Feature: ‘One Corner’ dance and the disruption of social conservatism in Ghana
“One Corner” is a cultural phenomenon and we need to observe it as such. We remember the commentary about #Azonto before it took on the world.
Patapaa’s “One Corner” originated from Swedru in the central region of Ghana, a predominantly working-class town where most people work in farming.
So, of course it falls outside of our elitist binaries of what constitutes “acceptable” or “cool” within contemporary subjectivity. “One Corner” is a genuine expression of radical self love and an uninhibited outlet of emotions for people who have to endure protracted economic and political violence on a daily basis.
There’s a universal condition of economic and political violence that we experience in this country. Swedru like most economically marginalised communities, encounters various degrees of this oppressive condition. For people who connect with the sound, “One Corner” becomes an escape pod into freedom-making within a place of relentless emotional displacement. “One Corner” in principle is inclusive, participatory, and non-intrusive. Each person finds his or her own public space to dance – as a method of finding one’s place of “peace”. In the moment when one is sucked into those trance-inducing drums, it activates an altered state of mind where we feel free the most. In that brief moment, we (marginalised communities) get to also own time and let out emotions we might not have language for. When our bodies contort on top of a wall, on a pole or in the gulleys, we participate in rituals of self-expression in these supposedly deviant ways. “One Corner” is a teleporting machine to radical self-joy and freedom-making.
Currently the dance phenomena has shown up in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, South Africa and across the African diaspora. ‘One Corner’ has become the soundtrack for the powerless who have found an outlet for the post-colonial isms Ghanaians have to contend with. It’s an indicator of what happens when creative energies triumph over the veiled dystopia large swathes of the populace have to deal with. It is also a wake-up call.
Of course the religious folk in this country are not happy about it. There’s an overt contestation over the consciousness of Ghanaians by the conservative evangelical movement. This is not new. Religious conservatives have repeatedly turned on anyone creating any kind of phenomena that challenges its social hegemony. These attacks on creative expressions continue to play out on social media, radio and television.
Many preachers and media commentators are marshalling nearly every available outlet to demonize Patapaa’s “One Corner” dance. The ultimate goal for all this drama around the dance is censorship. In an Islamic School in the Ashanti region, about a dozen teenage girls are facing disciplinary action after their ‘One Corner’ formation video went viral. School authorities have called them “a disgrace to Islam”.
The ‘One Corner’ dance has been overwhelmingly diagnosed by many religious conservatives as madness and blatant stupidity. Mind you this is a dance phenomenon rooted in being one’s self and feeling free while allowing the music to move you. It wouldn’t be the first time conservative gatekeepers have tried to muzzle secular expressions. Like someone rightly asked in a Facebook post: by this logic, are these persons saying that their peers who go to church and roll on the ground and jump all over the place in the name of their Lord and Savior, are also mad and stupid?
Or does the expression change immediately when it is sanctioned by the church’s ideology? The church has a hold on the consciousness of much of our public with endless permutations of violent conformity that limit individual expression. These acts amount to systematic silencing of dissent and ensuring conformity to social norms.
Highlife musicians in the post independence era dealt with this kind of censorship – all be it from military juntas. A.B. Crentsil’s big hit ‘Moses’ featuring lyrics about sex was banned on radio in the 1980s for being “vulgar”. As recently as 1998, a number of private radio stations suspended airplay of Burger Highlife playboy Daddy Lumba’s ‘Aben Wo Ha’ track due to many references about the joy of having sex with Ghanaian women. These “bans” were instigated by religious conservatives nonetheless.
This conversation is critical because of how religious conservatives influence how people behave and think. Their role is to prevent invalidation & indictment of this predatory structure of tyranny Ghanaians are subjected to everyday.
An indictment of this very overt system of behaviour policing is the first step in self-determined momentum that will liberate citizens from religious conservatism that seeks to control symbols, body movements and expressions of freedom. Particularly, if these variables operate outside of the influence of the church.
There’s such an externalising of individual power, to the point that everything that happens within this space we exist is negotiated through superstition. Within this evangelical philosophy one is not entitled to any abilities of secular creating. If one is able to create any technology or phenomena that causes society to shift, that power is immediately associated with the christian godhead. This supposed demonic dance falls outside of the gospel, so it’s either going to be co-opted or attacked. Patapaa has had to deal with the latter.
“One Corner ” is transporting people across class barriers and providing a release people wouldn’t otherwise get through these narrow parameters our so-called cultural norms permit. That’s were its power comes from – a sound frequency directing us into the core of our beings to express latent energies and shake up our spaces.
It remains the obligation and historical mission of creators to liberate themselves from dogmatic paradigms of power – to survive its deeply rooted self-destruction and fashion our salvation by becoming our own first responders. Clearly people want to be free and happy to enjoy themselves without judgement, this new dance is doing exactly that. It’s technology as well as a liberation enabler for us in these times that call for insurrection against tyranny.
‘One Corner’ is on its way to being a global phenomenon. An improv dance from Swedru, a small town in the Central Region of Ghana, ‘One Corner’ is sending freedom-making frequencies across the world.