LEAF International | NOLA with Chief Shaka Zulu
Located in Congo Square, New Orleans | Founded 2016 | 20 youth ages 10-18 served
Why New Orleans? For years, Chief Shaka Zulu, has been a LEAF Collaborator, ally and close friend. He has collaborated to help launch LEAF International programs in Haiti and Tanzania, been a strong support in connecting local LEAF Schools & Streets youth to the larger black Diaspora experience as expressed in New Orleans, and been a shaker and mover in the revival and honoring of traditional black Diaspora culture in the United States. The culture of New Orleans is geographically part of the United States, yet in heritage, identity and history, New Orleans is unique and distinct from the larger American cultural experience. Their culture is a dynamic expression of the collision and collaboration between the indigenous people of Louisiana and the first escaped African captives on the American continent. As such, we at LEAF International, and our partner Burial Beer Company assert that this program should be seen as international in its inherent distinction from ‘American culture.’
“The more you learn about culture and differences, the more peace you will bring into the world”
– Chief Shaka Zulu
See the Program in Action
At LEAF, we recognize and celebrate New Orleans culture as one of the most vibrant living cultures in the world and especially in our country. Over the past 17 years, Shaka & Na’imah Zulu have performed at LEAF Festivals, teaching native traditions with LEAF Schools & Streets residencies. Additionally, they have gone to Tanzania and Haiti to start four LEAF International programs across the globe. This journey comes full circle. We recognize this global cultural treasure in our midst and support Shaka Zulu who is now leading his community in cultural preservation. As Shaka says,
“New Orleans is another country and it is critical at this point in history for this rich tradition to be passed forward from the culture keepers to the youth.”
LEAF has witnessed Shaka’s practice of quintessential African folk rituals and his preservation methods of traditional indigenous art forms. It is this tradition that will be taught to program participants, to ensure the longevity of New Orleans culture for upcoming generations.
Through the project students are empowered by:
- Cultural Traditions passed on verbally
- Chants, drumming, stilt walking, and tambourine
- Visualizing, designing, and sewing skills
- Increased self esteem
- Awareness of cultural traditions
- Leadership skills
Meet the Culture Keeper
Since 1986, Chief Shaka Zulu has performed across the United States and Europe as a featured solo stiltdancer as well as with his company, Zulu Connection. Chief Shaka is also the founder and director of the International School of Stiltdancing. Chief Shaka Zulu spellbounds his audiences with his colorful and elaborate costumes, tremendous heights, extraordinary acrobatics and magnificent dance moves. He is a master of instruments of the African Diaspora i.e., the djun-jun, djembe, congas, m’balafon, shakare, talking and sabar drums. Most recently, Shaka was a featured performer at the International Cultural and Tourism Festival in Beijing China. In the same year, Shaka also performed as a percussionist at the Gronau Jazz Festival in Gronau, Germany and also the Netherlands Jazz Festival in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In the United States, Shaka trains students in stilt dancing while also teaching the origin and history of the ancient African art form of stilt dancing.
In addition to stilt dancing, Chief Shaka Zulu has exhibited his suits both nationally and internationally at museums and festivals. In 2015 his New Suit was featured in Berlin, Germany at Sounds of the City, an exhibit featuring the culture of New Orleans. Most recently his suit, “Shango” will be on exhibit in The Netherlands at the Africa Museum in November 2017.
Now co-owner of Golden Feather Restaurant & Gallery, he runs one of the most unique establishments in the city, a specialty dining experience featuring foods of Congo Square, beautiful framed art and stunning hand crafted suits. Chief Shaka Zulu lectures on the history of Africans in New Orleans at Golden Feather. Additionally Shaka is co-producer of the touring production, New Orleans Voices of Congo Square, a vibrant historical narrative of New Orleans Magical music, colorful dance and mysterious culture.
“Sharing the experience of the kids learning from some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world while we were in New Orleans was inspiring and surreal. To be a part of making that experience happen is why we partnered with LEAF International. Culture is experience, it is community and it is people. Together that is all very powerful but without an organization like LEAF connecting the dots for younger people, it can get lost in translation. Seeing those dots connected first hand in New Orleans, only solidified in my mind, the great work LEAF is doing for our community and communities around the world.”
– Jess Reiser, Burial Beer Co.
January: First Cultural Immersion Exhibit installation – Black Masking history: Shaka set the bar high for future LI culture keepers curating this LEAF Global space.
From music instruments to child sponsorships, our people-centered programs depend on generous givers like you to grow and thrive. Donate today! 100% of your gift goes directly to support music and arts education programs in the country of your choosing.