Njinga Players

An international theater company representing four continents (Africa, America, Brazil, & Europe) formed by playwright/director Ione in 1991.

Njinga The Queen King; The Return of a Warrior is a Dance/ Theater piece written and directed by Ione with music and sound design by Pauline Oliveros. The play is the story of Njinga, the 17th century regent of Ndongo, the country that is now known as Angola. The story spans three hundred years and documents the life of an extraordinary woman who through diplomacy and fighting, kept the invading Europeans from overtaking her country during her forty year reign. Also documented is the Diaspora of Njinga's people which includes Bahia, Brazil, the Caribbean, New York City and the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia, where descendants of slaves still reside, keeping ancient memories alive in stories and rituals which include stirring chants and dances. After Njinga's death, Angola was never "free" again until the Portuguese withdrew in 1975.

The play has approximately 22 members in its international cast and technical crew. It opened to critical acclaim in December 1993 at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival Fall 1993 opening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It has been performed at Yellow Springs Institute, Pennsylvania, Kingston Urban Cultural Park, NY, Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA., Red Eye Theater, Walker Arts Center,Minneapolis, Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Damrosch Park, Folger Shakespeare Library Theater, Washington, D.C.,Publick Playhouse, Cheverly MD., and Mills College, Oakland, CA.

The Njinga Players is a group composed of selected members of the Njinga cast, who present lecture-demonstrations with video installation and live performances in schools, universities and community centers in the United States, in Brazil, in Angola and throughout the world. Audiences are introduced to innovative as well as traditional concepts of music, sound, writing, theatre and world history .

These presentations can be more or less elaborate depending upon the needs of the venue. Length of time can vary from 2 hours to an agreed upon residency. Audience participation can be simple (question and answer period) or more extensive (a workshop which can move to presentation if circumstances permit).

The Njinga Players include writer/ director Ione, capoeirista, dancer Mestre Nego Gato, (Capoeira is the energetic martial art brought to Brazil by captured Angolans who, forbidden to fight, disguised this art as dance. ). Also included are dancer Mabiba Baegne, singer and percussionist Samba Ngo, Titos Sompa, Mestre Terry Baruti, and dancer Lorraine Bowser Baruti. Composer Pauline Oliveros, who has created the sound design and music for the play is also available at selected times. Up to 30 other members may be available for more extensive work.

This educational component of the Njinga cast serves the purpose of disseminating information about African, African American, African Brazilian and Portuguese heritage to students and scholars. African Americans, Latinos and European Americans can benefit equally from an understanding of Njinga's story and exposure to the intercultural themes of which it is comprised.

Grade school and High school residencies in which The Njinga Players engage young people in enacting portions of the play, can be particularly rewarding. Young people are enrolled in the writing process and the collaborative performance process, which includes drumming, dancing, capoeira and singing, costume and set design. A holistic learning environment is created which is of lasting benefit to all the participants.

Founding members:
Pauline Oliveros
Carol Chappell
Mestre Nego Gato
Mestre Jo Grande
Emelia Biancardi
Honora Fergusson
Marie Basse Wiles
Valerie Maynard
Jennifer Fox

Co-Commissioners 1993
Yellow Springs Institute - John Clauser, Director
Walker Art Center - John Killacky, Director
Brooklyn Academy of Music - Harvey Lichtenstein, Director

Performances of Njinga the Queen King have occurred at:

Yellow Springs Institute - Chester PA 1991
Kingston Mid Town Neighborhood Center - Kingston NY 1992
Kingston Urban Cultural Park - Kingston NY 1992
Lotus Studio - New York NY 1992
Headlands Center for the Arts - Sauselito CA 1993
Gulbenkian Foundation - Lisbon Portugal 1993
Willow Place Theater S.E.M. - Brooklyn NY 1993
Red Eye Collaboration, Walker Art Center - Minneapolis MN - 1993
Attic Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music Brooklyn NY 1993
Majestic Theater, Next Wave Festival, BAM, Brooklyn NY 1993
Mountain View Studio - Woodstock NY 1994
Lincoln Center Out of Doors - New York NY 1995
Folger Shakespear Library, Elizabethan Theater - Washington DC 1996
Rio de Janeiro Brazil 1996
Prince George Publick Playhouse - Cheverly MD 1997
Deep Listening Space - Kingston NY 1998
Mills College Oakland CA 1998