Taking on the appearance of a High Mass, each summer the Avignon festival celebrates the most avant-gardist expression of theatrical and stage creation, right in the courtyard of the Pope’s Palace. Founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar, it is the oldest extant festival in France and one of the world’s greatest.
For its 67th edition, the festival honors the African continent. Here is AAD’s selection of the contemporary African creations of the fair.
In a gilded blue water of an insalubrious street emerged the peaceful reflection of a young boy gliding like a shadow puppet. The palm of is hand floats in the air, a sign of the immortal and graceful search of poise.
Its bleak figure jutting over the sludge, a lamppost bows down, powerless and desolate. First aesthetic shock of this Avignon festival season, the photograph of Congolese artist Kiripi Katembo is the official poster of the edition, emphasizing the central stage given this year to the African tradition.
For the first time in the festival’s history, an African artist is invited as associate artist. No stranger to the festival, Congolese actor and playwright Dieudonné Niangouna will be participating in his third Avignon festival, but this time he will be in charge of the selection of the program, the frame and the organization of this 67 th edition.
Famously known for his ‘emergency theater’, he invented a new language, a poetic mix, mingling French and traditional dialects, the result of colonial history and other intern conflicts of his native country.
It comes with no surprise then that his creativity is highlighted through “Shéda” -a dreamlike show capturing a stream of tellingly words and forceful images- nor when he shares the scene with other key figures of theater, Africans (such as compatriot DeLaVallet Bidiefono) or evoking Africa through their works (such as in Without a doubt of Jean-Paul Delore, Crossing and sharing of Stanilas Nordey).
Others leading figures of the contemporary scene will also be part of the festival. From Kinsangani(DRC), choregrapher Faustin LInyekula looks at art as a channel of development, enhancing better condition and beautifying life. His last creation, “Drums and digging” will perform his first choreographic emotions as the artist recalls it.
Other major figure of African dance, Nigerian choregrapher Qudus Onlikeku, largely influenced by the history of his native country and the Yoruba culture, will perform the story and the memory of his father with his last creation “Qaddish”.
Although South Africa-France cross season have been launched nearly one month ago with the performance of choregrapher Robyn Orlyn at the National Chaillot Theater, Avignon offered another special dedication to the South-African creation with Brett Baley’s polemical “Exhibit B- living portraits of colonial subjects remembering the human zoo- and with two female dancers from the Cap Mamela Nyamza et Eaniswa Yisa who will organize a debate on the force of dance as a vessel of empowerment.
With no doubt, this year represent diversity through the variety of African countries taking part to the festival : Congo, South Africa, Nigeria, Burkina Faso… and also through the multiple form of art present : Dance, theater, cinema, photography… The whole framed by the promotion of young talents.