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Dance Performance and Ghana Exhibit Highlight Emancipation Festivities

July 1, 2007 — The Fort Frederik Museum provided the backdrop Sunday for the pictorial exhibit "Journey to the 2006 Celebration of Ghana's Emancipation" and an exploration into traditional dance commemorating the 159th Emancipation Celebration, hosted by the History, Culture and Tradition Foundation.
Inside the fort's stone walls, where history was made with the emancipation proclamation of 1848, a group of about 50 people gathered to remember the struggles and victories of enslaved Africans in the Virgin Islands. The audience was treated to a dance performance that explored the similarities among African dances throughout the Caribbean. Inside the exhibition room hung photos detailing the visit of several Virgin Islanders to Ghana in 2006.
The travelers accepted invitations from the Ghana government to take part in the "Joseph Project." The project was built around the biblical story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. It welcomes African descendants from all over the word who were stolen from the continent to return, leading up to the celebration of the 100th year of Ghana's independence in 2008.
The slave trade has provided a dark connection between Ghana and the Virgin Islands. More than 200,000 African were imprisoned in Ghana and loaded into ships bound for what was then the Danish West Indies.
The exhibit included photos of Anomabo Castle, where, under British rule at the height of the slave trade, that country participated in the forced migration of more than four million Africans. The fort is now preserved, and serves as a memorial to those who passed through its gates.
Another group of photos show a place called "Slave River," where captured Africans who were forced to walk hundreds of miles from their inland villages were allowed their last bath on African soil before boarding the slave ships.
Other photos show the grandeur of Ghana, including photos of native dwellings, the market place, the National Cultural Center and other areas of cultural importance.
In the fort's center courtyard, Awilda Sterling-Duprey captivated the audience with her traditional African dance and chanting. She was recommended by Ricardo Alegria, the founder and first director of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
"He is my mentor," Sterling-Duprey said. She is currently engaged in research into different African dance traditions in the Caribbean, looking for the common thread among them.
"This is a way of stressing that we are all of one family," Sterling-Duprey said of the dance. "There is an energy that opens through the music that enables one to hear the ancestral voice, and the movement of the body is the language.”
The 159th Emancipation Celebration continues through Tuesday, with the following events scheduled:
1 p.m.
Emancipation-reenactment program featuring Caribbean Dance Company historian Mario Moorhead; One Voice Production, choreographed and synthesized by the Caribbean Dance Company; Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies; Nana Mary Apeadu-Lewis; Per Ankh Neteru Ankhsamble; Dembaya Arts Conservatory; Eddie Russell and the Quelbe Latin Jazz Ensemble; Cedelle Christopher; Okolo Tegremantine Arts Theatre of St. Kitts; the V.I. Arts Ensemble; Bomba Allick; Lorna Freeman; and Eugene Petersen.
4 p.m.
Cultural performances featuring Caribbean artists celebrating V.I. emancipation: Tony Richards and the V.I. Gifted and Talented Youth Summer Intensive Performers; Nuestas Raices Bomba Dancers and Drummers of Loiza; and many other performers.
4 p.m.
The 38th Anniversary of UCA's commemoration of the historic July 3 holiday, hosted by the United Caribbean Association. Program will feature community presentations, cultural storytelling, spoken word, dance and conscious music. Call UCA at 772-5063 for more information or to participate.
8 p.m. to midnight
Emancipation Day street quadrille dance music by Native Rhythm Band with caller Curtis Williams.
All activities on July 3 will take place in Customs Square, UCA Headquarters and adjoining Buddhoe Park in Frederiksted.
For more information call the History, Culture and Tradition Foundation at 277-7485, the Caribbean Dance Company at 778-8824, UCA at 772-5063 or Whim Museum and St. Croix Landmarks Society at 772-0598.
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