Dafora, Asadata (1890--1965) By Nur Amin, Takiyah
Multidisciplinary artist Asadata Dafora (also known as Austin Asadata Dafora Horton) was widely known for his contributions to dance as well as for the propagation of African drumming and cultural aesthetics across the United States. As a composer, librettist, singer, choreographer, and dancer, Dafora built a formidable career during the Great Depression, creating full-length operatic works using African drumming, instrumentation, dance styles, and cultural themes. His groundbreaking work Kykunkor (1934), based on Mende folklore, employed authentic African dance, music, language and a predominantly African-born cast and ran for months to increasingly larger audiences in New York. In 1960 he returned to Sierra Leone to serve as Director of Culture, and after his return to the United States two years later, he turned over the leadership of his company to Esther Rolle. As one of the first artists to introduce authentic African dance and music to American audiences, Dafora became a pioneer of black concert dance.