Written by Nataša Zavolovšek; executive director and producer Exodos Ljubljana, lead producer of SHARE
photo: Borut Bučinel, Nataša Zavolovšek
We are in the middle of corona time, we just heard that Europe is closing down again. But still, we are starting our second international project Share: Creative powers of art, with Exodos Ljubljana as coordinator, together with our partners ZKM Zagreb (Croatia), Marche Teatro Ancona (Italy), Association Cadanses (Senegal), Festival In and Out/ Tamadia(Burkina Faso), The Freedom Theater(Palestina), Errenteria ( Spain), and Poligon (Slovenia). The objectives for that project are simple: to share our knowledge, to build a foundation for better conditions for arts, to exchange artistic visions and to show that with the help of the cultural action, we can make a better society.
No, I’m not an idealist but a fanatic and I like to make impossible things possible.
That’s why we are here in Bobo Dioulasso, despite travel restrictions, tests, the robbery of our bank account (that is not a joke, the case is at the court and police). I managed to find the additional funds, thanks to Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the City of Ljubljana, and in few days I will give 2 chickens to the local shaman to help us get those funds back. You never know what works and what doesn’t.
In Burkina Faso, everything is working, social life, cultural life, schools, shops. Even more. If you put the wrong gas in the car and it stops, someone from the street helps you and the mechanic is there in 15 minutes, the car as good as new in 3 hours. Let me know where in Europe this is possible! Here there are still important relations, people to people.
Yes, the internet is not always working. But who cares? It will work later.
In Burkina Faso they say: In Europe, you are always behind the time, in Africa the time is behind us. You can see that life is less stressful here. And people are never lazy.
Yesterday, our partner in the SHARE project, Aguibou Bougôbaly Senou, who also leads the festival In and Out, held a press conference. This was the nicest press conference I ever attended. As the festival is working with the community, the conference was in front of community houses, a nicely arranged place with a local coffee maker ((the coffee better than Illy). Aguibou presented the program of the festival, the SHARE project, questions and answers, of course, he didn’t get any support from the government, the Covid crisis is a great excuse for many governments in the world not to support artists and culture. In Slovenia we are facing a big attack on culture, civil society and the conditions for life are becoming really bad.
During the press conference, 30 kids came home from the school and made a circle around us. What a picture. All that curiosity, smiles, lively eyes.
When you see that, you know: Africa is the future.
I was at the press conference with my team, two choreographers Žigan Krajnčan and Gregor Luštek, the photographer and video artist Borut Bučinel, who took the role to animate the kids. Žigan had his first spontaneous workshop, Borut made 20 more photos of African kids. Next year we are making a book of the Beauty of Sparkling Eyes. Not just with photos from Burkina Faso, as we are working on that colorful, powerful continent for 5 years now. He has already more than 500 photos. They deserve that. http://photo-bucinel.com/
During the weekend we went to discover some of the beauty of Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso is not known as a touristic country but if you travel around you can see many nice places, lakes, oases, landscapes with small villages and beside all everywhere you meet nice kind people. Before we came here, I received from my man an article from La Repubblica with the title “Burkina Faso, the land of the terror”. A clear message to not go there! What an unfair article to all the people here, who are fighting for better conditions for themselves and their kids, with small resources and a simple life. As everywhere in the world, there are some groups who don’t agree with the government, the political situation, and try to get their rights with force. These groups in Burkina Faso are attacking small villages in the north. No, we didn’t see any violence. I see more police in Ljubljana streets lately.
I have to say that I feel more free and safe here than in Europe at the moment, as In Europe it is a dark time, with the rule of fear and control. People become enemies to each other. Homo homini lupus.
Proudly, I sent a press release in Slovenia that we are about to start a large international project SHARE, with Slovenian artists and touring of dance performances.. The different media in Slovenia responded, but the feedback on social media was shocking. For example: why they are there if we can’t go 30 km to another city in Slovenia?Or why they are going to Africa if then thousands of Africans come to our borders?
Made me want to stay here forever. Gregor Lustek, our choreographer, announced that it would be brilliant if the 13th salary in the year would be strictly for travel abroad. That all Slovenians would go on a trip abroad. There would be more understanding of and tolerance for the differences. They would see that diversity could be beautiful, inspiring, challenging. And at the same time, you see more of what you have at home. Reality check.
On this sunny weekend day, we saw 5 hippos, big animals, peacefully swimming in the lake and the fishermen coexist with them. We jumped in the waterfalls, so refreshing! as Burkina Faso is dry and dusty land. We visited a holy baobab tree and I ate for the firsts time in McDonald’s, a really good lunch, of course it was a fake McDonalds, just the name, the rest was much better than in a “real” one.
