“We laugh” at the Francophonies, “why doesn’t anyone talk about cultural development?”

Be careful, disturbing spectacle. The equipment on stage is as varied and surprising as the stories and realities that this play, presented at the Festival des Francophonies in Limoges, brings to life. “Should we get a tan?” If you like it, come over! » tells the story of Adelaide, a woman who left her homeland overnight. Mythology very quickly invites itself in, but also colonialism and maroonage as an insurrectionary movement of former slaves. Cross-interview with the Togolese author Gustave Akakpo and the “French-speaking mixed race” director Geneviève Pelletier from Canada.

RFI : We tan ? Why did you choose such an enigmatic title? ?

Gustave Akakpo : What is Marooning? We have the image of two archetypal images of slavery: the domesticated house slave and then the field slave. That’s all. There is also the slave who rebelled, he has always existed, but we know him less. Some rebellious slaves fled to inaccessible areas but returned to free their compatriots. Today people like Denetem Touam Bona [professeur de philosophie et anthropologue mahorais, NDLR] have made maroonage a very strong philosophical concept. Marronage ultimately means how, within a system that we cannot defend ourselves against – we see the strength of capitalism in recovering everything, all revolutions – how to open other spaces of freedom and thought within this system? This is maroon today. And the title of the show: We tan ? If you feel like it, come ! is a way of saying: You don’t understand the title because you don’t know Maroonage. But do you still want to walk towards the unknown?

Geneviève Pelletier, you are responsible for the staging of this piece, which begins with a DJ and a dance floor before continuing with laughter and rap, mythologies and mysteries. Is it theater, a spoken concert, an unspoken journey, applied mythology? ?

Genevieve Pelletier: With Gustave I came up with an idea very quickly: It would be cool to do a cabaret that mixes different forms because we live in different cultures. Marooning is also a question for me. We tend to just say “the slave” without thinking about the fact that the people who came from the areas had different cultures and spoke different languages. It is this mixture between them, this idea of ​​coming together and mingling, that led to there being specific slaves who wanted to leave the plantation. I come from a nation called the Métis Nation. My primary DNA is crossbreeding. So it’s also about wanting to collide with theatrical, performative, spectacular forms. Theater is still a Eurocentric form that cannot necessarily be assigned to other territories. But together we are able to find ways in which we can come together, talk and ultimately find a political, cultural act together.

“Should we get a tan?” If you like it, come over! », show written by Gustave Akakpo and directed by Geneviève Pelletier at the Festival des Francophonies in Limoges. © Christophe Pean

You are the director of in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada Molière Circle Theaterthe dean of Canadian theater companies, and you define yourself as “ French-speaking Métis from the Red River Valley “.Adelaide’s story speaks to you at face value ?

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Genevieve Pelletier : Yes, of course. I come from a people that represent an encounter between French settlers and indigenous peoples. Together, a new nation emerged. The reason why we are called a “nation” is because politically there is a very important burden on the territory of the Red River: a government was formed, a culture was created from this mixture. . Several Canadian philosophers from the Métis Nation say: We will be able to mix because Canada, as it is today, is exactly a manifestation of what we saw on stage: multiple people with multiple voices, who have multiple things to say and would rather act together than isolate themselves in each other’s spaces. But how do we really manage to speak or feel? Because we too are people who were not necessarily born in any reality. So it was extremely important to me that this show had a holistic sensory aspect to honor these people whose culture is not necessarily based on the written word.

Adelaide, the main character of the series, is a young woman who is at odds with her origins and roots. Why is it so important today to tell such a story, including the phenomena of the resurrection and a worldwide evangelistic crusade? ?

Gustave Akakpo : It is so important because it is an act of peace in the face of a war that has been declared to people on all continents for a very long time and that no one is talking about. For example, when we talk about the development of Africa, we always focus on economic and political development. Nobody talks about cultural development, about identity, about the fact that I was born in a culture in which all the symbols of that culture – voodoo, statues, gods, etc. – are considered shameful, evil, something degrading. And today when we talk about ecology we say “Wow”. But Voodoo has been talking about ecology for a very long time!

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When I say it is an act of peace, imagine a European atheist: he will never deny his Judeo-Christian culture, and yet we understand that Africa denies its roots. There is no research, there is no archaeology. African elites are not interested in building schools to study their own history. There is no such political will. So that we can restore the masks, the museums and all that, that’s very good, but where is the root, the base? When we deny who we are…

“Should we get a tan?”  If you like it, come over!  », show written by Gustave Akakpo and directed by Geneviève Pelletier at the Festival des Francophonies in Limoges.
“Should we get a tan?” If you like it, come over! », show written by Gustave Akakpo and directed by Geneviève Pelletier at the Festival des Francophonies in Limoges. © Christophe Pean

« In the beginning was the vine » the group sings on stage. That is one of the challenges of this production : Let everyone find their own creeper ?

Genevieve Pelletier : In today’s world, finding the vine that binds us to others is vital and essential. We certainly have bonds that connect us with certain people around us, but often it is people who look like us, who are in our circles, with whom we can easily make arrangements, but we tend to have the connection with other people Those who do this may have different ways of thinking and different perspectives on the world. So yes, the vine is the centerpiece of this piece. Five people on a stage, how do they manage to come together on any project, how do they find that vine that holds them all together?

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The piece was performed in French at the Festival des Francophonies. Does such a spectacle occur in the same way in Winnipeg and Limoges? ?

Genevieve Pelletier : It is a new text that has been heard three times so far and will return to Winnipeg. We still have two more weeks to stay in Winnipeg. It is certain that there will be changes and refinements. For me, a show is never over until the last one is finished. So yes, Winnipeg will be different than Limoges, which was different than Ottawa.

Autumn zebras of the festival “Les Francophonies – from the writings to the stage” from September 20th to 30th in Limoges, France

► Read also : Francophonia: “Zoé” by Hassane Kouyaté, “theater has the role of a mirror”

► Read also : Francophonia: “Léa”, the urgency of the ecological struggle in the theater

► Read also : Cameroonian Éric Delphin Kwégoué, winner of the 2023 RFI Theater Prize for “À coeur Ouvert”

► Read also : Francophonia: Canadian “Convictions” directed by Djennie Laguerre

► Read also : Opening of the 40th Francophonie in Limoges, the epicenter of French-language theater production

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