicities and each ethnicity has its own traditions. I am Guerze. Other ethnicities include Fulani, Mandingo, and Soussou. Because Guinea is Mountainous the people were fairly isolated from one another, keeping their traditions "pure" to their communities or ethnicities.

The Djoliba National Ballet and Les Ballets Africains are two dance companies from Guinea that were formed as a way to create unity between all the ethnicities in Guinea. They used the arts to create unity in Guinea! 

WEST AFRICAN DANCE as a part of this Whatcom County residency

We are thrilled to be working with Manimou Camara from Dounia Djembe located in Seattle, WA. He will be teaching at Carl Cozier Elementary and he and his company Denbaya will be performing at Carl Cozier, Sunnyland Elementary and at the Van Zandt Hall Oct 28-30. Specific dates and times:

WEDNESDAY October 28th

* Class at Carl Cozier Elementary for all first grade students

* Class at Van Zandt Hall (open to the public) 7:30-9:00 PM

THURSDAY October 29th

* Class at Carl Cozier Elementary for all first grade students

* Performance at Van Zandt Hall (open to the public) 7:00-8:00 PM

FRIDAY October 30th 

* All school morning assembly, Carl Cozier Elementary
For Carl Cozier students, staff and community

* All school afternoon assembly, Sunnyland Elementary
For Sunnyland students, staff and community