Dancing with Wala
Mai'yah Kau is a queer Liberian artist who is from Staten Island, NY. Their inspiration derives from West African storytelling, spirituality, and intangible cultural heritage through how they were raised by their family members. Kau explores the search for stories that belong to her own diasporic ancestry and beyond as a way to keep alive heritage through oral traditions while remaining true to new imaginings for the future. Her mediums include photography, video, performance and poetry.
Wala is the name of the higher being or referring to one’s ancestors in the mano dialect of Liberia. In performance video piece Dancing with Wala… and everything in between, I pay homage to the prominent women figures in my family, West African artists and music and my childhood self. I use music as a thread through the piece, particularly song Kayini Wura (Good Evening to Everyone) by Oumou Sangaré, as a introduction/ greeting. I show my progression of practicing the Malian language Bambara and then teaching others around me as a means of making a performance of the process of oral tradition with call & respond and with repetition of pronunciation.
West African music videos and Nollywood’s special video effects inspired a huge part of this project and low budget aesthetics to which I was exposed from a young age. Dance and music are universal languages through which I am able to become a vessel for the spirits and experience a full physical embodiment of an oral tale or song. I use green screen to emphasize the realities that are normal to African nations, while still yearning for my desire to be there. So why not place myself as the bridge.