Kenna Cottman - Voice of Culture Drum & Dance

Beverly Cottman - storyteller

Bill Cottman - photographer

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Voice of Culture is a collection of artists dedicated to the study of West African arts and culture. As is custom in West Africa, all company members play instruments, sing and dance in the cultural tradition. We strive to share the beauty and the cultural specificity of the traditional rhythms, movements, and songs of West African people. We do this through performances, workshops, artist residencies, presentations in schools, and cultural exchange. As descendants of enslaved Africans, this study is a great honor to us, and an attempt to discover truths about the culture we lost over the Middle Passage. It is through the art of our ancestral people that we come to understand our history, our ancestry, and our places in contemporary society.

click on the photograph to visit Kenna Cottman & Voice of Culture website >




(aka “Auntie Beverly”) The stories I tell are based on African and African-American myths, folktales and traditions reflecting my culture and heritage. Children and adults in libraries, birthday parties, theaters, shopping centers and school auditoriums are my audiences. Even though the scenes are updated, ancient themes of pride, culture, honesty, friendship and peace remain.  I have become a modern-day “griot” delivering the ancient wisdom in a voice of the present for the future.



I have been making photographs since 1969. In high school I wanted to be a commercial artist but my school did not offer guidance in this area so I became an engineer and photography became my tool for self-expression. Early on, I tried to make photographs that looked like paintings in the hope of being accepted as an artist. I learned the rules of composition and looked at work by the masters; Weston, Strand and Adams. They photographed magnificent places and people and then produced technically perfect prints. Later, I discovered Winogrand, Cartier-Bresson and Frank; photographers of ordinary people and places. Their work was done on the streets, quickly and casually but with careful consideration for the descriptive quality inherent to the medium. Much later, I discovered VanDerZee, Parks and DeCarava; black photographers working in all the styles the medium offers while consistently documenting the lives of black people.

content copyright: July 2010