Kelly Anthony

Shared by Kelly Anthony on October 6, 2018

I met Nii at Indiana University, as well.  Nii's spirit touched the lives of so many people and we still carry his spirit with us today.  When he walked into a room, he would bring the sunshine with him.  When a smile appeared on his face, it would light up the room.  These memories of him stay with you so vividly.  He was so rich in spirit and he freely gave his spirit when he engaged with each individual. He consistently brought out the best in others across the globe, which is one of the greatest contributions a human being can make in our world. Thank you for pushing us to achieve a higher level of intensity in our dance performance.  Thank you for seeing in others a greater version of themselves and pushing to bring that to the surface.  Thank you for being such a gift to so many people. 

Shared by Gameli Tordzro on January 15, 2016

Many years ago, Nii approached me with an invitation to work with him in the National Dance Company, but my ambition at the time was to continue studying and my target was to study film directing. After I completed NAFTI and was freelancing as a multi-arts practitioner he asked me again to work with him on a new project - Noyam. I was really excited by that but could not free up the time to get involved. The fact is I knew if to work together with Nii, it had to be with full commitment and even thought I already had many budding projects of my own and could not get involved with Noyam, I never stopped planning to collaborate with Nii. Finally in 2015 this dream came to pass with Nii bringing three young people here to Scotland on the Vessels International Exchange Project. I was also thrilled to introduce him to Researching Multilingually at the Borders project at the University of Glasgow. Now, we had this collaboration we have both waited for going and getting ready to progress it this year. We shared many precious moments in Glasgow and Greenock and on the long Emirates flight back to Accra. It was not difficult for Nii and my research colleagues who came on the trip to Ghana with me to become engrossed in deep intellectual conversations. My friend Tawona who thrives on conversations had found a new friend and many times we departed with Nii saying “… to be continued” in fact, those were the very last words he said to me; “… to be continued”. Now I have a deep understanding why he said that several times to me, and I am not sure but I suspect to many others; “… to be continued” He has left a big legacy; he enriched many of us; he touched lives; he has inspired many; he was kind; he asked a lot of us because he gave a lot of himself; and I have witnessed the passion with which he gave of himself over many years! This is not easily understood by some people. But this is the case when a person’s life and contribution to society is larger than life they are not totally understood by all.

Today, with the warm scarf I got as a gift from Nii when we worked together last August in Greenock, I join many people across the world to celebrate the ‘larger-than-life’ and treasured memories of my dear friend, brother and colleague, Prof Francis Nii Yartey. I had this wrapped around my neck in the cold November morning in Copenhagen when I heard the devastating news of his passing! He has enriched many of us with his life, his work and wisdom. He has touched many hearts with his love and compassion beyond understanding. But in our lives and in what we do we will continue to share his gift.

This is what he kept drawing my attention to when he was here in Scotland and when we were together in Ghana when he kept saying “… to be continued”

Nii de nyuie,

Yatey ne yi blewuu!

Kuwode kple kutome

Gazu nunyuiawode!

Hena mie kodzogbeawo

Gazu kloloe!

Gameli Tordzro

Nii Yartey as an Open Spirit

Shared by Halifu Osumare on January 10, 2016

F. Nii Yartey was a man of Ghanaian culture, but a spirit of the world. This photo was at Ohio University's African Performance Conference in 2006, in which we both presented our research. I have known him since I first went to Ghana in 1976 as a student of African dance, the year he first became the Director of the Ghana Dance Ensemble.  He was always welcoming and sharing with me about Ghanaian dance and his unique artistic vision.  

Then in 2008 during my Fulbright Fellowship, teaching in the Department of Dance Studies and researching the hiplife music movement in Ghana, I interviewed him about his career and his focus on Contemporary African Dance.  His thoughts and visions will be captured in my forthcoming book Dancing in Blackness: A Scholarly Memoir, where l have many quotes from him put in the context of his artistic contributions to African choreography in my chapter, "Dancing in Africa."  

Nii Yartey was a beautiful and giving man who will always be remembered for his open spirit. 

