Dr. Ofosuwa M. Abiola is the inaugural Associate Dean of Research and Creative Endeavors and Associate Professor of Africana Dance History, in the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts at Howard University. Abiola received her PhD in African History from Howard University with a specialization in the history of African and African Diaspora (Africana) dance and culture. Abiola's research interests include the history of traditional dance in Africa; research paradigms in Africana dance history; the history of the African dance aesthetic; and the intersection of history, dance, identity and activism. Her research also seeks to underscore Africana dance narratives and their capacity to immerse all who engage them in the worldview of peoples of African descent, and their global collective experiences.
Abiola's latest publication is titled, Afrikinesis: A Paradigm for Research on African and African Diaspora Dance. Additional publications include, Fire Under My Feet: History, Race & Agency in African Diaspora Dance; History Dances: Chronicling the History of Traditional Mandinka Dance; a short-form documentary visual companion to it titled, History Dances: African Dance Systems as Methodologies; and an introductory textbook for undergraduate students, Historical Perspectives on Dance in Africa. Other book projects are works in progress and include, Unwitting Witnesses: Unearthing Narratives of African Dance in Pre-Colonial Logs and Voiceless Shouts: Danced Conversations on Women, Identity, and Activism in Africa and her Diaspora. Abiola founded the peer-reviewed digital journal, Evoke: A Historical, Theoretical, and Cultural Analysis of Africana Dance and Theatre. Evoke has a global readership and attracted nearly one thousand readers within the first year of publication.
Abiola received numerous grants, awards and fellowships from national and international institutions including: the Outstanding Dance Education Researcher Award from the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), the Mary Ellen Multi-Country Research Award, the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (NEH), the Council of American Overseas Research Centers Fellowship (CAORC), Department of Education grant, U.S. Department of State grant, Howard University’s Deans Cabinet Award, the Outstanding Student Advisement Award (HU Office of Research Development), Howard University Research Grant, an Outstanding Assistant Professor Award and the George H. Bennett Fellowship, among others. In addition to the NEH fellowship, Abiola was also awarded a grant from NEH to establish an Africana Theatre and Dance Collection in Howard University's historic Founder's Library. During her summer tenure as Archivist for the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Abiola established their first archival system.
Abiola was invited to Recife, Brazil, by the U.S. State Department to mount her African dance ballet, RITES, and 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, DC, 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 among others.
Dr. Abiola founded and served as Director of the international conference, The Nankama African Dance Conference, where participants and presenters from Africa, the African Diaspora, the US, and representatives from the US State Department attended.
Dr. Abiola founded the African dance company Suwabi African Ballet. She served as the company's Artistic Director for 15 years.
Prior to her academic career, Abiola choreographed and performed. She specialized in African dance ballets. 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. Abiola set the choreography for numerous musicals including: Once on this Island; The Outliers; Rainbow Park; The Outliers II and The Wiz. In addition, Abiola produced, choreographed, and directed, countless African dance Kwanzaa concerts. Her artistic awards include: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) Master Folk Artist Award, SeVAA Excellence in the Arts Award, VMEA Outstanding Contribution to Music Award, among others.
For 20 years before she founded of her dance company, Abiola performed nationally and internationally. Although she was also trained in classical ballet, modern, jazz, and tap dance styles, she specialized in traditional African dance. 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.
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 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). She was commissioned to set African dance ballets for the historic Chrysler Museum, the Mariner’s Museum, The Peninsula Fine Arts Museum, and on dance and theater companies, schools and universities throughout the U.S. and in Africa. Abiola received a number of 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, among others. 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.