Randy Gener[1]

Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, French Philosopher and Playwright © Gilles Perrin
Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, French Philosopher and Playwright © Gilles Perrin

A philosopher, Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux writes gorgeous, trenchant essays that argue for the possibilities of human emancipation. His most important book, «Pour la gratuité» (Desclée de Brouwer, 1995), explores and analyzes the impasses of movement in social transformations during the 20th century. Later reprinted by les éditions de l’Eclat under the title «De la gratuité» and made freely available on the Internet, the book stresses the civilizing role of freedom. Human emancipation as a theme runs through Sagot-Duvauroux’s several other books. “On ne naît pas Noir, on le devient” (roughly: «One is Not Born Black, One Becomes One,» Albin Michel, 2004) unravels the complexities of identity construction of young blacks in France. «Emancipation» (La Dispute, 2004) proposes a theoretical compass to regain a positive construction of alternative political liberalism. A committed leftist, Sagot-Duvauroux is passionate, too, about forging the links between society and symbolic production, a political engagement that he puts into direct practice in his own committed theatre.

As a playwright, this philosopher has personally enmeshed himself in French and Malian cultural life. Along with the Malian theatre director Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, Sagot-Duvauroux co-founded and co-directs a Malian company called BlonBa. Established in 1998 in the Malian capital of Bamako, BlonBa became the first independent producer of television programs in Mali. But it is as a vibrant theatre company that has made it a model in West Africa. Thanks to its artistic and financial independence, BlonBa has managed to open a French branch in 2007: le Théâtre de l’Arlequin located in Morsang-sur-Orge in Essonne (near Paris), which promotes expressions of cultural diversity.

Lassine Coulibaly « King », Michel Sangaré and Diarrah Sanogo in “Bougouniéré invite à dîner,” written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa at Les Francophonies en Limousin (Limoges, France) © Gilles Perrin
Lassine Coulibaly « King », Michel Sangaré and Diarrah Sanogo in “Bougouniéré invite à dîner,” written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa at Les Francophonies en Limousin (Limoges, France) © Gilles Perrin

In the interview below, Sagot-Duvauroux details how BlonBa has revived and made contemporary the traditional Malian form of the kotéba for an urban setting. A very deep and very old tradition, the kotéba is a moment of free expression in which Malians laugh at themselves and speak what is usually unspoken. It was most especially powerful in the late 1980s, at the time of the military dictatorship. Power dared not go against what was happening on the stage, because it is truly rooted in people’s minds that kotéba can say everything and anything.

BlonBa’s artistic program reflects a truly committed trans-cultural engagement. In «Bougouniéré invite à dîner» (2005), a delicious satire created Ndiaye and Sagot-Duvauroux, spectators were seated in ordinary chairs and installed cheek-by-jowl to BlonBa’s three performers. The modest, one-room environmental setting resembles those makeshift canopied spaces propped up in the African countryside and powered by the electricity of a truck’s battery. This adept comedy about an African couple’s dashed hopes and familial despair is a contemporary urban update of the traditional genre of Mali social satire, thekotéba, fused with the celebratory spirit of a soumou gathering (since a meal simmers away in a pot throughout the show).

Diarrah Sanogo in “Bougouniéré invite à dîner,” written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa at Les Francophonies en Limousin (Limoges, France) © Gilles Perrin
Diarrah Sanogo in “Bougouniéré invite à dîner,” written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa at Les Francophonies en Limousin (Limoges, France) © Gilles Perrin

The redoubtable Bougouniéré, a recurring comic figure in the theatre pieces of Ndiaye and Sagot-Duvauroux, is waiting for the arrival of a big fish from the local United Nations developmental agency. Bougouniéré and her cynical architect of a husband, Djéliba, are on the hunt for subsidies; they wish to lure a financial backer from one of the wealthy European countries with an authentic West African meal. Djéliba’s audacious dream is to build a huge panoramic restaurant resembling a giant hippopotamus on the hill of Hamdallaye, which dominates the Malian capital. Comic mishaps mount «Bougouniéré invite à dîner.»

The play takes on a specific significance in Mali, a former outpost of the French colonial empire and one of the poorest Francophone countries in Africa. The play’s moral dilemmas strike a powerful chord in the blighted banlieuses, where a significant proportion of the disaffected French youth and their Arab and African immigrant parents lack a clear place in French society.