May His Spirit Continue to Dance,

Halifu Osumare, Ph.D. 

Hero of The Dancing Hearts

Shared by Sebastian Adama on January 7, 2016

Any heart that can move to any beat has your signature on it. You made us, your students, love the art of dance. We those who have passed through you can still feel your angelic touch in the dance hall of the SPA. Daddy school will reopen and we will be waiting to see you on the dance floor shaping our movements with your broad smiles. Your foot prints will forever remain in our hears because you are our hero of the dancing hearts We, your student, from the Northern part of Ghana thank you for the role you have plaid in bringing our culture to the lime light. Rest in perfect pease Daddy. Naawuni malin ting ka a doni!!!

Shared by Amy Appiah on December 30, 2015

I knew Prof when I begun my artistic career years ago.  Throughout the years he gave me several pieces of advise including a stern warning “not to leave the arts”.  That was back when I moved to the US and I inadvertently declared to him that I was looking at changing careers. I am glad I followed his advise and continued my career in the arts where my heart belonged instead of going to work in an area for money.
Recently I had the fortune of having him serve as my board chairman.  I still remember our last meeting with officials from the State Enterprises Commission regarding  our performance contract .The passion with which Prof talked about our work in the previous year still reverberated in the room when we went back this year. As one of the officers said later "your board chair exhibits his passion for the arts.  I now know the that “the arts is the soul  of a people"   This individual now attends arts events at the Theatre  on a regular basis. I am very sure there are many more that have been touched by Prof and his works.
This is  the one time  I wish I had gotten over my dislike of taking pictures because it would have been nice to have one of the two of us together.
Adieu Prof Francis Nii Yartey.  May God be with you till we meet again 

Shared by Sharon Friedler on December 26, 2015

A Tribute for Professor F. Nii Yartey, friend and colleague


I first met Professor F. Nii Yartey on the streets of Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire during the 1997 MASA festival.  Alight with the famous incandescent energy that was his trademark, Nii offered a quick and warm greeting before rushing off to his next performance obligation.  As our friendship and knowledge of one another as colleagues grew, his dashing about and the wide smile that generally accompanied it became familiar and cherished.  They always indicated to me that Nii was off to create what he called ‘Magic’, choreographing for dancers from Ghana and around the globe in an effort to spread messages of peace and understanding.  Indeed, when he left us, he was in the midst of this very work.  Now it is our duty and honor to carry his legacy forward.


While others can speak with more familiarity about his legacy in Ghana and on the Continent, it is my privilege to reflect on the importance of Nii’s work in the United States, specifically in the Philadelphia area. Here he made important contributions through his teaching, lecturing, and choreographing at Swarthmore College, Temple University, and The University of the Arts.  He first visited the region in January 2005 as the honored guest choreographer, teacher, and scholar for "Dances of Our Ancestors," a weeklong festival hosted by the Dance Program at Swarthmore in partnership with Temple University Dance Department.*  Professor Yartey also served as a visiting faculty member at Keene State College in New Hampshire in 2010-11 and was a visiting scholar twice for festivals at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  Professor Yartey’s scholarly writings in journals and book chapters were also significant contributions to the growing discourse on contemporary African dance both on the Continent and in the Diaspora.  Recently, his chapter entitled “Principles of African choreography: Some perspectives from Ghana” was included in the book Contemporary choreography: A critical reader.


During the 2006-07 academic year he was Swarthmore College’s distinguished Julien and Virginia Cornell Visiting Professor, teaching classes in African dance repertory and technique, participating in concerts and lecturing both formally and informally in the Dance and Music Department as well as for courses in Black Studies and Religion at the College.  He is remembered fondly for his collaborations with faculty, students, and staff members.  The dance theatre works he choreographed at Swarthmore College and in Philadelphia (at Temple University and for the University of the Arts) introduced Ghanaian contemporary dance practices to many performers and audiences.  His works, such as Sochenda restaged for Philadelphia’s renowned African dance-based Kariamu and Company-Traditions, were framed within a larger effort to honor varying perspectives and foster fruitful conversations among practitioners of different dance styles. As a choreographer, he consistently posed significant questions about histories and our responsibilities toward one another. Nii thought of us as global citizens tasked with the care of our earth and its peoples as was demonstrated in his Images of Conflict co-choreographed with Germaine Acogny from Benin/Senegal.  His dances also directed us to learn from past practice, both positive and negative, as can be clearly seen in Musu: saga of the slaves co-choreographed with Monty Thompson of the Virgin Islands.  Through these and other examples Nii urged us to set productive and cooperative artistic agendas for our common future.


