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Faustin Linyekula/Les Studios Kabako
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Author:  RaHir [ Fri Nov 09, 2007 10:35 am ]
Post subject:  Faustin Linyekula/Les Studios Kabako

Let the Festivities Begin
Faustin Linyekula/Les Studios Kabako, "Festival of Lies"
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Forum
November 8, 2007, 8PM

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 concept of what actually occurred versus what people believe or remember is a powerful thing, and can control a nation or body of individuals to 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 3 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.

“Festival of Lies” continues tonight with a regular-length performance and Saturday in festival style from 6PM to midnight.

Author:  RaHir [ Sat Nov 10, 2007 4:23 pm ]
Post subject: 

Burden of Congo dancers does not always translate
Rachel Howard, Chronicle Dance Correspondent
Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pain is all-consuming, but the intensity doesn't always translate. Ken Foster, executive director of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, has brought us a steady series of African contemporary dance companies in recent years, and in each of them you see the same image: piles of bodies. But more than that, you feel the same disconnect.

You know the image must be powerful to artists from these war-torn countries; you feel a twinge of guilt because it isn't instantly powerful to you. But it's just a pile of bodies, and you don't share the experiences behind it. There's a bridge between you and the image that the artist, immersed in how much it means to him, hasn't led you across.

For more, go here.

Author:  Toba Singer [ Mon Nov 12, 2007 9:44 am ]
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Faustin Linyekula and his Studio Kabako troupe covered a lot of territory with the “Triptyque Sans Titre” road show that they brought to San Francisco about a year and a half ago. At the time, Linyekula was a Congolese exile who declined to place a label on his apparent political estimate of the repugnant history of his country that began in the Belgian court of King Leopold, the excrudescence of which continued long after the CIA-purchased assassination of the loved and respected rebel, Patrice Lamumba. I was able to interview him at the time [see] and by way of at once skirting and originating political characterizations, he said, “My nation is my body.”

Times have changed. With “Festival of Lies” which was presented in a cabaret format to Yerba Buena Forum audiences over the weekend of November 9-11, there is less of the artistic nugget that was so powerfully unearthed in Triptyque and more of a political sounding taken, where the three lies of his country, as Linyekula puts it—“Democratic,” “Republic” [of the] “Congo” are deconstructed via screened excerpts from speeches given over the years from traitors such as Moïse Tshombe to opportunists such as Lawrence Kabila, with Lamumba’s words cutting through the muck of those of the others. The cabaret offers not only food and drink, but a dance floor that is taken over by the audience during intermission when a pickup band [a different one for each venue on the Kabako tour] plays irresistible “high life” rhythms.

Of course when you serve alcoholic beverages, you get hecklers and there were even one or two of those among the audience members Linyekula exhorted to buy food and drink because government support for the arts is hard to find on the continent of Africa. The end result was the dispersal of audience and performer energy in too many different directions as the focus shifted from dance, where Linyekula, Papy Ebotani and Djodjo Kazadi undulated to the rhythms, or knocked one another down and then lifted one another up, or bonded together only to hobble the progress of all three when each tried to escape the boggle of their own making. Framed neon light tubes were used to create a stage from the amorphous dance floor, or more precisely a kind of baseball diamond where the squares assembled and then pulled apart created the bases or stations where dance combinations were performed. Dancers also used the bandstand to fall onto their backs, legs up in the air like babies waiting to be diapered or insect corpses—which Linyekula coyly referred to as “African Modern Dance.” No longer content to shy away from characterizing his politics along the lines of his body being his nation, Linyekula says that he is a communist, and from what he has screened of the words of other political figures, one would have to assume that he means that he is the kind of communist that Che Guevara was, as opposed to the kind of communist Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong pretended they were. Towards the end, he hands out flyers bearing Lamumba’s image as mementos of the evening and perhaps to signal hope for the emergence of future Lamumbas in the next generation.

Marie-Louise Bibish Mumbu sings or recites poetry that she has written to secure her generation’s place in the timeline of the history of the Congolese/Zairian struggle. While her presence is commanding (so much so that one of the drunken audience members tried unsuccessfully to pull her onto the dance floor as his partner during the intermission), the poetry is not. The later weekend edition of this program runs six hours. The neon lights left me with eye pain after three. While it may be possible to feed people more times over six hours, it’s not their heads that will be better fed by the increased exposure. While the fact that more is shown and said in “Festival of Lies” than “Triptyque Sans Titre” one might consider that asking an audience most of whose members have put in an eight-hour day at work to move from interpreting political speeches spoken in French and screened in English, lining up to buy food and drink in a party atmosphere and then concentrating on the dance, props, poetry and symbolism tucked into neon light frames as they eat and drink, can push past the limits of absorption. Not everyone, after all, has the stamina, nor are they as sharp-witted and physically and politically attuned yet as the members of Studio Kabako! Still, U.S. audiences can benefit hugely from the interface with the history and culture of the Congo and one hopes that Studio Kabako can get past the urbane heckler-prone audiences of cities like San Francisco and find a warm reception among audiences in the more working class cities of Detroit, Cleveland, Newark, Birmingham, and Pittsburgh. They work rotating shifts in those cities and so the program will have to be tailored to the audiences’ work schedules.

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