IMPRESSIONS: "Sènsa" by Paul Maheke with Nkisi and Ariel Efraim Ashbel at Abrons Arts
Updated: Mar 18, 2020
In the Bantu language, the word sénsa means “coming to visibility,” “to appear from far away,” and “to reveal itself.” It seems like a word for magicians, priests, and alchemists. Their work, after all, transpires betwixt and between the before and the after. The moments of transformation they conjure are fraught with ambiguity. Their only certainty is uncertainty.
The forty-five-minute Sènsa connects this idea to Dr. Kimbwandènde Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau’s 1991 groundbreaking book African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo: Principles of Life and Living. As such, the work unfolds like a sacred spiral, realized through high-contrast movement, music, and lighting. It made its U.S. premiere at Abrons Arts Center, co-commissioned with Performa 19 Biennial and Red Bull Arts New York, featuring choreography by Paul Maheke, a score by Melika Ngombe Kolongo a.k.a. Nkisi, and lighting design by Ariel Efraim Ashbel.
Upon entering the Underground Theater, the audience is swept into a literal spiral. The piece has us . . .
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Photo by Paula Court