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Meet Musau Dibinga of OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center in Jamaica Plain

Today we’d like to introduce you to Musau Dibinga.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Musau. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born in the Central African Republic of Bangui and emigrated to the U.S. with my parents and older brother in the early 70s. I’m also the second oldest of nine children. My siblings and I had a tough time assimilating in to western culture and found it very hard to make friends. We were constantly bullied and made to feel less than. Thankfully, my parents always instilled in us that we are the descendants of African Kings and Queens and to treat our African culture like gold. Although we tried to do that, children were still very mean to us, and life was extremely rough.

Life changed for my two sisters and I when I went to see a friend perform in her final dance recital. I was hooked immediately and wanted to get on stage and dance. Dance gave me the voice I needed to express myself and to feel like I belonged in this country. Dance gave me the self-esteem I needed to continue my education and find a way to make life better for other children who were going through similar challenges. After several years of performing with various dance companies, teachers and choreographers, my sister Shaumba-Yandje decided that she wanted to build a place where children could get involved in the performing arts, feel safe and secure, feel good about themselves and teach them how to become the best citizens that they can be within their families and their communities. That place was OrigiNation which was founded in 1994. She was the Founding Executive and Artistic Director and I became the Founding Managing Director.

Has it been a smooth road?
It was not a smooth road. It was filled with lots of twists and turns and, in some cases, ditches. One of our first challenges was trying to find a space to run our dance classes. We moved around a lot until we were approached by Roxbury Community College to become their first artists in residence. That residency gave us stability for several years and we were able to grow our program, offer more classes and increase the age range of our students.

The second common challenge of running a non-profit performing arts program always comes down to funding. We purposely charge well below market value for our classes so that youth from the underserved populations of primarily Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan can participate in the performing arts. Although we are open to children from every part of Massachusetts, we target young people in these three cities. The arts play a vital role in developing well rounded, caring and self-motivating young people. So, we are constantly looking for new and creative ways to fund our programs which we have found are desperately needed in Boston.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center story. Tell us more about the business.
OrigiNation produces innovative and dynamic performing arts programs which motivate, challenge, and inspire youth to be the best they can be. We offer quality dance, theater arts, and African history education. Special emphasis is placed on teaching young people between the ages of 2 through 18 the importance of self-respect, health, nutrition, education, self-esteem, and the extent of African influences on various contemporary art forms. We serve close to 300 young people through our on-site programs and an additional 4,500 youth through our off-site programs.

We provide youth of all levels with training in multiple dance forms (i.e. African, jazz, tap, hip hop, contemporary and modern), public speaking, and martial arts. OrigiNation also implements special initiatives to raise our students’ awareness about pertinent social issues and to facilitate their development into well-rounded, productive citizens within their families and communities. While our programs are open to all youth, we focus our efforts on providing services to young people from Boston’s underserved neighborhoods, which include Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. We facilitate several programs including the Performing Arts Program, the Professional Dance Division, Ready Set Dance Summer Intensive, Spring Dance Intensive and the Youth Empowerment Tour.

I am most proud of the work that my family and I are doing in changing the lives of the young people of our community. Our alums are touring with Paula Abdul and Demi Lovato, performing with Alvin Ailey American Theater and Ronald K. Brown/Evidence A Dance Company, becoming internationally renowned choreographers, creative directors, fashion designers, dance instructors, teachers, lawyers, doctors, social workers and more. They continue to come back to OrigiNation and share their life experiences with the future generation so that their lives can be just a little bit easier. What sets us apart from other studios is that our foundation is based on African culture and values. We use the performing arts to not only teach technique, but to build character, self-esteem, and integrity through respecting our ancestors, our elders and our families.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I see this industry growing dramatically over the next 5-10 years. Whether it is dance, music, martial arts or visual arts, there will always been a need to be able to express oneself. Furthermore, this industry brings people of all races and ethnicities together. As the world becomes more and more diverse, it is critical that we use all mediums available to be able to understand, accept, embrace, celebrate and respect each other’s differences.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 3708 Washington Street | Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
  • Website: www.originationinc.org
  • Phone: 617-522-3900
  • Email: info@originationinc.org
  • Instagram: originationarts
  • Facebook: originationarts
  • Twitter: originationarts


Image Credit:
Best Image Photography, Pamela Green, OrigiNation

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