Lassine Coulibaly « King », Michel Sangaré and Diarrah Sanogo in “Bougouniéré invite à dîner,” written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa at Les Francophonies en Limousin (Limoges, France) © Gilles Perrin
Lassine Coulibaly « King », Michel Sangaré and Diarrah Sanogo in “Bougouniéré invite à dîner,” written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa at Les Francophonies en Limousin (Limoges, France) © Gilles Perrin

Sometimes Sagot-Duvauroux is the sole author of a BlonBa production. More frequently he works closely with Malian collaborators. BlonBa’s major productions include: «Le Retour de Bougouniéré» (2000), «Ségou Fassa» (2002) and «Sud-Nord, le kotèba des quartiers» (2007). The 2010 musical «Bama Saba» was a turning point; BlonBa expanded its creations to embrace hip-hop musicals («L’homme aux six noms,» 2011) and «Plus fort que mon père» (2013). And yet, BlonBa continues to tackle current events. Sagot-Duvauroux’s most recent work, «Ala tè sunogo/Dieu ne dort pas» (2013) is a slapstick comedy with a political aim and is interpreted by Malian actors who lost their theater in Bamako because of the recent coup d’état in that African country. The chilling 2011 docufiction «Vérité de soldat (A Soldier’s Truth)» dramatizes the startling testimony of army captain Soungalo Samaké, the man who arrested Mali’s first president, Modibo Keita. Samaké’s tale of sound and fury was published by Amadou Traoré, head of the socialist regime in the first post-independence Malian republic, who was himself tortured by Samaké. A woman born of a war rape committed by a soldier confronts both men: Why publish this testimony, which only lends voice to the executioner and underscores contemporary Mali’s problems during its reconstruction?

Since 2005, Sagot-Duvauroux and I have conducted conversations about politics, art, language, Africa and France that freely mix French and English in translation. The following interview, which shifts from English to French midway, preserves that cross-linguistic translation-based flavor.

Diarrah Sanogo in “Bougouniéré invite à dîner,” written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa at Les Francophonies en Limousin (Limoges, France) © Gilles Perrin
Diarrah Sanogo in “Bougouniéré invite à dîner,” written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa at Les Francophonies en Limousin (Limoges, France) © Gilles Perrin

RANDY GENER: «Bougouniéré invite à dîner» is an example of the kotéba, a traditional form of Malian theater. It is, in fact, a contemporary kotéba. In what ways does it continue with the tradition of the koteba? In what way is it different from traditional koteba? Is the urban setting of «Bougouniéré invite à dîner» what makes it different from traditional kotéba?

During the 1980s, several Malian artist comedians transposed the traditional koteba to fit the urban environment. Among them were Diarrah Sanogo and Michel Sangaré, both artists in our production (spectacle). Diarrah Sanogo created the art figure (art character) of Bougouniéré: she’s something like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times. As in the traditional koteba, this theatre characterizes the burlesque (ludicrous) and satirically deals with social justice, a condition (or a representation) close to the social dynamic and social classes, as well as the political and moral issues affecting the society.

One of the plays of this urban koteba demonstrates for the first time that the authority of the former Malian president, the dictator General Moussa Traore, can be publicly challenged in his presence. But the traditional rites of accompaniment had been removed from the play. The new koteba had been adapted to the frontal device of the western theatres where the scenic space is in the front of the public, whereas in the traditional koteba the public is around the scenic space.

BlonBa, our company, has chosen to do more in-depth research on this modern koteba. In «Bougouniéré invite à dîner», the public (spectators) is installed around the scenic space (show space). It is brought into play by the characters who very often challenge it. The meal prepared during the play calls for spectators to be implicated in the challenges of the fable.

«Bougouniéré invite à dîner» is collaboration between two writers: one Malian and one French. As a French playwright and philosopher, how would you describe your own contribution to the «Bougouniéré invite à dîner»?

Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, a young television director, and I started BlonBa. Alioune is the director of the company. Our ambition is to firmly establish a strong and independent artistic company capable of expressing and analyzing the urgencies of Malian society of today without asking the permission from anybody. We do not separate the our company’ total financial stakes from the properly artistic choices. Each one of our spectacles was the fruit of common decisions and often collectively written. For the script of «Bougouniéré invite à dîner,» we both worked on the draft, and I put together the final product.

This burlesque comedy reflects the political despair of the society. All collective solutions to social problems seem to be exhausted. Therefore, it is up to individuals to find their own solutions and not count on government interventions. Bougouniéré goes out and hunts for subsidies. Her husband Djéliba dreams of a gigantic panoramic restaurant in the form of a giant hippopotamus. Their three sons run after mirages. The mirage of Islamism for one son; to become a delirious evangelist in America for the second son, and emigration for the third son. This political crisis takes on a particular significance in Mali. This crisis is one of the fundamental questions that has shaken our entire world.

