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Faustin Linyekula/Les Studios Kabako - 'Festival of Lies'

Let the Festivities Begin

by Becca Hirschman

November 8, 2007 -- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, Yerba Buena, CA

Faustin Linyekula/Les Studios Kabako returned to the Bay Area this week after a two-year hiatus. The company's previous work, a mainstage performance of "Triptyque Sans Titre," garnered applause and dripping admiration for the choreographer and his dance troupe, and many eagerly awaited their return. As one of several stops on Linyekula's American tour, last evening provided a very different sensory and imagery experience from the first moments to the last breath. Enclosed within a nightclub-esque setting in Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Forum, "Festival of Lies" explored history, memory, and identity through text, propaganda, movement, and song.

Reflecting on what they know or think they know, the four performers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Marie-Louise Bibish Mumbu, Papy Ebotani, Djodjo Kazadi, and Linyekula, expressed beliefs and desires of a "fictional" people. The juxtaposition between what actually occurred versus what people believe or remember is a powerful thing, and can control a nation or body of individuals to the point where individuality becomes crushed under the weight of the powerful. Ironically, when Linyekula asked everyone in the audience to stand, we did. He told us to eat, and a line formed at the buffet. He instructed us to buy drinks, and we followed. We, too, follow the leader, even in unassuming situations.

The three dancers, Ebotani, Kazadi, and Linyekula, expertly synthesized movement with emotion, their central bodies often the impetus for the dance with the first step initiating from the heart or the hip. At times they sang over or separately from the taped music or speeches, adding another dimension to the already sensory-filled event, and the passion these men displayed shone through their eyes and bodies like the sun breaking through the clouds early in the morning. Mumbu, with a warm, silky voice and mother-like authority, provided context through image-filled text readings.

A Taste of Africa, a Berkeley Cameroon restaurant, provided delicious food, including jollof rice, ewole (sautéed greens in a creamy sauce), and nsoke (stewed black-eyed peas), and the local band Soukous Connection thumped along with contagious beats and rhythms. At the conclusion of the evening, the audience poured onstage to dance the rest of the night away with the company, breaking the last barriers between performer and observer.

This festival of lies, the exploration of lies, seems telling comparing it to the religious Festival of Lights in both Hinduism and Judaism. In India and Nepal, the Festival of Lights signifies good triumphing over evil, and in Judaism, the lights celebrate religious, cultural, and national freedom. Here in Linyekula's version, the lies are represented by three foot lights: coddled, sung to, held, moved, danced over, shaped, and lit and unlit. Perhaps the recognition of a murky past is also a way to bring light, hope, and direction to the future. A festival indeed.

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