THEY ARE WE

CANADIAN PREMIERE OF “THEY ARE WE”

Island of Music is proudly screening the Canadian première of “They Are We”, the poignant story of the first Afro-Cubans who successfully traced their origins and made direct contact with the people of their ancestral African village.

(Cuba/Sierra Leone/Australia 2013)
In Spanish & English, with English subtitles. 78 mins
Director: Emma Christopher

For Screening Schedule Click here

THEY ARE WE is the story of a remarkable reunion, 170 or so years after a family was driven apart by the ravages of the transatlantic slave trade.

In Central Cuba, proud members of the Gangá-Longobá, a small Afro-Cuban ethnic group, have kept their unique heritage alive. Incredibly, through decades of brutal enslavement, independence wars, and then the denying of all religions after the revolution, they have retained a collection of distinct songs and dances that one of their ancestors brought from Africa as a slave. Each December 17th they still perform them at the San Lazaro ceremony.

After a chance discovery while working in West Africa, director Emma Christopher spent two years showing a film of the Gangá-Longobá songs and dances to several thousand people across Sierra Leone. Eventually, in an isolated village with no road access, one man looked at another in joy and wonder as he watched a recording of the Gangá-Longobá songs and said, “THEY ARE WE!” Then the villagers joined in with others of the Gangá-Longobá songs, still recognizing them clearly despite all the years of separation.

Returning to Cuba, Emma showed her findings to the Gangá-Longobá. “We are not so alone anymore”, said one of their number, woodcarver and artist Alfredo Duquesne. Later he would say that knowing where he came from “is divine.”

In early 2013, after the law changed allowing them to freely leave Cuba, a trip was at last made to visit Sierra Leone. It turned into a remarkable celebration, a rare recognition of the tenacity and resolve of one young girl who once made the awful journey from Africa to Cuba, but never let her memories of home die.

THEY ARE WE tells the story of the Gangá-Longobá and of the village their ancestor called home. It is the story of how, just very occasionally, a family separated by the slave trade can reunite for the good of all.