African societies are undergoing a profound moral crisis. This problem is deepened by the lack of self-confidence (people are unable to find their own solutions). This doubt contributes to the devastation. There is a strong temptation to wait for external solutions (international donors). But art production can not work like that! It is necessary for art to be born from the interior urgencies and—for it to built from them. Alioune and I think that production issues and economic autonomy are at the heart of rebuilding a strong framework of artistic production in Africa.

Adama Bagayoko as Soungalo in “A Soldier’s Story,” a docu-fiction written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux based on “My Soldier’s Life” by Soungalo Samake; conception by Patrick Le Mauff, Alioune Ifra Ndiaye and Sagot-Duvaroux; direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa (Mali and France) © Patrick Fabre
Adama Bagayoko as Soungalo in “A Soldier’s Story,” a docu-fiction written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux based on “My Soldier’s Life” by Soungalo Samake; conception by Patrick Le Mauff, Alioune Ifra Ndiaye and Sagot-Duvaroux; direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa (Mali and France) © Patrick Fabre

Is there a division between “French theatre” and “Francophone theatre”? Why are “French writers” not considered “Francophone writers”? Is it a question of where a writer was born or raised? Can you be African and French at the same time? How are Francophone writers perceived in France?

I have a double activity of writer. I write and publish essays of a philosophical nature centered on the French society, even if my Malian experience feeds them too. My artistic work as dramatist and screenwriter is centered on Mali. [Sagot-Duvauroux wrote the screenplay and dialogues for the 1999 film «La Genèse» by the Malian filmmaker Cheick Oumar Sissoko.] So the questions you are asking me affect my life directly.

Adama Bagayoko as Soungalo in “A Soldier’s Story,” a docu-fiction written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux based on “My Soldier’s Life” by Soungalo Samake; conception by Patrick Le Mauff, Alioune Ifra Ndiaye and Sagot-Duvaroux; direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa (Mali and France) © Patrick Fabre
Adama Bagayoko as Soungalo in “A Soldier’s Story,” a docu-fiction written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux based on “My Soldier’s Life” by Soungalo Samake; conception by Patrick Le Mauff, Alioune Ifra Ndiaye and Sagot-Duvaroux; direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa (Mali and France) © Patrick Fabre

There are plenty of examples of social and cultural imbalances we can talk about. First, our society accepts easily an American to be part of French culture, or a Hungarian or a Malian to work in France. But they admit with difficulty that a Frenchman can be, with the full meaning of the word, a true actor of the African artistic life. Second, when one speaks about history of art and of contemporary literature, it is difficult for people of non-western backgrounds to find their place. Explaining to the French that Malian theater form of koteba and its evolutions is not an exotic fantasy, but one of the central aspects of contemporary art and culture, is a very difficult task to achieve.

In fact, a writer is classified as «francophone» (French-speaking) when he/she is at the peripheral of the Francophonie axis which is first and most France, and then there are the francophone countries of West. But being French and Malian at the same time? It maybe admissible to be considered French if one is black with a Malian name and lives in France. The opposite may be a little bit problematic! A French born in France and living in Africa will not be viewed easily as an African. However, life changes. Human relations, families and love connections are becoming very rapidly global phenomena. The French society is rather tolerant with respect to interracial unions. The family I created in Mali is an example of these unions. Life representations are far behind theses realities. Things are moving forward, and it is a good thing!

Michel Sangaré, Maïmouna Doumbia and Adama Bagayoko in “A Soldier’s Story,” a docu-fiction written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux based on “My Soldier’s Life” by Soungalo Samake; conception by Patrick Le Mauff, Alioune Ifra Ndiaye and Sagot-Duvaroux; direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa (Mali and France) © Patrick Fabre
Michel Sangaré, Maïmouna Doumbia and Adama Bagayoko in “A Soldier’s Story,” a docu-fiction written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux based on “My Soldier’s Life” by Soungalo Samake; conception by Patrick Le Mauff, Alioune Ifra Ndiaye and Sagot-Duvaroux; direction by Patrick Le Mauff for Compagnie BlonBa (Mali and France) © Patrick Fabre

For those of us around the world who might not be able to see your new creation but might be interested to know what it is, would you please describe the plot, concept, ideas or characters of «Plus fort que mon père »?

