2147 - What if Africa disappeared?
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Franco-Ivorian director Moïse Touré gathers singers, musicians, dancers and actors on stage backed by video and a sparse decor in his latest production at the Tarmac theatre in the north of Paris. The piece - 2147 If Africa disappeared - looks at the the resources on the African continent - human, cultural and natural - and asks if they are worth preserving for the whole world.
He does this by projecting the audience 150 years into the future and asks what the world would be like if Africa no longer existed.
Touré says that so much as changed in and for Africa in the ten years ago since he staged 2147 L'Afrique, he needed to produce a follow-up.
"I think that Africa has fully entered the reality of globalisation. The development is fast, time is accelerated. The new generation didn't experience independence, nor the fighting. Now there's terrorism," he said.
"Some countries' very existence is threatened, like Mali. I also felt that imagination was in jeopardy. It also was important for me to mark the emergence of new African philosophers who are thinking about Africa today. They inspired this production.”
Touré brought together French dancer and choreographer Jean-Claude Gallotta and Malian musician Rokia Traoré. For the words, he delved into the works of stage writers like the Congolese Dieudonné Niangouna, and closes with notable monologue delivered by a figure in a hoody under a spotlight illuminating a column of gently falling stage snow.
2147 If Africa disappeared carries the post-colonial message that Africa should be left alone to deal with its dreams and its demons. It is about Africa being included rather than excluded.
"I also wanted to show the relationship between Africa and the rest of world. I wanted to say that, what becomes of Africa doesn’t just concern Africa, it concerns the entire world. I mean, if Africa is poetical and political then the entire world is. If Africa isn’t then the rest of the world won’t be either. This is what I discovered as well, in working on this piece. It’s about humanity as a whole. I think that was something important."
There are six dancers, three men and three women. Jean-Paul Mehansio, from the west of Côte d'Ivoire is one of them. He explains that they workedt on the notion of memory and how to transmit the continent's varied cultural heritage and history in a show.
The songs are sung in Bambara, one of the languages spoken in west Africa, notably Mali. Touré points at the wealth of language on the continent, with extracts also in Fon, for example.
Jean-Paul talks in his local language spoken in the west of Côte d'Ivoire called Wé.
As well as song, dance, music and words, Touré uses 2147 videos, including one of an interview with the Kenyan 2004 Nobel peace prize winner, political environmentalist, Wangari Mathaai.
The hosue was full with 250 spectators of all ages and more on the waiting-list for a show that has plenty of food for thought. It premiered in 2017 in Grenoble in the French Alps where Touré is based and is a publically-funded theatre specialised in French-language performance, which was threatened with closure a year ago. Productions like these may help convince the French authorities that the Tarmac represents cultural values which are worth preserving.