Photo Courtesy of Aquila

Axam performing scarf Mojah.

Gyasi Franklin, Staff Writer

Axam’s first dance company (All Photos Courtesy of Aquila).

Mojah is a dance form created by my grandmother, Terrie Ajile Axam. “Mojah” means “one” in Swahili. My grandmother created the dance form in the 1970s; Mojah mixes ballet, modern, West African, jazz, and Hip Hop. While attending Princeton University, Axam started choreographing with a group of dancers. While choreographing, she discovered a mixture of modern and African dance. “It was so different that people would say, ‘oh, that’s not modern, that’s not African’, and no it wasn’t modern and it wasn’t modern, but it was a lot of me,” said Axam. She developed the form throughout the years, adding to the theatrical experience of mojah.

Axam started dancing at three years old, first learning Latin dance from her mother. From then on, she trained in a dance studio at four for baile. As a teenager, she started to do modern dance and create her own choreography. She eventually came to find herself and her personality within her dance. For almost 50 years now, Axam has experimented with her creation, to perfect it and pass it down. While Axam is talented, no person is an Island; when performing, Terrie was supported by African Drummers and pupils she had taught.

Axam is now a seasoned woman unable to perform with the same fervor she did early in her career. Based on this principle, I inquired about her legacy and her thoughts on the matter. Specifically, a successor and answered her daughter Kikora. “I would say that, for the most part, if I said that to her I don’t know how she would respond, but in spirit, I think it’s naturally happening,” Axam.

Although she cannot dance as she used to, the beauty of Mojah is still displayed every year during the Mojah Fusion Dance Festival.

Kikora Franklin, the proclaimed successor to Mojah and creator of Roots of Life, also had some insights into the dance form, “I did not foresee myself necessarily being the successor. When I started teaching at Penn State, one of things my director talked to me about was having something to focus all my work on. So I started to talk to him about this technique that my mother had created and he said, ‘I think you should continue that’ and from his advice, I continued to explore mojah and have been able to travel the entire world.”

Throughout the interview Franklin expresses a lot of endearment and gratitude towards her mother not just for her personhood but the legacy my grandmother bestowed upon her. “A lot of the work that I do intentionally continues and expands on the work that was started by your grandmother,” Franklin said, “Mojah is a dance form that is comprised of other dance forms.”

Across the board, Mojah is described as a fusion of various forms of movement. For many students, Mojah has been a medium for expressing a typical pattern among Axam’s disciples. Franklin especially has been able to express herself through the form due to the foundation her mother created for her. I have personal accounts of persons admitting that her dance drew tears from their eyes. Mojah is a beautiful application of art and dance and shows the genius behind the one who created it.