Dr. Ofosuwa Abiola was born and raised in New York City. She received her Ph.D. in African History from Howard University, with a focus on Mandinka Dance history. Dr. Abiola is currently Associate Professor of Dance History, Coordinator of the Dance Program, and Coordinator of the Honors Program in the Department of Theatre Arts at Howard University. Her research interests include the history of Mandinka dance systems; dance and performance history in Southern Africa; the history of African Diaspora dance; screendance; and digital humanities. Professor Abiola's scholarship is driven by a commitment to underscore, document, and thereby preserve under-researched narratives in the history of Africana -- African and African Diaspora -- dance and performance. Through digital humanities platforms, Dr. Abiola's research also focuses on the historical representations of Africana performative phenomena, particularly the performance of ritual, and other non-theatrical depictions of performance in Africana life.
Dr. Abiola has written the monograph, History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional Mandinka Dance, (Routledge, 2018), and published a short-form documentary as a visual companion to it titled, History Dances: African Dance Systems as Methodologies. Dr. Abiola has also written an introductory textbook for undergraduate students in her Dance History courses, Historical Perspectives on Dance in Africa (Intelligentsia Press, 2019). She is currently working on a second book project, Fire Under My Feet: History, Culture, & Identity in African Diaspora Dance. Dr. Abiola presented her research in and directed other short-form documentaries as well. For example, Dr. Abiola's documentary, Grave Revelations, exposes viewers to the myriad instances of Africanisms in the performance of 19th century African American funerary rituals in a recently discovered burial ground in Washington, DC. She also founded and published the peer-reviewed digital journal, Evoke: A Historical, Theoretical, and Cultural Analysis of Africana Dance and Theatre, to provide a venue for scholarship on African, and African Diaspora dance, theatre, and film.
During her summer tenure as Archivist for the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Professor Abiola established their first archival system. She has received number awards. Dr. Abiola is a Fulbright awardee, A Frederick Douglass Doctoral Fellow, A U.S. Department of State Critical Language awardee, a George H. Bennet Fellow, and a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) Master Folk Artist. She also received an Outstanding Assistant Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Award, at Howard University, and an Outstanding Student Advisement Award, from the Office of Research Development, Howard University.
Dr. Abiola was invited to Recife, Brazil, by the U.S. State Department to mount her African dance ballet, RITES, which is to be performed by 5 dance artists in the Dance program at Howard. She was also asked to be a speaker in the International Cultural Summit in Brazil, hosted by a joint venture of the U.S. Consulate in Brazil and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, to facilitate the launch of the Smithsonian's first International Engagement Program.
She was featured on ABC's Good Morning Washington, in the Afro-American Newspaper, and on the American Historical Association's (AHA) Perspectives on History as a Spotlight Scholar (AHA is the oldest and most prestigious academic historical association).
Dr. Abiola proposed, organized, and serves as Artistic Director of The annual conference, Nankama African Dance Conference at Howard University.
Dr. Ofosuwa Abiola has received numerous grant awards, including a $99,948 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to establish an Africana Theatre and Dance Collection in Howard University's historic Founder's Library. (For more information click the "NEH" tab in the top banner of this page).
Currently, Dr. Abiola teaches dance history and research courses in the Department of Theatre Arts
Dr. Abiola is also a choreographer. She specializes in African dance ballets. Prior to her academic career, Dr. Abiola founded the traditional African dance company, Suwabi African Ballet, in Newport News, VA. She served as Artistic Director for 15 years until she relocated to Washington, DC to peruse her Ph.D. in History from Howard University. During her tenure as Artistic Director, in addition to hundreds of performances, Dr. Abiola researched, wrote, directed, choreographed, and produced historical African dance ballets including: The Dismal Swamp; Wasalunke and the Three Virtues; The Voices of Shu; Waters of Despair, Waters of Hope; Africa: A Song of Me; and Imhotep. She also set the choreography for numerous musicals including: Once on this Island; The Outliers; Rainbow Park; The Outliers II and The Wiz. In addition, Dr. Abiola has produced, choreographed, and directed, countless African dance Kwanzaa concerts.
As a solo artist, Dr. Abiola has performed nationally and internationally. Although she was also trained in classical ballet, modern, jazz, and tap dance styles, she specialized in traditional African dance. Professor Abiola's performance venues include, the S.S. Rotterdam Cruise Ship, where she toured and performed in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and Bermuda. She toured and performed with the Gambian dance troupe, Corichow Dance Company, at countless venues in Kololi, Serrekunda, and Banjul, in the Gambia, West Africa. In the United States, her performance and presentation venues include, the National Folk Arts Festival, Arena Stage, America's 400th Anniversary (Jamestown, VA), the Spirit of Norfolk Cruise Ship, the Hampton Coliseum, on and off Broadway venues, and numerous other national and local venues.
Dr. Abiola served as Artist-in-Residence at the historic Attucks Theatre, America's second oldest historically Black Theatre, and at the Governor’s School for the Arts, the premier arts program for gifted students in Virginia. She has worked as Director at an abundance of dance and theater companies including the Attucks Theatre’s CampRize!, Stage Norfolk, and the Theatre of African Cultural Arts (NY). Dr. Abiola has been commissioned to set African dance ballets for the historic Chrysler Museum, the Mariner’s Museum, The Peninsula Fine Arts Museum, and on innumerable dance and theater companies, schools and universities throughout the U.S. and in Africa. Dr. Ofosuwa Abiola received an award for “Artistic Excellence” from the Southeastern Virginia Arts Association (SeVAA), and various grants from the Hampton Arts Council, the Newport News Arts Council, The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, The Peninsula Fine Arts Center, The Links, and Friends of the Arts, Inc. Dr. Abiola is featured as a Master Teacher in the book, In Good Keeping: Virginia’s Folklife Apprenticeships, and she was consistently featured on radio and TV broadcast stations including PBS, NBC, CBS, and WHRO.
Dr. Abiola also teaches African Dance technique courses at Howard University.
Dr. Ofosuwa M. Abiola founded the African dance company Suwabi African Ballet. She served as the company's Artistic Director for 15 years.