Monday, July 16, 2012

Peter Sellars on Africa

A fantastic evening at the Africa Centre last week, with our Patron, Peter Sellars, talking on the theme Dialogue with Africa.  It's the first time we've been able to include Peter directly in our work (apart from his inimitable programme notes and Foreword to the Trilogy book), and so a really exciting event for us.  We're in the thick of a whole series of Africa-related projects: Sunshine on a Rainy Day was great a few weeks back, and now we're doing a whole series of events with the Africa Centre for the Africa Salon - watch this space!  Alongside that, we're developing an arts and cultural strategy for Botswana, and a number of potential new theatre projects in a number of countries.  And there's written material about Shakespeare in Africa on its way.....

All of this coincided with Peter bringing his production Desdemona to the Barbican, where it performs next week.  I saw (or perhaps I should say heard) the piece last year in Berkeley, and thought it was fantastic.  Toni Morrison has re-imagined Othello in terms of Desdemona's after-life, and her dialogues with other dead, including Barbary, her mother's maid.  The name, in Shakespeare's time, meant "Africa" - and so Toni and Peter's idea is that Desdemona was brought up by a black woman.  This role, played by the great Malian musician Rokia Traoré, brings an authentic African voice into the production.  As Peter says, Shakespeare's Africa was exotic and imagined - today our engagement with Africa has to be real and human.  It's a very strong case for the kind of work we do: creative collaborations between artists from wildly differing cultures.  Peter explains that these are not simple things to engineer, but that is the "harsh reality of shared space".

I'm not going to blog about this at length, because the talk was videoed by the National Theatre archive for their new black theatre site, and we'll be putting it on our site too.  Suffice to say that a packed room hung on his every word: he really is the personification of passion when it comes to intercultural theatre. 

1 comment:

city said...

thanks for sharing.