In relation to that future, Professor Yartey was tireless in his work as a senior faculty member at the Univ. of Ghana-Legon.  There he welcomed many students from Swarthmore College and other US educational institutions who studied dance and music at the University of Ghana during semester abroad terms.  He advised them regarding classes, arranged for them to work with master tutors in traditional dance and music, hosted them at various performances on campus, at the National Theatre, in villages, and also welcomed them to his family home. In 2009 through Professor Yartey’s assistance, one Swarthmore Lang student scholar helped launch the Bohee tye and dye cooperative for women at Noyam African Dance Institute.  This Institute, established by Professor Yartey in Dodowa, Ghana in 1998, promotes the perception of dance and allied arts as contributors to the socio-economic development of Africa.  Fabric from that cooperative continues to be used by participants in the African dance classes at Swarthmore College as well as by children at Swarthmore Rutledge School in collaboration with programs of Dunya Performing Arts under the direction of Jeannine Osayande.  Nii’s generosity was not limited to student visitors.  He was deeply involved in making connections for faculty and staff visitors from a variety of disciplines with appropriate counterpart colleagues, unfailing in his efforts to forward increased exchange between institutions.


It was my honor to have known and worked with Nii Yartey as colleague and dear friend.  His generosity and the inspiration and light of his work and being will continue to be present among us always. Nii was constantly on the move building community, from studio, to lecture halls and stages as well as from country to country.  He dances still, both in our hearts and with the ancestors.  His memory is our blessing; he continues to lead and we can follow his example by advocating through dance for tolerance, understanding, and joy.


Sharon E. Friedler

Professor of Dance

Swarthmore College


* The Dances of Our Ancestors festival was funded in part through a generous grant administered by Dance Advance with funding provided by the PEW Charitable Trusts




A Reflection

Shared by Iris Rosa on December 26, 2015

It was 1991 when I met Francis Nii Yartey.  We were artists that were introduced through an exchange program through Indiana University.  I did not know him and knew less about Ghanaian dance, but I was looking forward to learning and broadening my own way of looking at the dance discipline.  He spent six weeks working with me and the African American Dance Company.  We spent so much time in the studio and talking about dance, culture, our families, the academy, food, and more dance.  I took him home to Indianapolis where I cooked Puerto Rican food.  That is where we really clicked!  He met Tony, my husband, and Andre and Claudia our children.  We became a spiritually connected family.  After his six weeks working at I.U., it was my turn to spend six weeks in Ghana!  Without a blink of an eye, I told my family to pack up and get ready for six weeks out of the U.S.!  Well, my in-laws were worried, but we managed to calm them down and we left to see Nii and his family.  It was Claudia's first plane ride; she was five years old.  One the way to London she fell asleep and when she woke up, she said "Mommy, it is snowing outside!"  Of course, she did not realize we were in the clouds.  Each day in Ghana was a learning experience.  I met so many people and I still think of them (Grace, Amu, Meriga, Bernard).  Nii Tete and NiiQue are still friends with Andre and Claudia after all these years. I remember them chasing chickens in the back yard!  My spiritual brother taught me so much during my six weeks.  So much so that I still regard him as my first teacher in Ghanaian dance and culture.  He had, however, encouraged me to continue to be creative and innovative with my work.  He lived as a creative and innovative artist who was not afraid of pushing the envelopes of dance.  The last time I saw him was in 2013 on a trip with students.  His teachings and his love for dance will always be cherished by my family.  Thank you, Nii, for your encouragement and your unconditional support that I still feel from spirit.

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