Diamano Coura means “those who bring the message” in the Senegalese Wolof language. Diamano Coura West African Dance Company was founded in 1975 by the husband and wife team of Dr. Zak Diouf and Naomi Washington Diouf. They are dedicated to the preservation, teaching and appreciation of traditional West African music, dance, theater and culture. Diamano Coura offers ongoing performances, classes and workshops as well as youth and community outreach programs.
In the Spark episode “Global Village,” Diamano Coura is preparing for its 2004 annual repertory show, “Kudul Khelate.” Zak, who comes from Senegal, and Naomi, from Liberia, both express the idea that in African cultures there is no separation of music and dance from daily life. They believe that “if you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing.” Unlike Western European traditions, in which participation in the fine arts is historically the purview of the upper classes and experts to perform and produce, African cultures integrate all the art forms together within a community.
Dr. Diouf earned his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from UC Berkeley and was the director of the Mali Ensemble, Les Ballets Africains and the Senegalese National Dance Company before founding Diamano Coura. He has performed as a dancer and drummer and has choreographed for such groups as the African American Dance Ensemble, Oakland’s Dimensions Dance Theater and the Harambee Dance Company. He has been on the faculties of Southern Illinois University, San Jose State University, Sonoma State University, the University of San Diego, UCLA, San Francisco State University and Hayward State University. He currently teaches West African music, dance and history at Laney Community College and music and dance at the Malonga Casquelourd Arts Center in Oakland.
Naomi Diouf began dancing at age 10 studying with prominent dancers and musicians of West African countries. Later, she studied ballet and modern dance in Paris. She holds a B.A. in sociology, with a minor in African history, from UC San Diego. She has choreographed works internationally for companies such as the Dutch Theater Van Osten in the Netherlands and Belgium, Dimensions Dance Theater, and Washington D.C.’s Kankoran Dance Company. She currently teaches West African dance and culture at Berkeley High School, Laney College and the Malonga Casquelourd Arts Center, as well as conducting workshops and consulting in costume design, cultural program coordinating and West African culture.