Kunama Mtendaji is an African American folk artist that specializes in performing and teaching storytelling, music and dance. He features the cultures of African people throughout the African world. Kunama performs solo and coordinates Afi Ama music and dance ensemble, The Mask Dance Society, and A.F.R.I.C.A. (Association For Responsible Interdisciplinary Cultural Artists).

GEOGRAPHIC SPECIALIZATIONS AND TRAINING HISTORIES

North America (United States)
Kunama’s parents are from a small town in central Missouri. There, as a child, Kunama listened to poems, riddles, rhymes, songs, and stories of his parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles at a period in American history when family entertainment was more internal (live performance) than external (movies, television, compact disc, etc.). Kunama became inspired by talented Missouri legends, like George Washington Carver, Scott Joplin, Langston Hughes, Clark Terry, and others. He considers it a priority to study and promote the folklore of his surrounding environment and the source of that folklore, which begins in Africa.

Africa
Kunama specializes in drumming and dance styles from Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Ghana, Guinea, and Ivory Coast. His repertoire of oral traditions includes stories from West, Central, East, and South Africa. The Mask Society performs several mask dances that are popular in Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, And Ivory Coast. As a grad student working in the Katherine Dunham Museum, Kunama studied, learned, and promoted through writings and lecture demos the functions of various masks, instruments, statues, paintings, and dances.

Caribbean
Kunama was highly influenced by the renowned dancer, anthropologist,
and writer Katherine Dunham. He was exposed to her works while a mass communications undergraduate and a behavioral science graduate student at Southern Illinois University. Kunama trained and became a staff drummer of the Performing Arts Training Center. Under the direction of Katherine Dunham,the music and dance cultures of Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and others came to life.
 

South America (Brazil)
Kunama eventually became a student in Katherine Dunham’s Performing Arts Training Center. He was introduced and trained in the folklore of the Afro-Brazilian martial art, capoeria, and stories of Afro-Brazilian settlements such as Palmares. Kunama used these traditions as a performer and director of Afi Ama Folkloric Performing Company.


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