Arthur Hall's Obatala


Arthur Hall's
Obatala


The signature dance of the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble, the fourth edition of Obatala is based on the 1993 reunion performance during the week-long tribute to Arthur Hall in Philadelphia and includes footage from 1980 in Harrisburg, 1982 in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and from 1995 performances at the Odunde Festival in Philadelphia and during the Ile Ife Philadelphia Maine concerts supported by the Maine Arts Commission. Also included is a brief address by Arthur "to close out the program."

The dance is from a dream of Arthur Hall, who began performing Obatala as a solo in 1958, the first year of his dance company. The dream was later explicated by a Yoruba priest, and the dance has been evolving ever since, including performances with a full company as seen here. The film of the dance has also been evolving. It was begun by filmmaker Bruce Williams in 1978 and has gone through four editions, the first in 1993, the second in 1994, and the third in 1995. The fourth edition is not the final one. Obatala will be featured in the current production of And the Children Danced.



Program notes:

Obatala is central to the creation myths of the Yoruba culture of West Africa, a culture which was carried throughout the Americas by the slave trade. Obatala is the King of the White Cloth, the blank canvas, the patron of children, childbirth, and all created form. He is not God, and only God can breathe life into Obatala's creations, but he is associated with creativity, purity, and justice. He is the gentle patron of albinos and anyone with a birth defect or birthmark. It is said, "Obatala marks his children." He has many names. He is Alamo Re Re, the one who turns blood into children. He is Alabalashe, the wielder of the scepter of life. He is the patron saint of artists, called The Divine Sculptor, and he is O Ho Ho, the father of laughter, "Who sits in the sky like a swarm of bees."

For more information see Obatala

An artistic salute to Arthur Hall and his influence

Dozens of former students of Arthur Hall, and many of their students, gathered at Movement Theatre International in a tribute performance to the choreographer, dancer, and teacher. ... as the leader of the Afro-American Dance Ensemble and, later, the Ile Ife Center, [Arthur Hall] was responsible for raising the consciousness of African dance and culture from his Philadelphia headquarters over [Germantown Avenue during] the last three decades. ... The sweeping Obatala provided the evening's finale. The dance had its source in a dream of Hall's ~ a dream that a Yoruba priest later explicated. Around a small alter, some 30 men and women, dressed all in white, danced and sang to the sound of massed, resonate drumming. Hall entered as a high priest... What Arthur Hall does may be called dance, but it's also more than dance. It is a kind of culture-making sorely needed and rarely seen.
Miriam Seidel
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/21/93

Arthur Hall's 'Obatala' Highlights
His Dance Company's Varied Program

Daniel Webster
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/21/70

Arthur Hall's Obatala
4th edition 1995, 21 minutes
SVHS & l6mm original, color and B&W)

The Arthur Hall Collection
754 Mount Ephraim Road
Searsport, Maine 04974

207-548-2445

jw157@columbia.edu



Pen & ink drawing at top of page
by Alan Crichton 1995


The Arthur Hall Collection
is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to the arts
and education in African and African American culture.

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