Mufutau Yusuf is a Nigerian-Irish dancer, inspired by exploration of his own heritage, and by time spent training in the Austrian town of Salzburg. In his latest show, Òwe, which he’ll perform at Dublin Fringe this weekend, he explores these differing roots in an attempt, ultimately, to understand himself.
Ahead of the show, I talked to Yusuf about drawing together all teh differing strands that make up hiw show, and who he is today….
First of all, give me a little background on your new show, and how it came about?
Òwe is a solo work looking into my Yoruba identity, my root and my connection to my ancestors and heritage. Using archival materials to examine the various facets of this identity, the solo is an attempt to deconstruct a personal ontology, and reformulate it into a new body of knowledge, experience and perspective, and in a way embarking on a pilgrimage to communicate with my forefathers. This piece also intends to interrogate our conceptions about archives and to redefine the notion of archives and how we understand the workings of what is contained in them.
What can the Fringe audience expect?
I guess the audience can expect a dance performance using a varied movement expression, sounds and imagery to question ideas about identity, history, and traditions. It’s a personal, physical, and emotional piece that invites the audience to witness a journey of becoming.
What’s your dance style, and how do you use it on stage?
I was trained in contemporary dance but over the years I’ve tried developing my own movements language that incorporate quick and explosive physicality, emotional engagement and added with theatrical expressions.
There are obvious Nigerian influences in your work. Being raised in Ireland, how do you relate to your roots?
Paradoxically I feel both close to and far from my roots. The closeness comes from my relationship with my father, who is in a way my anchor. I still speak Yoruba with him, I hear stories from him, and he keeps me up to date with the current affairs in Nigeria. He always reminds me of the values of our people and raised me and my brother according to those values.
He also often relates stories of my childhood adventures growing up in Nigeria, making my heart swell and nostalgic and keeping those memories alive within me. And top of that I’ve also stayed connected myself through the food, music, books and of course I’m an avid consumer of Nollywood drama.
The distance I feel obviously comes from the fact that I was away from Nigeria for 20 years, only revisiting this year. This became more difficult to endure during my mid-twenties as I started to really question who I was and where I came from, despite having my father as a reference. Realising the gulf that existed between myself and my kins was jarring and I guess it’s what prompted me to make