Genesis, by Alain Kamal Martial Henry
Mahoran playwright Alain Kamal Martial Henry has surrounded himself with artists from his region to stage Genesis (2020), a cross-disciplinary show whose narrative sounds like an act of survival to redefine the world.
A Mahoran heritage
Director and thinker Alain Kamal Martial Henry grew up in Mzouazia, a small village on Mayotte. He left the island at 17 to study literature, education, and arts in mainland France. He graduated with a masters in Foreign Language Learning and Education from Bordeaux, then continued his education with a thesis on Francophone and French literatures in Paris before studying theatre in Avignon. Returning to Mayotte after his studies, the playwright crossed the Mozambique Channel alongside scholars and academics, all while exploring his doubts and convictions with artists from his region on stage. In 2020 he collaborated with two theatre companies, Eastambul and Lumumba, to put together Genesis, a show aiming to transform the theatrical heritage of Africa into hope.
Remodelling the world
Like an act of resistance, Genesis is the challenge of artists who want to depict a new contemporary world, far from the pessimism that hangs over Africa and from the dominant capitalist societies. This unusual journey offered by Alain Kamal Martial Henry is similar to a matriarchal utopia but profoundly questions the creation of the world by suggesting a new perspective that is feminised and African. Through non-linear directing, Genesisoscillates between mythology, history, and contemporary reality in a hopeful momentum that repositions the feminine myth at the heart of its story.
Designed in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Genesis is a dramaturgical and musical project in which the myth about the feminine universe of the Makua people plays a key role. Inspired by the words of Mozambican novelist and poet Paulina Chiziane, the director has also integrated the thoughts of committed female figures like Miriam Makeba, Josina Machel, and Zena M’déré into his narrative. They each contribute to bringing matricité to the foreground as a religious, political, and social structuring force. According to the Makua creation myth, all creation comes from the “matricité”, a contraction of mater (mother) and cité (place of laws and the social contract). As such, it alone encapsulates the history and political sense of the Mahoran people.
Richness of African cultures
To create Genesis, Alain Kamal Martial Henry collaborated with Eastambul and Lumumba, two theatre companies from Mayotte and Tanzania respectively. The artistic team is made up of young performers from all the islands in the Mozambique Channel and from the East African coast, and the director has also recruited two musicians, a drummer and a saxophonist, from the Mozambican band Ghorwane. With this cross-disciplinary approach blending drama and music, Genesis reflects the richness of African culture, which the show aims to bring back to centre stage by literally transforming it into a participant in the world.
To put on Genesis, Alain Kamal Martial Henry was supported by the "Des Mots à la scène" fund launched by the Institut français. "Des mots à la scène" is a support fund for the production of contemporary writing for the stage from Africa and the Caribbean. It aims to promote authors from the south who are little known or played.