Originally published on the ATFC site: http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=0a76f434c21b97f5cafd6cddd&id=b87b6907ce&e=6971ae8eb3
Contexthéâtral 2015: The art ignites the meetings
Stuck in a noisy traffic jam, a car caught fire. It is an almost explosive arrival in Yaounde, capital of Cameroon.
Flashback. May 2014 I go to the Festival TransAmérique (FTA) with the support of the Association of Francophone theatre in Canada. This is a great and very exciting initiative! I participate in the International Meeting of Young Artists and critics of the performing arts and for 10 days I live to the rhythm of the festival with 25 companions. Between us, the magic happens. We leave inspired and curious. This meeting was too short and we thirst to find ourselves…
Édouard, a Cameroonian I met at the FTA, wrote me on Facebook and invited me to participate in the second edition of its Contexthéâtral project. This is one month residency where authors are invited to work a text already well underway. Édouard loved the extract of an old bottom of the drawer text that I presented to the group at the festival, ” Laura de Montréal “. During the stay there will be discussions, a laboratory with actors and meetings with a committee of students who read our texts, periods of writing and all sorts of other activities! I say yes immediately!
On the plane, I read my text … And I was scared.
What would a story of assimilation and cultural dominance, stuffed with regionalist, would tell to Cameroonians …? What a mistake …
I had forgotten the diction: speak of your village well and you will become universal.
Yaounde has little in common with “my village”, Shediac, New Brunswick. Nor with Montreal where I located my text…Yaounde is at the heart of Cameroon, between the green of the jungle, the red earth and yellow taxis noise…Walking the main street of the Titi-Garage area requires considerable concentration and courage in crossing. You have to adapt to the rhythm of this city to discover little by little its jewels. One of its gems is OTHNI (unidentified theater object): an artists’ center, where there are rooms for residents and many creative spaces and / or representation. It was our home. The place has been around for 5 years by the will and the courage of its owner, himself an artist of the theater, and his staff. They receive no subsidies and assume the rental, maintenance, etc.
As stated so well by my friend the artist Alioum Moussa, the fight of several Cameroonian artists is to “banish the why to impose the how.” Creating despite the lack of cultural policy becomes a political act vis-à-vis oneself. “Here and elsewhere” is an obvious question for many. Besides, every artist I’ve talked to has “a horror story” with the Ministry of Culture of Cameroon. “Lost” files, awaiting funding promised for three years and so on…They relay these stores while laughing because it is simply absurd! It made me appreciate the organizations that I know, like the Association of Francophone theatre in Canada, which plays a real role with artists and embodies a vision.
Around a table, a Cameroonian, a Burkinan Spaniard, a French person, a Togolese and a Canadian, read a chiac text and imagine, each with their own references, an Acadian Tintamarre. The discussion is so important to try to meet and satisfy curiosity. In a meeting with a young Cameroonian readers group, a teenager warns me against Chiac depleting the beautiful French language and could have adverse effects on youth; much like the camfranglais in his home. Another wonder if fricot is witchcraft? Acadia takes other names …one of regions where minorities are pushed down because of their language or duels between cultural groups… Yes, we all know these invisible forces of domination, both tragic and absurd that is articulated in every corner of daily life around the world. It is hard to escape the comparison. But we recognize ourselves in the the kongosa (gossip) of the characters Laura and Catherine and their dream of becoming actresses at all costs.
Édouard has put together an intensive program of activities and the days passes too quickly. Artistic encounters and friendships are born out of solidarity. I learn about bats, love and African literature. I learn about myself and my ability to adapt. Finally, my fear dissipates from the plane dissipates; I will perhaps not be understood, but take the risk; try to understand those who do not understand. Suddenly, being an artist, “what I do as work,” and what I am as a human, is mixed in the same mixture.
It was a gift to participate in Contexthéâtral. The work we have done together is a seed planted in a mixed land. A land that we put into a bottle to throw into the sea. I especially thank our great unifier, passionate and committed artist Édouard Elvis Bvouma as we as his team (especially Charlotte). I thank my fellow authors (Anaïs, Guy, Kokouvi, Luis) and our dear friends in OTHNI. Thank you to my partners who facilitated my participation: ATFC, the New Brunswick arts Board and other partner organizations of the event include the CITF (International Commission of French theatre). I come back with my heart full of rich human and professional experiences and a head full of projects! The artists are trying to create a better world for all. They are residency opportunities like this that gives hope that anything is possible
I met artists who engage with great generosity and open themselves to you without hesitation. These were great lessons in humility which, through the course of these artists, I had a better feel of what is commitment and risk in art.
The most important risk for me, for most of us in Canada is that of missing the meeting. And it happens that we miss; of failing to converge. But we keep trying.
Because it is through encounter that everything happens, everything exists.