The Collective of Black Artists (COBA) was founded February, of 1993 by Junia Mason, Mosa Neshama (formerly Kim McNeilly), Charmaine Headley, & BaKari I. Lindsay (formerly Eddison B. Lindsay) four dancers of African decent passionate to fill a void on Toronto's arts scene by constructing a platform for artistic expression that reflected the physical and social realities of the Africa & the diaspora world wide..
COBA soon began collaborating with both Ontario and New York State education boards to launch, NIA - Education in Action, the company's first school touring with an African History theme offering students an artistic view of African history & heritage. The programme included Portrait (choreographed by Lindsay), a female trio set to the music of Nina Simone, which takes a stark look at race, colour & the human condition, along with a suite of West African dances entitled Jambalaya (also by Lindsay). In the summer of 1993, the company presented this selection in its first public performance at the Festival in the Square produced by DanceWorks.
1994 brought many changes for the company as Neshema eventually separated from the Collective to pursue more solo creative work; Mason remained with the collective on & off throughout the years until 2006. The Collective Presented its 1st Season entitled "SARACA", named after the programme's closing work. Another of Lindsay's pieces which pays ode to the thanksgiving rights, rhythms, & songs practiced by the surviving slaves in primarily Trinidad & Grenada.
For the past 25 years, under Headley and Lindsay's continued leadership, the company has been a driving force in Canada's dance landscape in the creation & production of work that reflect Africanist social themes & perspectives, bringing a unique mixture of storytelling, music, theatre, multi-media & dance to audiences across the globe. The Company has toured extensively performing, collaborating, remounting original works & holding workshops across Canada & countries such as Jamaica, The United States, & the UK.
Some of the Company's more well acclaimed works include SARACA, Primal Fête, Bodika, Griot's, Jive, M'bayan, Les Rythmes de La Forêts, & Doun Doun Dance to name a few. The Collective has also worked with multiple world-renowned artists including: Canadian African contemporary dance pioneer Zab Maboungou, American West African dance pioneer Linda Faye-Johnson, percussion virtuoso Babatunde Olatunji, Haitian dancer / choreographer Jeanguy Saintus, Senegalese Griot Alassane Sarr, American West African Dance legend Sis Robin Hibbert (New York) & internationally acclaimed South African soloist Vincent Mantsoe.
In the year 2018, due to the company's financial strain, Headley & Lindsay decided to put the performance company on a temporary hiatus and focus their attentions on improving a thriving Children's Dance & Drum program until a time where the company could once again grace the stage. In early 2019 the duo agreed to welcome in long time company Drummer/Dancer/Teacher/Choreographer N'deré Adeifa as the new Artistic Director of the Children's program. By designing an all curriculum that combines the spirit of mission of the original founder & revolutionized approach of a , "newskool" staff that aim to bring COBA into the next 25 years of its rich history.
The newly dubbed COBA Performance Institute (CPI), is dedicated to the Nurturing, Development, and Refinement of young dancers ages 3 and up, into young professionals. We pride ourselves in preserving & presenting the highest level of dance & music genres that reflect and celebrate an Africanist Aesthetic. Our future planning includes working towards having a performance Company again & building our new CPI program into a sustainable one that WILL one day be a full time Afri-centric School where students may learn all testable subjects, as well as sports, arts & culture at the highest level, Grades K-12 & Beyond.