“The Role of the Djembefola in Indigenous Dance Education: Decolonial Revelations in Guinea, West Africa” by Ojeya Cruz Banks

“The Role of the Djembefola in Indigenous Dance Education: Decolonial Revelations in Guinea, West Africa” by Ojeya Cruz Banks (2021) offers a compelling exploration of the djembe’s significance within the context of dance education in Guinea, West Africa. It particularly focuses on the intricate relationship between the djembefola (master djembe player) and the dance instruction process, revealing how this dynamic serves as a decolonial practice in preserving and transmitting indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage.

Key Themes:

Decolonial Approach to Dance Education:

Banks provides an insightful analysis of how the djembefola’s role in dance education transcends the mere act of musical accompaniment. Instead, it represents a decolonial approach to learning and teaching that prioritizes oral traditions, communal learning, and the symbiotic relationship between music and dance intrinsic to many African cultures. This method stands in contrast to Western-centric educational models that often compartmentalize music and dance, neglecting the holistic nature of these art forms in African societies.

Collaborative Learning Process:

The study emphasizes the collaborative learning process between the djembefola, the dancers, and the broader community. This process is inherently participatory, with knowledge and skills being transmitted through observation, imitation, and direct engagement rather than through written documentation or formal instruction. Such a method highlights the importance of experiential learning and the oral transmission of knowledge, characteristic of many indigenous educational practices.

Preservation of Cultural Identity:

Banks discusses the djembefola’s critical role in preserving cultural identity through the teaching of traditional dances and rhythms. The djembe, with its rich history and significance in West African culture, becomes a vehicle for cultural expression and continuity. Through dance education, the djembefola helps maintain a connection to ancestral heritage and reinforces a collective cultural identity, offering resistance to cultural homogenization and the erosion of traditional values.

Decolonial Revelations:

The paper uncovers the decolonial potential of indigenous dance education as facilitated by the djembefola. By centering African epistemologies and methodologies, the djembefola challenges dominant Western narratives and asserts the value of African cultural practices. This approach not only empowers learners and practitioners within their cultural context but also contributes to the global recognition of African art forms as complex, sophisticated, and worthy of study and appreciation on their own terms.


“The Role of the Djembefola in Indigenous Dance Education: Decolonial Revelations in Guinea, West Africa” by Ojeya Cruz Banks (2021) offers a profound insight into the integral role of the djembe and its players in the realm of dance education. It serves as a testament to the enduring power of traditional art forms in preserving cultural heritage, fostering community cohesion, and challenging colonial legacies through the affirmation of indigenous knowledge systems. Banks’ research illuminates the decolonial power embedded in the practices surrounding the djembe, advocating for a broader recognition and appreciation of the complexities and depth of African cultural expressions within the academic discourse and beyond.

This paper not only contributes to the scholarly understanding of African music and dance but also offers practical insights into the decolonial practices that can enrich and diversify global educational paradigms. By highlighting the djembefola’s role, Banks calls attention to the importance of culturally responsive education that honors and preserves the rich tapestry of human cultural diversity.

For those interested in the intersections of music, dance, education, and decolonial studies, Banks’ exploration provides a valuable resource and a call to action to recognize and integrate indigenous knowledge and pedagogies within educational systems worldwide.