The word of the day is coexistence. I notice that in Burkina Faso, they are better at that. Here there are extended families, they help each other, a network of relatives, neighbours, and friends. Safer. Not alone.
Gregor Lustek, one of Slovenia’s best dancers and teachers, starts a workshop in the French Institute with 15 dancers. The start was good. It is really important to share and exchange artistic knowledge and technique. The better technical competence you have, the better chance you have to find your personal style. That is the fact. I remember when we (Gregor and I) visited the festival of African dance in Ouagadougou, 3 years ago. Gregor became totally nervous after we saw 6 performances, as we could only see French techniques, no trace of African movement, no improvisation, no contact. At that festival, I also noticed that there are no domestic technicians or producers, which lead us to rethinking the concept of SHARE. The project has now Capacity building for the culture sector and for communities at the core.
The goal of the workshop is to to choose one or two local dancers for our first Share international production I had a dream, led by Gregor Luštek.
This is an artistic project where the position of the artist is not defined by production value and a wish for success - to be heard, seen, flattered - but rather by the wish for coexistence and the search for inner truth, where intimacy becomes a part of the common. It is a search for artistic expression beyond economic and political frames.
In the journey through intimacy, we search for truths that are extremely personal and also crucial for understanding our social exchanges.
This journey will finish in autumn. Follow us and our dreams. www.exodosljubljana.si
I’m just listening to the thoughts of Žigan, one of the most creative Slovenian young artists. He is for the first time in Africa and the reason why I brought him here is that I have the feeling that the experiences he will get will be good for his artistic development and that his solo performance should be seen here. He is a really good dancer and singer. As he is curious, he is finding his own way. www.zigankrajncan.com
His first impressions of Africa were the vibe and sounds. Yes, it’s true, you can’t get this vibe and these sounds anywhere in the world but in Africa. That’s why most Africans who come to Europe miss it, can’t find it and, without it, are unhappy. The other important thing is the community: relations here are essential.
Yesterday we visited a big community. In and our festival bring the festival also in villages. Bama community connects 20 small villages, it is around 9000 people leaving in that community.
The chief of Bama accepted us, honored us with the welcome speech. He can’t talk directly to the people, there was a translator who told us his thoughts.
The Chief said that he is very happy to welcome everybody in the village of Bama and in his compound too. He is proud of what Aguibou Bougôbaly Sanou is doing for the people of Burkina Faso and other countries through culture. He mentioned the importance of culture, peace, marriage, praise singers, and above all human relationships. He explained what Bama means (I'll do my best) and how this village has been created. He informed about the different organizations of Mandarè (Bobo) people in the past before colonization. The knowledge about the past has to be shared.
Wise thoughts, nice ritual, surrounded with sounds and songs.
Then we share: First, the women from the village taught our dancers how to dance their dance, and then the dancer and choreographer from Burkina Faso, who lives in France, Aminata Sanou, taught them contemporary traditional steps. It was a nice, simple gathering. New for us, new for them. Priceless.
My working place for this week is the French Institute, a place for local gatherings, with a bar, library, two stages, a gallery, yesterday there was an opening of a photo exhibition by a local photographer. Also a place for concerts and shows. One of the most charming French Institutes that I have seen in Africa.
On my left side each day is a man, all day doing bracelets, small art. He is the one who takes care of my computer if I need to jump somewhere. The whole crew here is amazinglyhelpful, even when our photographer Borut was accused by local police for taking a picture of a forbidden building, outside on the street. It was a happy end, he didn’t have any photos indeed, just that it took 2 hours to clear up all misunderstandings with the local police, French police (they are working here together) and in the end, we were all friends.
Today we will have set-up and general rehearsal for tomorrow’s official opening of the festival. With Burkina Faso, Slovenian and Senegalese shows. It will be a night of different cultures, all connected with music, dance and bodies.
Looking forward to the grand opening of In and Out Festival.
The grand opening was the grand opening. With a big parade, from local groups, dancers, hunters, voodoo group from Benin, young football teams, as we connect sport and culture. The big road was closed all community was there, the important invitees were there, the major of Bobo Dioullaso open the festival. I have never seen so many important guests from the villages, city, region, culture in any opening of the festival. What shows at least 2 things: that Aguibou Sanoe as festival director connect tradition and contemporary, and that in that city and the state the culture is important.
What noticed also our artist and choreographer Žigan Krajnčan who had later in the evening his performance Fusion with myself at the French Institute.
