By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
“Araminta”, a multi disciplinary production comprising music, dance and theatre – on Friday robustly re-enacted the story of Harriet Tubman – an African American woman who became famous for helping free hundreds of slaves.
In an alluring performance by the National Dance Company, National Symphony Orchestra and the National Dance Company at the National Theatre in Accra, the audience was left spellbound with the tenacity, forbearance and resilience of Tubman, who was born Araminta Ross.
Put together by Stephany Yamoah, Andrea Vony Lee, Mawuli Semevo and Isaac Annor, the audience was treated to a medley of touching negro spirituals, sublime instrumentals, communicative dance movements and delicate acting that unveiled the story of a heroine, who stood up among her peers.
Born in 1820 on one of the slave plantations in the United States, the story of her life as unwrapped by over fifty artists, is one of backbone labour, brutalities, relationships, marriages, alcohol binges (whenever possible), conspiracies and the numerous times Tubman risked her freedom / life to free fellow slaves.
An engaging narrative, the performance took the crowd on a historical journey with a huge emotional appeal. Indeed, the dancers twitch, wriggle and twirl as they exude rather quirky personalities with the harsh conditions suffered on day-to-day basis by slaves becoming apparent.
Full of craft and gracefulness, scenes from “Araminta” are quite dark in its visual design as it blends with its subject matter. Indeed, while at first it is itself a bit bewildering, it becomes increasingly powerful and moving as it absorbs you into the world of Tubman.
Born a slave herself, Tubman fled from Maryland to freedom in Philadelphia (all in the USA) in 1849. For the next ten years, she made repeated secret trips back to Maryland, leading over three hundred escaped slaves northwards to freedom in Canada.
After the Civil War began in 1861 she also served the Union as a scout, spy and nurse. Her success at shepherding others to safety earned her the nickname “the Moses of her people” making her a lasting symbol of the American anti-slavery movement.