651 ARTS created Africa Exchange in 1995 after being selected by the Ford Foundation to participate in their new Internationalizing New Work in the Performing Arts program. This was a major acknowledgment that 651 ARTS had established itself as one of the leading U.S. arts organizations dedicated to international exchange.
Africa Exchange began with a core group of presenters and administrators who sought to facilitate opportunities for performing artists in the U.S., Africa, and those living elsewhere of African descent, to identify funding possibilities, build residencies and provide opportunities and tools for contemporary performing artists in Africa to collaborate with their counterparts in United States.
As the program evolved over the years, 651 ARTS broadened the mission of Africa Exchange to include full-scale presentations of contemporary African work on American stages, and a larger focus on humanities engagement between African performers and American audiences.
Since 2005, Africa Exchange has turned its focus to East Africa, creating long term networks and relationships with performing artists in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda, and supporting recent residencies in Africa for U.S.-based artists such as hip-hip performer Rha Goddess (Rwanda), and choreographers Nora Chipaumire, Christalyn Wright, and Reggie Wilson (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda).
Africa Exchange has been involved in many African countries, including: Angola, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
Jessica Lynne and DéLana R.A. Dameron reflect on ways they make a home, creatively, wherever they are.