Africa has not escaped the public health crisis. Here as everywhere else in the world, daily life has been turned upside down, all the more so for certain countries on the continent that were already affected by economic problems or recent conflict. Dancers have found themselves deprived of performance spaces such as rehearsal studios. How, then, can one continue to express oneself as an artist, to make one’s unique voice heard? How can one continue to create through such upheaval? How can the African cultural world adapt to this new environment? To answer all these questions and, above all, to let African artists be heard, Studios Kabako – a dance and arts training centre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo run by the choreographer Faustin Linyekula – is launching an original initiative entitled Lettres du continent.
21 self-portraits by African artists at the heart of the crisis
Lettres du continent is a collection of letters performed on video, featuring the words and thoughts of 21 young artists and collectives from 18 African countries, including Senegal (hip-hop dancer Belleka), Tanzania (contemporary dancer Samwel Japhet), DRC (dancer and acrobat Jeannot Kumbonyeki), Comoros (dancer Salim Mzé Hamadi Moisi) and Togo (dancer Germaine Sikota). These 21 self-portraits reveal a new generation of dancers, directors, circus artists and performers who discuss this new public health context and explore new ways of creating, inventing and sharing their own vision of the African continent today. They share their daily life shaken by the crisis, their troubles, their hopes and how they work in this context of crisis. Above all, they reaffirm their absolute need to continue creating and showing their vision of the world and the African continent. Written between May and June 2020, these 21 performed letters were filmed and brought together in a feature length by the choreographer Faustin Linyekula and Virginie Dupray.
A performance led by Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula
The Lettres du continent project is the passion project of the Congolese dancer Faustin Linyekula, who runs Studios Kabako in the DRC. His career as a choreographer has taken him to the Comédie Française (with Bérénice in 2009) and the Ballet de Lorraine (La Création du monde in 2012), and he has performed at venues that include the MoMA in New York (2012), the MUCEM in Marseille (2016) and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren (2018). Today, he is the associate artist at the Manège – Scène nationale de Reims in France and at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, as well as teaching at Parts (Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s school), the CNDC Angers and the Impulstanz festival in Austria. But Linyekula has never forgotten his Congolese roots. In 2001, he founded Studios Kabako in Kinshasa, an organisation dedicated to dance, theatre and video arts, a place of research, creation and training for dancers and performers from Congo and elsewhere. He runs this project with Virginie Dupray, with whom he previously worked at the Institut français in the United Kingdom and the Centre National de la Danse in Pantin, for Nacera Belaza’s dance company, and who joined Studios Kabako in 2003 as Executive Director.
Through Studios Kabako, both are committed to developing the young generation of African artists and giving them the tools to create. It was only natural, then, that they should launch the project Lettres du continent, with the support of several European and African institutions (including the Centre Chorégraphique in Wallonia-Brussels, the National Arts Festival in South Africa and the Festival de Marseille) in order to make the voices of young dance and performance talents in Africa heard around the world in this time of crisis.
The Institut français is a partner in the project with the Mission for African and Caribbean Cultural Co-operation, which is a programme of support for cultural artists in African society and assistance for travel to France for African designers.
Several assistance programs for projects such as the Caribbean Mobility Fund, Indianoceanic Mobility Fund and Support for cultural operators from Africa and the Caribbean or residences like Visas for creation are being part of the mission.
The Institut français will be implementing the Africa2020 season from December 1st 2020 to July 15th 2021. Find out more about the Africa2020 Season
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