Plus fort que mon père est un portrait théâtral et musical du rappeur Sidy Soumaoro, une des têtes d’affiche de la chanson hip hop au Mali. Connu sous le pseudonyme de Ramsès Damarifa, leader du groupe Tata pound, son rap patriotique très engagé en fait une des consciences de la jeunesse malienne d’aujourd’hui. Idrissa Soumaoro, le père de Ramsès, est, dans un genre très différent, un des chanteurs les plus prenants de la génération précédente. Le spectacle réunit deux modes d’expression — le théâtre, et la musique hip hop — et deux personnages : Sidy, joué par le jeune rappeur ; Soumaoro, un conteur joué par Michel Sangaré qui « représente » sa prestigieuse lignée. Ce personnage raconte l’histoire du roi-forgeron Soumaoro Kanté, ancêtre de Sidy, qui a eu un rôle déterminant dans les événements qui, au XIIIe siècle, débouchent sur la fondation du Mali classique par Sunjata Keïta. Le récit de l’histoire à la façon des griots se tisse avec l’énergie prospective du rap pour composer le portrait d’un artiste d’aujourd’hui, mais enraciné dans la culture du Mali. Le père de Ramsès apparaît à l’écran pour apaiser les tensions qui naissent entre les deux personnages.

Michel Sangaré and Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, and performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l'Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin
Michel Sangaré and Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, and performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l’Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin
Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, and performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l'Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin
Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, and performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l’Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin

Mali has been very much in the news because of the Malian military battling militants outside Gao. Is Blonba affected by these military fights? How are the Malian arts affected by these violence? Please offer any insight on how these French-led forces battling Islamist rebels may or may not affect Blonba or artists in general?

BlonBa disposait à Bamako d’une salle de spectacle qui était devenue, au cours des ans, un des principaux centres de la vie culturelle malienne. Son rayonnement artistique était reconnu de tous, mais son équilibre financier restait précaire. La désorganisation issue du coup d’État du 22 mars 2012 a eu raison de cette salle que nous avons dû fermer. Mais si le hardware a souffert, le software, c’est-à-dire la création se maintient à un bon rythme. En octobre 2012, Tanyinibougou, une satire féroce de la corruption en langue bamanan, a réunit 3000 personnes dont cinq ministres au palais de la culture de Bamako. Et dans ces moments difficiles, le soutien de quelques théâtres français nous a aidé à créer deux spectacles: Plus fort que mon père en février et Dieu ne dort pas en mai prochain. La chaîne francophone TV5 a par ailleurs diffusé trois de nos anciens spectacles. Face à la menace obscurantiste qui pèse sur le pays, le maintien d’une vie artistique libre et dense est un enjeu de première importance, un moyen de résistance.

Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l'Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin
Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l’Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin
«Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France) © Gilles Perrin
«Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France) © Gilles Perrin

Blonba is a cooperation between a French writer (Sagot-Duvauroux) and Malian actors (Michel Sangaré et Issiaka Kanté). How is this cooperation unique, culturally and politically, in terms of the general political situation between Mali and France.

BlonBa a été fondé en 1998 par Alioune Ifra Ndiaye, son directeur, et moi-même. C’est une histoire de notre temps. Plusieurs artistes majeurs du Mali vivent en France et sont intégrés dans la vie culturelle de ce pays. Avec BlonBa, j’ai fait le chemin dans l’autre sens. Le dépassement de l’héritage colonial, la construction d’une force de proposition culturelle malienne financièrement et artistiquement autonome sont au cœur du projet de BlonBa. La très grande majorité de ceux qui le font vivre ont moins de quarante ans. Alioune Ifra Ndiaye avait 27 ans quand la compagnie a été créée. Cette nouvelle génération inventive et décomplexée s’inscrit tranquillement dans un monde élargi et multipolaire. Contrairement à ce que j’ai connu dans le passé, le travail en commun, sans instrumentalisation réciproque, n’a jamais posé de problème. C’est nouveau et plein de promesse. Des expériences de ce type ouvrent la voie à une modification souhaitable des rapports entre la France et ses anciennes colonies. C’est possible et ça fait du bien.

«Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France) © Gilles Perrin
«Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France) © Gilles Perrin
«Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France) © Gilles Perrin
«Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France) © Gilles Perrin

Would you be willing to allow me to post a short excerpt of your text from the production?

