Naby Bangoura is our guest artist for Camp Samatou this year. He is a dancer from Guinea, West Africa and currently lives in California. Mitzi met him at Camp Fareta and we are all very excited to have him visiting us in Australia.
Where did you grow up and were your parents artists?
I was born in a village but then moved to Conakry so that I could attend school. I was raised by my uncle in the city. My mother was a dancer in the village, but not with a ballet – she danced with a group of women at parties and special events. My uncle was a dancer with Ballet Djoliba in Conakry.
Why did you become a dancer?
When I was a teenager, I always liked to go dancing with my friends at clubs and on the streets. We would go out and people loved my dancing; all the girls wanted to dance with me. I never intended to be a professional dancer but then a friend of mine said that I should dance with the ballet.
After that, I approached a dance teacher who was living in the same compound. He looked at me and decided I wasn’t the right type to become a dancer, as I was too shy. He said ‘If you want to go into commerce I can help set you up. Have a think about it’. But I was still thinking about dancing and I prepared a letter to send to a dance company in Matam. The teacher who said I should go into commerce then took me aside and asked if I had thought about my decision. I said ‘I want to dance!’ and I then started with his ballet.
Did you have any experience of traditional dance before that?
No, but during my childhood we would always go and watch the ballet as we had to pass by it every day. I used to watch my mother and her friends dancing in the village. Once I started dancing with the ballet, I loved it.
Do you like living in America?
Yes, I like living here. I love spreading the culture of Guinean drum and dance and through teaching I realise how valuable it is. I do miss the community in Africa, and hanging out with my friends all the time.
Is African dance popular there?
Yes. I have been here for 17 years and I think it is become more popular all the time. At the moment, I am teaching dance at the university and teach 7 classes a week. I love my job.
Have you travelled anywhere else?
I have been to Japan, China, Mexico and Germany and teach at different camps all around America every year. I am looking forward to coming to Australia again!