Q&A with Mufutau Yusuf – Òwe – Dublin Fringe Festival
Òwe – Mufutau Yusuf
We had the chance to put some questions to Mufutau ahead of the opening of his new work Òwe as part of the Dubiln Fringe Festival. You can see the results below.
Performance: 24 September – 18:15, €18/€16
Venue: Project Arts Centre
You were born in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to Ireland when you were 9. Can you tell the readers something about the culture shock of arriving in Ireland?
Absolutely, I had a major culture shock on so many levels, especially at that age in which you view and experience life so closely and intensely. Apart from the difference in language, culture, race, food, etc, just moving from a city of around 15 million people to a quiet country cottage in Meath would be very disconcerting to any 9-year-old child. On top of that, being probably one of the first black people to be living in that part of Meath at that time, we were a phenomenon to those around us. But yes, all in all, it
was a jarring transition, but as a child, I also saw some fun and adventure in this new life I was about to experience.
In Ireland, there is a huge emphasis on Sport. How did you find your way into the world of dance?
Actually, I think I began with sport before taking my first dance class. And all the way through my teens I played football, GAA, taekwondo, basketball and even some skating. When I started with dance in a lovely dance school in Trim, run by Pauline Dwyer, I didn’t really envision any career prospect in it or anything, it was just a hobby. It was at 16 when I joined the Dublin Youth Dance Company that I started to toy with the idea of being a professional dancer, which was further encouraged when I had the
amazing opportunity to work with Irish Modern Dance Theatre two years later. This was a defining experience and not long after I knew I had to get myself into a school for dance, which ended up being an amazing school called SEAD in Salzburg, Austria. And the path from there was clear.
What was your first break to make it into the world of professional dance? Can you tell us about your first time on stage as a professional?
I was 18 when I had my first professional experience on stage with Irish Modern Dance Theatre, in the production & “Fall and Recover”; which was a piece made by John Scott in collaboration with a few refugees or survivors of torture from Spirasi. This was such an intense yet incredible experience, one that informed on the kind of artist I wanted to be, and what I wanted to communicate as a dancer and dance maker. The depth of what was shared both in the studio and on stage was something that I still remember to this day, encouraging me to pursue dance as a career.
Can you tell us about your new production Òwe? What inspired it?
Òwe, meaning proverb in Yoruba, is inspired by meditations on my roots, my relation to my ancestors and my cultural identity and consciousness. This dance solo purposes to decode and make sense of my fragmented, personal archive and observe it through the scope of the more objective cultural and historical archives, and the archives of my ancestors while using personal and found archival material as concept, visual design, and soundscape, and using a blend of personal, traditional and contemporary
movements to convey what I found. This work is also an attempt to redefine the notion of archives and how we understand the workings of what is contained in them.
This has already been performed in New York. Has it changed since that production in April of this year?
I think so, yes. After the premiere in NY, some things have really settled and feel more grounded than in April and then of course I have also made some changes, not major ones but changes that contribute to the growth and development of both the piece and myself and my relationship to the piece. But the main essence of it hasn’t really changed, if not being more articulated.
This is part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. Will you get a chance to see any other productions at the festival?
I absolutely hope so. The programme this year is fantastic.
Producer: Lynnette Moran
Lighting Designer: Matt Burke
Visual Designer: Luca Truffarelli
Sound Designer: Riccardo Vechiarelli
Costume and Props Designer: Nina Lopez le Galliard
Chief LX: Eoin Lennon
Production Manager: Lisa Mahony
Stage Manager: Barbara Hughes
Image: Luca Truffarelli