St. Thomas University alumni Saa Andrew Gbongbor wants to break cultural differences.
Gbongbor will join Black Box Productions this year as its artist-in-residence, where he will create and direct an original work called The Fofana Kingdom, which tells the story of the origins of Gbongbor’s home, Sierra Leone.
Fofana is one of the biggest last names in Sierra Leone.
“[The play will explore] the way of life we used to live back home, what we believed, the things that we do and our cultural norms,” he said.
He is collaborating with creatives on campus to present a work that he says has lived in his head for many years. Gbongbor’s goal is to bring his African culture and community to campus and to create a welcoming atmosphere.
Gbongbor likes bringing people together through food, dance, musical instruments and cultural ideas. He wants to know and understand how people do things back home and celebrate what makes people different.
“I’d like to see all of us come together and put [our cultural differences] into a play and see what it will tell our audience, our community, and see what people will learn from it.”
Freed slaves from Nova Scotia went back to Africa to form what is now Sierra Leone. Because of the country’s history, the capital city is called Freetown.
Gbongbor hopes to contrast how his life was back home with how he lives now.
“It’s the time to tell the story of where I come from and how life was, and with the modern life I’m living right now and how these two clash,” said Gbongbor.
He wants to create a safe space where students who come from diverse backgrounds can showcase their culture. Gbongbor said he thinks STU is the best place to do this because of the diversity he has noticed on campus.
Gbonbor is driven by his curiosity and hopes that those who come to see The Fofana Kingdom are similarly motivated.
“I want people to come out to learn from these shows and not to be afraid,” he said. ”Let’s open our hearts and let’s keep creating and allow nothing to stop us.”
Lisa Anne Ross, the artistic advisor at Black Box Productions, has worked with Gbongbor and his dancing and drama group, Making Africa Proud, for almost a decade.
Ross said Gbonbor spends much of his time giving back to the community. She calls him a “creative gift” and says that something she is trying to bring to Black Box Productions is the decolonization of theatre.
“The lens that everything is created through is through that Eurocolonial lens,” said Ross. “[Gbongbor] will help us to tell this story through an African lens.”
The Fofana Kingdom will play at the Black Box Theatre from Feb. 2 to 4.