His remarks about all that he saw: “What excites me the most is how people maintain the joy of life and of what they do, no matter what situation they find themselves in. Of course, probably not everyone is like that, but most people I see greeting on the street carry it within themselves. I am immensely inspired by this, both in terms of life and in terms of artwork.
And just that: here is art, culture, a part of life, and not something that separates itself from it.”
The audience liked his solo performance as it is a bit special, fresh and new. (Fusion with Myself on Vimeo)
We also saw also a good performance by the young Senegal group: L'oiseau a perdu ses plumes. The evening closed with Tamadia company performance - Anhumanus. Many styles, many colors, many stories, young dancers; fulfilling night. I just remembered that I haven’t see a live performance for 5 months. It looks so normal and good.
On Aguibou’s birthday, we went to see the place where his residency center is slowly growing, with an open-air theatre, 20 km from Bobo, in the countryside. The goal is to make a residency center that will be self-sufficient with eco-agriculture fields all around. As I’m a dreamer, I could immediately imagine a vivid place, full of international and local artists, dancers, writers, designers, taking time for their creations, sharing space, visions, and projects, in the shadows of palm and avocado trees. One palm tree is Slovenian. We put it in the ground, in front of the first emerging residence house, a traditional African roundhouse.
There was time for good food and slow talks.
It was a pity that because of Covid-19, we couldn’t make the program in the Bobo-Dioulasso prison. The festival In and Out presents each year a part of the program there, part of the project Why not? by Tamadia
Why not? is a de-radicalization and socio-professional reintegration project for prisoners from the western regions of Burkina Faso through culture. It is based on dance (traditional and contemporary), reading and writing sessions, theater, music, and related technical competence such as scenography, management, administration etc.
The Aims are to:
• stimulate creativity and self-confidence
• use art and culture as a means of combating and preventing extremism, radicalization.
• use art and culture as the basis for sustainable social cohesion.
• social and professional reintegration of prisoners
• democratize art and make it accessible to all
• fight against extreme poverty
As a producer in 2 earlier projects with prisoners in different prisons, I know that such projects are important and that culture and arts can help a lot. For sure, the project Why not? will be a part of SHARE: Creative powers of art.
Also the project My Story, where our artists will work with young footballers, with the goal to give them more skills to share their stories, will be included.
With our big plans, we visited the director of Cerav/Unesco Bobo Diolasso. Great meeting, I saw a short movie, where one can see all that culture and the arts mean for Burkino Faso. Impressive. We have to share that movie later on. Personally, I’m very grateful to the director Michael Saba and the team, who promised to partner with us. Together we are stronger.
The last meeting was with the Mayor of Bobo Dioulasso. Short, with a special focus, we concluded that we will meet again in the autumn, when the full program for Bobo Dioulasso is ready. Yes, the city has a special mayor for Culture, last night a public talk with him was arranged in the frame of the festival. The city has a cultural policy, step by step they support artists and cultural organizations.
No, this is not a jungle. For all those who have not yet visited Africa.
We are not Covid-19 positive, we can go home. It’s time.
To Villa Bobo, the owner Peter, to regular guest Robert, who showed us how to make sculptures from bronze on the night of the full moon, and gave us many tips, to Alisa and Cheick, all of them made our stay at Villa Bobo as a home. I could not find a better one. With the garden, where my morning coffees were the best. And the night talks the longest.
Agiubou with his family and his team shows us how to make big things from almost nothing. Festival, artists, concerts remind us that life is normal. Bobo Diuolasso surprised us with its kindness and openness.
The drive to Ouagadougou was long but nice. Our last station was once again the African restaurant, with delicious food, where we began our journey. We made the circle. Thank you, men, for all your help and work, we are a good team.
At the dinner, Adonis told us that his car is our car (we just gave him his car back), his house is our house, “Natasa you are not a tourist in Burkina anymore”, he said, and “If you give only one Burkina Faso artist a better opportunity for work, it means that you give a whole family better life“. For him is that enough that he supports us. Simple, no?
The difference is big. -40 degrees for example.
We are In and not Out. But even though we just came home from the journey, the journey only starts. I have now to collect all those impressions, together with our partners make plans for 2021/2022, strengthen the team, find the additional money, any suggestion welcome www.shareplatform.art and just do it. Step by step. SHARE: Creative powers of art. We learned on that trip that small and simple things are big and that only people and relations matter.
Thankful to the Ministry for Foreign A/Slovenia, the City of Ljubljana, Creative Europe Program of EU; without them, this project would never even start.