Aristide Tarnagda is an author and winner at the Avignon Festival, a director, a comedian, and director of the Les Récréâtrales festival in Burkina Faso. He is a "performing arts" sectoral expert for the Africa2020 Season.
What prompted you to accept the invitation of N’Goné Fall, the general commissioner for the Africa 2020 season, to participate in defining programming as a sectoral expert?
In 2018, N’Goné Fall travelled to Burkina Faso to attend Les Recréâtrales at the invitation of Etienne Minoungou, the founder of this theatre festival, of which I am the director. N’Goné and Étienne have known each other for several years. She came to Ouagadougou not only to meet the cultural players involved in the various artistic disciplines, but also to see the festival. N’Goné understands the pan-African dimension of this event and asked me to contribute my expertise to the Africa2020 season programming by participating in the reflection on the live arts in Africa. That is why it seemed obvious to me to accept her invitation.
Can you tell us about your area of expertise and your career path?
I am an author, director and comedian. Since 2016 I have been running the Les Récréâtrales festival, a biennial festival in Ouagadougou, a city where I took part in my first writing workshops when I was younger. I am also coordinator of the ELAN laboratory, an incubator and a meeting space for African artists to network.
You are the managing director of the largest pan-African theatre festival, Les Récréâtrales. What aspects of contemporary African theatre creation are you keen to highlight at this festival?
It is important that Les Récréâtrales is an area of visibility for African creators, a space in which each African artist can deploy different narratives. This festival was conceived as a crossroads of African creativity, presented to a diverse audience who come both to see themselves, in the sense that the stories told on stage are their own, and to meet the imagination of Africa.
If we want to coexist with the continent, it is essential to create links between the different African countries in order to get to know each other, to share the questions we have in common. The Les Récréâtrales festival is dedicated not only to meeting artists from the continent but also to meeting new horizons, both African and international. We want a festival of its time, a pan-African festival that opens its doors to the world.
What place does theatre and the performing arts in general hold in Africa?
It is always difficult to talk about Africa as a whole: Africa is a vast continent made up of a total of 54 countries with completely different histories and realities. There is a sense that an abundant energy is developing on the African continent. To talk about what I know, I will answer using the example of Burkina Faso, where theatre and the performing arts are very important. The experience of Les Recréâtrales shows that it is reaching out to the population: residences are carried out at people’s houses. You have to see how street shows are welcomed by children, by people who cannot afford to go and see shows normally. I recently returned from Conakry, Guinea, and it’s the same thing: whether it’s in Southern Africa, East Africa or Central Africa, there’s an incredible enthusiasm for live art. The challenge to be met in the years to come is the structuring and consolidation of these creative dynamics.
How do the performing arts resonate with the Burkinabé audience?
Burkina Faso is a hub for the performing arts in Africa. During the last edition of Les Récréâtrales, the President of the Republic came to see it. He took the time to see this communion of people, and their desire to be enthralled. The Burkinabé people are incredibly curious about what is on offer. When we show performances outdoors, people catch up under the sun, climb trees, climb up on their bikes to see more. These days people need this spiritual food that opens up their imagination, which is a space for speaking. These are essential spaces for Africa at this time for Africa. People need to be able to dream through stories that have meaning for them and make them feel alive.
Five major themes structure the Africa2020 Season: augmented orality, economy and fabulation, archiving of imaginary stories, fiction and (un)authorised movements and systems of disobedience. Do you have a preference for one of these themes?
The Africa2020 Season is approached in a poetic way, which allows everyone to focus on one particular theme more than another. Whatever the theme, everyone has an intimate link with the life and the story of the human race. As a creator and director of a pan-African event, I am even more interested in the theme of "fiction and (unauthorised) movements": we need to create fiction and stories of participation in the world, so that we are not just objects or bystanders of history, but actors.
The Africa2020 Season sets up co-construction mechanisms between African professionals and French partner institutions. What do you think of this principle?
It is essential that there is a balance between structures in Africa and structures in France. Africa is acting, so it must be an actor of the Africa2020 Season, and not just a spectator or provider. The market in Africa must not be used to present creations in France. There is no sponsor: it is a real co-construction.
Aristide Tarnagda is a "performing arts" sectoral expert for the Africa2020 Season. He supports the General Commission of Africa2020 in order to put African professionals in contact with French institutions that are partners to the Africa2020 Season.
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