Saturday, May 14, 2011

Praise Singing

We had our sharing session for the workshop this morning. David, and Jane from the Botswana Society for the Arts, pulled in a reasonable crowd of interested people, with the actors' friends and families (including one rather embarassed mother) making up the rest of the audience. I had been feeling a bit nervous about this event - it's always a bit strange to show work which isn't made with the purpose of performance - but in fact the audience was incredibly responsive. We showed a number of the movement-based exercises we'd been working on, including a lovely performance of posed tableaux, and some of the mini-plays that had been made in response to various creative stimuli. As when they were first formed, I was surprised and delighted by the specifically Botswanan feel of these - the sense that we'd managed to tap into the psyche of the place. The cumulative effect reminded me a bit of Third World Bunfight - the rapid shifts between the spiritual, the farcical, the political and the personal is very exciting in this environment. As so often at the end of a workshop, I was left wanting to carry on, and to see whether this work might become a piece of theatre. David, Jane and I are having a meeting on Monday morning to see what we can plan... who knows? The British Council people, who paid for my flight here, came in during the week, and the director of the Alliance Francaise was here this morning, and seemed to enjoy herself.

At the end of the showing, Jane got me to present certificates in a slightly headmaster-ish way - they looked nice with lots of logos on them and everybody seemed happy. One of the actors, Emmanuel, made a speech about how they could go on to develop what they had learnt. And then came the moving moment. Kagosi, who seems to be one of the shyer members of the group, began to show his real talent as a Praise Singer, improvising in Setwana as the others ululated and danced around him. In spite of not understanding a word of it, I realised that this was a very rare and special honour - that I was being praised by a Praise Singer. They certainly know how to make you feel wanted here. Later, David told me the poem included jokes about Kagosi's limited English, and his desire to be cast in a production in London (there was lots of laughter from the other actors and the audience).

Beautiful and humbling. Thank you fabulous artists.

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