Thursday, 8 March 2012

Memories of the stage

It was the end of 2004 when I first received a call from Fulvio Ianneo, Director of the Reon Theatre Company in Italy who wanted to put into stage my play I… immigrant… woman  … (original title Io...donna...immigrata ... volere dire scrivere - Published by EMI 2004). I was very excited because it is not common to have the opportunity to see your work  “translated” into another “language”, oral and  body language. I was already happy that my play had been published and we writers know that especially when it comes to plays, first a play is staged than it is published! But things not always happen in the same way!
Astrid Mamina Kayembe and Imane Khalil Combes
I can vividly remember that call, I was then living in a lovely medieval small town between Liguria and Tuscany already a busy mother of three and full of projects.  That call was shortly followed by other calls, mails and finally a meeting.  What liked me of that project was the experimental approach to my work the director had, as if my play was to be considered a workshop and in the end it had really become a workshop testing the expressional and acting skills of the actresses but also the direction has been challenged and my part too, behind the scenes.  
When I first wrote the idea of this play right here in South Africa in the mid 90s. That time I was collaborating with a group of women with different experiences of migration on their background, some were refugees, some were more simply trying to change their lives with all the difficulties of being far from their “home”.
Back to my play, the director’s idea was to set a team of three foreign actresses for the roles of my immigrant women. Wow, I thought at first! Three immigrant actresses? How would have they learnt Italian good enough to be on stage performing the role of migrant women dealing with their displacement, with their loss of  identity and solitude. The experiment resulted fabulous, three French speaking actresses, from different African countries of francophone area (Egypt, Algeria, Congo) did a wonderful work, learning Italian in few  months, rehearsing  in Italian and bringing into stage their perception of what does a migrant woman feel when is far from what she used to call home with its affections, language, culture, memories.
The debut was in a Kaidale Tent, those wonderfully crafted tents Berbers use to live in the Maghreb desert, the tent was installed in a very popular area of Bologna,  in front of a building where 340 different world’s  tribes cohabited together. The venue was symbolic and the people who came  were truly amazing and participative, I believe the play represented in that experimental form has been cathartic for the many of them. 
A few days ago a  friend of  mine dropped in my mail box a bunch of pictures about the day of the debut in 2005 and this reminded me the lovely time I had  and all what has followed the years later, more stages, more theatres, more readings and meetings and workshops. That debut evening I was with my dear friends Soheila Ghodstinat and Valeria Engroba  and of course Imane Khalil Combes and Astrid Mamina Kayembe.

Director Fulvio Ianneo

Astrid Mamina Kayembe and Imane Khalil Combes

"Drasla - Does one have to belong to a place to be a person?  Every day I try to learn new words in this language but I always end up forgetting them the day after. Perhaps I don’t commit myself enough. People expect this from someone like me. They think that the foreigner who escapes from her own country in search of her dream should at least try to  make an effort to form a proper sentence.  I mumble and I stumble over words as if they were stones. When I’m lucky the words are pebbles that slip under the tip of my tongue and  bounce of my palate. I don’t want a dream. I want my reality; the one which the scrap metals of war shattered one cold autumn day."

Astrid Mamina Kayembe and Imane Khalil Combes
ALINA - Patience. I was born with patience, I was raised with a sense of waiting without complaining. I’ve  never seen patience as a necessity of the moment, it is just there, inside me. I know how to wait. Otherwise, I would have never come here without knowing how long it would be till I’d have the money to buy all the bricks needed to build my house. It must be a solid construction, not like the houses where I grew up, that the wind can sweep away if it happens to get crazy!

Imane and Astrid among the public

FARIDA - I write for weaving the piece of the tattered memory that wont consider us. Not knowing who we are is a punishment for us, because not knowing what there was before, makes it difficult to create the present. Nobody leaves you in peace, because they are afraid you might create new power for yourself;
I write to not feel a stranger only a foreigner,
I write for you so you can recognise yourself in my diversity;
I write to tell about the other...
With my stars
Astrid and Imane with friends of the public


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