“Mama” Kadiatou Conte-Forte, Artistic Director
Mama Kadiatou-Conte is currently the Artistic Director of Balafon West African Dance Ensemble which is comprised of many of her students and colleagues from her years of teaching. Kadiatou is a consummate teacher and motivator, she believes that dance makes one stronger physically and mentally and is a source of healing and balance in one’s life. Her belief in God and prayer has allowed her to touch the lives of many people of all nationalities and walks of life!
As a young girl born in Conakry, Guinea West Africa in 1955, Kadiatou Conte loved to dance and sing. In 1970 she was selected to join Les Ballet Africaines, the national dance company of Guinea. She became one of the premiere dancers in Les Ballet Africaines and Ballet Djoliba. From 1970 to 1985 she traveled and performed around the world for heads of state and sold out audiences in Moscow, France, Belgium, England, Brazil, Spain, Japan, Australia, the United States and nearly every country in Africa. As a performer she served as a cultural ambassador for Guinea. While on tour in the United States she fell in love with the people of the U.S., especially the African-American community. She left the United States hoping to return one day to teach, young and old alike, the culture of her country.
In 1985 Kadiatou returned to the United States, coming to Washington, DC to fulfill her dream. Kadiatou, affectionately known as Mama Kadiatou, has become a major force in the African Arts community serving as bridge between the Guinean and the Washington, DC community. She has worked as guest artist/choreographer with the following companies: Melvin Deal and the African Heritage Dancers and Drummer, Kankouran, Djeli Djimo Kouyate and Memory of African Culture, Wo’se African Dance Ensemble, Andrew Cacho Drummers and Dancers and also with the legendary women’s group Sweet Honey in the Rock!
Kadiatou has taught African Dance and Culture at: Howard University , The George Washington University, The University of Maryland, Duke Ellington School of Performing Arts, Model Secondary School for the Deaf at Gallaudet College, Carnegie MellonUniversity as well as youth at The Neighborhood Academy and public and private elementary schools throughout the region. Kadiatou currently teaches a range of programming to enthusiastic students in Pittsburgh, PA.