Voici deux extraits qui campent les deux personnages du spectacle :

SIDY

Ce monde que tu vois autour de toi, nous les Noirs, nous l’avons dominé. Sérieusement alors. À ce temps là, le toubab, c’est à dire le Néanderthal, lui tu le vois qui chasse l’écureuil, qui grimpe aux lianes. Il est là à glapir autour de ses fétiches. Sa culotte pue. C’est pas parce qu’il pisse dedans. Il pisse dedans. Mais la puanteur, c’est sa culotte de peau. Est-ce que ça c’est civilisé ? Ah bon, tu crois que les pharaons d’Égypte sont des Blancs ? Tu as vu les films américains et tu crois que les pharaons, c’est Leonardo Di Caprio, Georges Clooney, les pharaonnes, c’est Hillary Clinton ? Pas du tout. Le pharaon, le vrai pharaon, l’unique, celui qui règne sur la pharaonie tout entière, c’est à dire le monde, il est noir comme moi, comme mon père, ma mère, mes frères, mes sœurs, comme ma petite fille et tous les miens.

/…/

SOUMAORO

Sidy, le chanteur Idrissa Soumaoro est ton propre père. C’est un des meilleurs musiciens du Mali. Il n’est pas allé chercher sa musique chez les Ramsès, ni chez les Michael Jackson. Il a enfourché la musique qu’il a trouvée ici, il a pris la route avec elle et il lui a donné des accents qu’elle n’avait encore jamais eus dans l’histoire. Ton rap gueulard, à côté de la musique de ton père, c’est du bruit !

SIDY

Je suis plus fort que mon père.

«Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France) © Gilles Perrin
«Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France) © Gilles Perrin
«Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France) © Gilles Perrin
«Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France) © Gilles Perrin

Can artists be diplomats? Do you feel the work of Blonba supports cultural diplomacy and mutual understanding between France and Mali?

Le Mali, l’Afrique, le monde noir en général ont été placés à la périphérie du monde, en position subalterne par une histoire séculaire de domination. À travers l’art, la musique, le théâtre, des humains ont l’audace de se placer au centre du cercle, de prendre la parole, d’inviter les autres à les écouter. C’est ce qui se passe quand les artistes du Mali jouent nos spectacles, à Bamako comme à Paris ou à Ottawa. Dans le moment du spectacle, le Mali devient pour tous les spectateurs le centre du monde. Et il parle. La conversation des cultures qui s’engage ainsi ne comble pas les déséquilibres matériels et symboliques vertigineux provoqués par l’esclavage et la colonisation, mais elle nous fait vivre momentanément une autre relation. Et comme cette relation nouvelle est riche, agréable, féconde, elle donne l’envie de construire un autre monde, d’expérimenter dans la vie ce qui a été vécu au théâtre. C’est notamment un enjeu vital pour les milliers de jeunes français nés de familles maliennes et qui disposent des deux nationalités. Les armes font la guerre, mais les arts font la paix.

Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, and performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l'Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin
Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, and performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l’Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin
Michel Sangaré and Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, and performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l'Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin
Michel Sangaré and Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, and performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l’Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin
Michel Sangaré and Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, and performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l'Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin
Michel Sangaré and Sidy Soumaoro (aka Ramsès Damarifa) in “Plus fort que mon père,” with text by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux and direction by François Ha Van for Compagnie BlonBa, and performed at Ivry-sur-Seine, théâtre Antoine-Vitez and Morsang-sur-Orge, théâtre de l’Arlequin (France) © Gilles Perrin

«Ala tè sunogo/Dieu ne dort pas,» written by Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, direction by Sagot-Duvauroux and Ndji Yacouba Traoré for Compagnie BLonBa, performed by Théâtre du Grand Parquet in Paris (France)


Gener
[1] Randy Gener is a Nathan Award-winning editor, writer, dramaturge, critic and artist in New York City. A contributor to National Public Radio, The Journalist and TDF Stages, he founded TheaterofOneWorld.org, a media project devoted to international politics, cultural diplomacy and global projects. For his editorial work and critical essays in American Theatre magazine, Gener also received the SPJ Deadline Club Award for Best Arts Reporting and NLGJA Journalist of the Year Award, among others. He served as curatorial producer/adviser for “From the Edge: Performance Design in the Divided States of America,” the USA National Exposition in 2011 Prague Quadrennial, which was re-mounted at LaMaMa LaGalleria and Penn State University.

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« Les armes font la guerre, mais les arts font la paix (Weapons make war, but the arts make peace) » — Interview with Jean-Louis Sagot-Duvauroux, French Philosopher and Playwright