Looking deep in the soil and soul of African culture

Looking deep in the soil and soul of African culture

Traditional African methods of story-telling and linguistic style were to the fore in this year’s visit to Year 7 pupils by the Iroko Theatre Company, while for the boys themselves the highlights included the chance to try out massed drumming.

The company uses music, dance and oral traditions to educate people about African culture. The visit to QE supported the boys' Expressions of Spirituality module – part of the Year 7 Philosophy, Religion & Society (PRS) course of study. The interactive sessions included discussion of how music and stories can be mediums through which spirituality can find expression.

Head of PRS, Jack Robertson, said: “The boys had a thoroughly enjoyable and significant time. They particularly enjoyed the djembes and other African drums; they were surprised at the extent to which they could harmonise when 40 of them were drumming at the same time.”

The name of the company itself comes from a tree. Founder Alex Oma-Pius says: “The roots of the Iroko tree go deep into the soil of Africa. The tree stands tall and strong against the African sky. Our sculpture, our architecture, our masks and our drums come from this tree and are permeated by its spirit. Through the Iroko tree, our culture is rooted in the soil of our land and from these roots it derives its strength. IROKO Theatre Company was formed primarily to nurture and uphold this culture.”

The company presents traditional African myths and legends, exploring the exploits of various characters including Ananse, the spider, and Ijapa, the hare. Through this, boys acquired an understanding of the style of African narrative and story-telling, such as call-backs, as well as non-verbal communication techniques used in African theatre.