An exploration of the connection between culture and history comes to audiences this month as “AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange” season 15 presents its penultimate episode, “The Sound of Masks.”
Directed by Sara CF de Gouveia, The Sound of Masks brings viewers into the world of Mapiko, a traditional masked dance performed by men of the Makonde people in Northern Mozambique. The film follows dancer Atanásio Cosme Nyusi, a legendary Mapiko dancer, who takes viewers on a journey into the history of Mapiko — and through that history tells the story of Mozambique, the fight against colonialism, the nation’s long civil war and a contemporary era where many citizens are still in search of a modern identity for themselves and the country.
A visually stunning dance performed with beautiful, sometimes startling masks, Mapiko is an art form combining tradition, music, movement and theatrics brought to life by the dancer and his character personified by the handmade mask worn during the performance. Renowned throughout his community as one of the all-time greatest Mapiko dancers, Nyusi — while still performing — wonders how the tradition and customs of Mapiko will survive. As younger generations, including his own son Natepo, take less interest in preserving knowledge of the dance, what will the future hold for this art form that preserves so much of their communal history?
An unparalleled dancing talent and a gifted storyteller, Nyusi’s reflections on his own life, his connection to his ancestors through Mapiko and his quest to keep the dance alive, present larger ruminations on art, tradition, mortality and generational ties. A powerful and moving examination of history and heritage in Mozambique, The Sound of Masks also serves as a beautiful homage to the artistic legacy of Nyusi who passed away in 2022.
“The Sound of Masks is a visual meditation on the nature of memory in postcolonial societies ravaged by conflict, and a nonlinear biopic of a remarkable, if little-known, artist,” said Paolo Israel of Africa is a Country.
“The Sound of Masks is a wicked cool arts doc about the power of dance,” wrote Pat Mullen of POV Magazine.
The Sound of Masks by Sara CF de Gouveia can be streamed for free as part of the 15th season of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange on worldchannel.org, WORLD’s YouTube Channel, Black Public Media’s YouTube Channel, PBS.org and the PBS app.
The film had its U.S. national broadcast premiere on Monday, April 24, at 8 p.m. Eastern (7 p.m. Central) on WORLD Channel as episode three of “AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange.” Stream “The Sound of Masks” by copying and pasting the following link: https://worldchannel.org/episode/the-sound-of-masks/
“AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange” is the documentary series from Black Public Media and WORLD Channel dedicated to bringing true stories from across the African Diaspora to American audiences. Other films this season include Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters by Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz; Queen Kidjo by Clair Duguet; Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts by Jeffrey Wolf and Rewind & Play from Alain Gomis. AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is distributed and co-presented by American Public Television (APT).
For more on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange, visit worldchannel.org or blackpublicmedia.org.
Victor Trammell is a digital media producer, freelance journalist, editor, and author. He was formerly a Chief Contributor at the Black Then History Network and Your Black World News. Mr. Trammell is also a media holdings investor (Creatd Inc.) and previously wrote content for the Michael Baisden Show, a nationally syndicated radio program.