Roundtable Series 2013

With generous support from The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation and the San Francisco Arts Commission, ACTA’s Roundtable Series strengthens San Francisco Bay Area intercultural traditional arts networks and leadership, and offers opportunities for traditional artists and advocates to learn from one another through intimate discussion, technical assistance, networking, and sharing community-based arts and culture.


In 2013, ACTA held the following Roundtables:



Leading scholars, elders and artists from across the Bay Area and nation will gather for a series of thoughtful and challenging conversations that will contextualize the intersection of traditional arts, contemporary performance and California’s changing demographics.  The daylong symposium will feature a discussion embracing the complexities of African dance, practice, production and teaching in the Bay Area; explore how artists address injustice and violence within their performance practice; and will investigate the tension inherent in performing the sacred on stage.

ACTA Program Manager Lily Kharrazi serves as an invited curator for this symposium, drawing on her vast experience at ACTA over the past 8 years. We invite and welcome your participation in this free event.

Saturday, August 10, 2013
10:00 am-6:30 pm

1310 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103



Body Destroyed/Body Remembered: Genocide, Civil War and Performance

For dance artists, the health and expressive agency of the body is core; for dancers in the diaspora the body is also a vivid carrier of histories lost and "remembered."  What happens, though, when a dance artist's sense of body is complicated by being born into a society that has both endured and perpetrated unspeakable acts of violence?  This panel explores how two artists unpack their own personal relationship to the horrors of human atrocity on a mass scale.

Featuring dancer/choreographers Byb Chanel Bibene, a direct survivor of the 1997 Civil War in the Republic of Congo, and Chey Chankethya, whose parents and older siblings survived the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia, but was herself born into the first post-genocide generation.  Special guest Germaine Ingram, an African American civil rights lawyer/scholar and an accomplished tap dancer, jazz vocalist, improviser and director, will lend the perspective of "distance" to the panel.  In researching for her work The President’s House, about historic individuals who were "owned" by George Washington as slaves, she discovered that there were scarcely any firsthand accounts by or about their thoughts, traumas and joys; subjective memory had been erased.  Noting that absence, she posits: Is there still "a collective memory" and how does the act of performing create and shape the remembering? And,  as proximal survivors of atrocity, what are the contributions that artist survivors of today offer generations to come?

Anthropologist Toni Shapiro Phim, whose scholarly work focuses on genocide, human rights and the arts, will moderate the session.

Organized by: Roko Kawai and Toni Shapiro Phim, Ph.d
Moderated by: Toni Shapiro Phim, Ph.d
Panelists include: Byb Chanel Bibene, Chey Chankethya, Germaine Ingram


Representing Africa: The Changing Face of African Dance in the San Francisco Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area boasts a vibrant African dance scene that emerged over the last 40 years around the local diaspora from Central, West and South East Africa.  Numerous teachers offer instruction in dances from Congo, Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Zimbabwe; yearly week long workshops teach African dance, drum and song and cultural immersion in an "authentic African village atmosphere"; more than a dozen dance companies perform African dance, and their number is growing.  The fruit of decades of teaching, the proponents of African dance today are comprised not only of the African diaspora, but include their American families and students.

This evolution is met with varying reactions: is it a sign that African culture and tradition is no longer respected or a symptom of its successful integration into our community?  What does it mean to spectators and to students if the performers and teachers are not African?  What does it matter if a performer of African dance is a white woman, and to whom?  This discussion will seek to unearth and make visible some of the roots of African dance in the Bay Area, and address questions of identity, ownership and appropriation.

Organized by: Lily Kharrazi, ACTA and Valerie Thuy Larsen, Ph.d
Moderated by: Valerie Thuy Larsen, Ph.d
Panelists include: Jasmine Johnson, Kelly Kouyate, Karma Smart


Inside Bhangra: An Experiential Lecture/ Demonstration with Joti Singh

Join Performing Diaspora artist, Joti Singh, for an interactive exploration into the Punjabi harvest dance, Bhangra.

Spirit Moves: Sacred Dance Onstage

This panel explores the inventions and tensions that arise when artists reinterpret sacred music/dance traditions for presentation onstage. Master artists C.K. Ladzekpo, Jose Francisco Barroso, and Mahealani Uchiyama will each perform a brief "invocation" to ground our conversation in the sacred traditions from Ghana, Cuba, and Hawai’i that they respectively embody. Symposium organizer Dr. Umi Vaughan will give an introduction and pose questions that invite each artist (and audience members) to reflect on the process and consequences of adapting sacred performance traditions to fit in new contexts. The role of “diaspora”—people and culture on the move—will be central to the discussion.

Organized by: Umi Vaughan, Ph.d
Moderated by: Umi Vaughan, Ph.d
Panelists include: Jose Francisco Barroso, Mahealani Uchiyama, C.K. Ladzekpo, Ph.d





Tibetan family members share food during a break in an all-day performance of Tibetan opera, or Achi Lhamo, in Richmond, CA, in 2011.

Come to the traditional arts table!   We will at Urban Adamah, a farm in the middle of Berkeley whose practices are guided by Jewish agricultural values, and where 90% of the food is given away.  We will tour the farm and think about the centrality of food in our lives from a cultural perspective.  How is food a portal to memory?  How does it figure into storytelling?  How is it used in a sacred way?  How do foodways and indigenous knowledge intersect?  And who is not seated at the proverbial table of nutritious food because of access issues?

Sunday, October 13, 2013
1:00-3:30 pm

Urban Adamah
1050 Parker Street (@ San Pablo)
Berkeley, CA 94710
Map & Directions

Need more information?
Lily Kharrazi, ACTA Program Manager
(415) 346-5200 //

Would you like to share your art at the gathering (up to 7 minutes)?
Please contact Lily Kharrazi.  First come, first serve.

This event is donation based & no one will be turned away for lack of funds.