Rhythm of Change



Artists to participate in third annual Rhythm of Change Festival

PROVIDENCE, RI (February TK, 2012) - Malian artists Djibril Coulibaly, Sali Soumaré and Alhassane Sissoko will be traveling to the United States to perform and teach Malian dance and drumming at Brown University’s Rhythm of Change Festival, thanks to an enormous effort by University alumni, students, and friends, it was announced today by Rebecca Schneider, Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University. The Festival, which runs March 2-4 at the University, brings together international artists, musicians, dancers, social activists, scholars, and students for three days of performances, lectures, and workshops to explore how the arts can play an instrumental role in social development and cultural understanding.
Festival producer Sophia Shackleton ’09 coordinated with the Malian artists in French and their native Bambara in order to gather all visa documents; despite successfully submitting the required materials, Soumaré and Coulibaly were denied visas due to lack of proof of sufficient ties to Mali. Soumaré, who as a woman cannot own property in Mali, and Coulibaly, who works as a youth organizer and has no children or wife of his own, were unable to provide typical ties like land or a government job.
Following the rejection, Sam Jambrovi? ’12, who had previously studied in Mali with Shackleton, encouraged Michelle Bach-Coulibaly, Lecturer in Dance in the TAPS Department and creator of the popular Mande dance program at the University, to call Rhode Island senators and urge them to support the Malian artists. Together, Shackleton and Jambrovic drafted letters to government officials and Brown alumni who had been impacted by Bach-Coulibaly’s trips to Mali and the Mande dance classes. Senator Jack Reed’s office was willing to help with the case, and a petition was launched on Change.org by Erich Ludwig ’98. After the Brown and New England community had demonstrated enormous support, the US embassy reversed their decision and granted visas to the artists.
“I had been ready to give up,”said Shackleton, “but everyone reminded me how important this opportunity was for students and for Malian-American relations. The Malians say that one bird is silent; a flock of birds makes a lot of noise.”
The Malians will be joined at the Festival by a group of scholars, artists, and activists from all over New England.  Attendees include US-based Malian artists Joh Camara and Moussa Traoré of Boston, Sidy Maiga and Seydou Coulibaly of Providence, Solo Sana of Vermont, and Lacina Coulibaly of Burkina Faso and Yale University.  Emily Coates (Yale World Performance Project), Tom Riccio (University of Texas, Dallas), Jennifer Coates (Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition), Cherie Rivers (PhD candidate, Harvard University) and Matthew Garza ‘09 (masters candidate, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Development,New York University) will also join the artists to lead dialogues and workshops about the role of the arts in social change. 
For more information about the Malian artists and the Rhythm of Change Festival, visit http://rhythmofchange2012.blogspot.com/.
About the Mande Dance Program and Brown’s Long-Standing Relationship with Mali
Brown University pioneered the study of Malian dance and performance in the United States, and since its inception in 1989 the Mande dance program has taught more than 1,000 students about Malian arts and culture, with students lining up to get into the class each year.  More than one hundred students have traveled with Bach-Coulibaly to Mali through the Watson Fellowship, the Arnold Fellowship, Royce Fellowship, AT&T New Media Fellowship, and Fulbright programs to engage in ongoing cultural exchange, research, and development initiatives.  Numerous Brown undergraduates have gone on to work in Mali after graduation as well as start NGOs; many of them are alumni of the dance program. 
About the Department of Theater Arts and Performance Studies
The Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studiesis the intellectual and artistic center at Brown for faculty and students interested in the aesthetic, historical, literary, practical and theoretical explorations of performance in global perspective – theatre, dance, speech, performance art, and performative “roles” in everyday life. The Department’s distinguished faculty consists of leading scholars and artists who are at the forefront in researching and teaching new and innovative methodologies produced by the intersection of the study of craft and the study of history and theory.