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Cognitive Movements:

Confluence of Bantu-Kongo cosmology, body-games, and eco-somatic practices

My current and on-going research project, Cognitive Movements: confluence of Bakongo cosmology, body-games, and eco-somatic practices (CM), combines archival, ethnographic, and research-creation approaches. CM was initially developed within CosmoAngola, a series of gatherings organized at Kilombo Tenondé,*  in southern Bahia, in Brazil. These events looked at intersections or crossroads across African philosophy, capoeira angola and practices of sustainability (permaculture, bioconstruction, seed exchange, bee keeping etc.). Thinking through CosmoAngola, and guided by the scholarship of Congolese philosopher Fu-Kiau (2001), CM has identified key concepts structuring the system of thought and organization associated with the Kongo People or Bakongo (Bantu ethnic group of Central Africa, also known as Bantu-Kongo, primarily defined as the speakers of Kikongo language). Its cosmogram (the Dikenga dia Kongo, see line drawing) may be understood as a grammar or cartography for navigating the Bakongo epistemology or worldview. This collection of concepts forms a "toolbox", introduced below, useful in examining the confluences with and transformations of Bakongo cosmology across the Black Atlantic. So far,  I have turned these tools to better grasp the underpinnings of diasporic forms such as Capoeira Angola and creative productions, including the work of Kara Walker (visual arts, USA), Tony Morison (literature, USA), Jamila Johnson (dance, UK), Tiganá Santana (music, Brazil) and Tabita Rezaire (new media, Franco-Caribe). Additionally, we brought this organising infrastructure to research-creation labs, where it functioned as a container for creative fabulation. Findings from this research project currently feeds into my own movement investigations with the artistic collective A-Feto, led by Dr Ciane Fernandes (UFBA, see "creating").

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*For more information on

Kilombo Tenondé, where I act as an artistic collaborator, watch the documentary Kilombo Tenondé – Um foco de resistência no Baixo Sul da Bahia

The toolbox

The immersion within Fu-Kiau's discussions around the Dikenga, supported by proverbial language and symbolic imagery,  brought new information and insights on the Bakongo (Bantu-Kongo) system of thought and organization (Kimpa/fu) as an object of study, in and of itself, as well as a methodological approach for original creations. In return, and the incorporation of key ideas and images from Dikenga in movement/performance labs, gave participants a new way of organising the creative process and thinking about it. As a cartographic map, CM proposes, Dikenga offers a more sustainable way of orienting oneself in the world, whether you are playing capoeira, implementing principles of permaculture, conducting academic research or creating an original work of art. So far, we have engaged with 12 key concepts [ideograms], constantly re-working their translation into movements, sounds, and drawings, as detailed below:

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1- Energy or informational dynamics [bottom right]

Minika ye minienie: waves/vibrations and radiations.

Kalunga: most elevated energy [Nzambi].

Ngolo: life force [related to warriors].

2- Relation or interactive dynamics [top right]

Ubuntu: [process of] Be-being, open to the other; relational ontology or call-and-response.

Makuku matato: three fireballs/sheres; triads and threefold.

"V" kia zingo:  "V" of life [focusing/expanding spectrum].

3- Circulation or trajectory dynamics [top left]

Dingo-dingo: Process of continuous change [of life].

Makwenda-makwîza: “What comes around, goes around”; alternating patterns; breath work; ginga.

Luzîngo: spiral or serpentine pathways [in time and space].

4- Balance or convergence dynamics [bottom left]

Yowa: Crossings and crossroads; confluence.

Kolo: Most vibrating knot [person]

Kinenga: Health as dynamic equilibrium; coolness.

Additional information about each element of this toolbox.

[Click on  the slide below to enter full view.]


incorporating speech, performance and oral tradition 

Cognitive Movements brings a contra-colonial perspective to practice-as-research methodology in performing arts. So far, the project not only drew on the work of scholars specialised in Bantu-Kongo cosmology, such as Busenki Fu-Kiau and Bas’ille Malomalo, but also paid close attention to the speech, performance and oral tradition related to the Bakongo worldview and its cosmogram - the  Dikenga dia Kongo - by of scholars, artists and community leaders. Below is a short list of key figures orienting this project:

[above] Escrevivência, Oralitura: chat with Conceição Evaristo and Leda Maria Martins; mediation by  Lucia Castello Branco

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