13, 15, 16/05 – 20:00
IT > NL / FR
Two years after the sensational exhibition of human beings, Exhibit B, South African theatre maker Brett Bailey returns to the Kunstenfestivaldesarts in 2014, directing a touching piece at the KVS. A group of African performers, desperately fleeing the atrocities in eastern Congo, discovered a trunk of worn-out costumes, a yellowed libretto, and an old recording of Verdi's Macbeth : the departure point for a revival of this ancient tale of passion, witchcraft, and hunger for power, in the background of the ruthless exploitation of the African continent. Brett Bailey reads Macbeth as a “decrepit memento of a bygone time”, riddled with bullets and overgrown by jungle. In his Macbeth he boldly and astutely mixes theatre and music, and places a cultural monolith of the early colonial era amid the backdrop of bloody civil wars that have their origins in the post-colonial consumerism of the ‘developed world.’ An inconvenient Macbeth .
Conceived, designed & directed by
Fabrizio Cassol, adapted from Verdi’s Macbeth
Sandile Kamle, Jacqueline Manciya, Monde Masimini, Siphesihle Mdena, Bulelani Madondile, Philisa Sibeko, Thomakazi Holland
No Borders Orchestra
Mladen Drenic (1st violin), Jelena Dimitrijevic (2nd violin), Sasa Mirkovic (viola), Bozic Dejan (cello), Goran Kostic (double bass), Jasna Nadles (flute), Nenad Nesic (clarinet), Milos Dopsaj (bassoon), Nenad Markovic (trumpet), Viktor Ilieski (trombone)
Cherilee Adams, Dylan Tabisher
Producer & managing director
AV engineer & technical assistant
Video illustration & animation
Photographs projected during the opera
Marcus Bleasdale/VII & Cédric Gerbehaye
Iron Pear & Cristina Domenica Salvoldi
Administrator & production assistant
Morne Van Zyl & Brett Bailey
Frans Brood Productions & UK Arts International
Roger Christmann, Artscape, Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio Institute
Third World Bunfight (Cape Town)
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, KVS (Brussels), Theaterformen (Braunschweig), The Barbican (London), Wiener Festwochen, La Ferme du Buisson/Festival d’Automne à Paris
EU Cultural Fund with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union, Artscape
Subtitling supported by
ONDA-Office national de diffusion artistique
The conflict in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.)
Low intensity ethnic and territorial tensions were ignited in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when around a million Hutu refugees together with the perpetrators of the genocide fled across the border into the D.R.C. and destabilized the region. The subsequent wars and on-going violence have seen the deaths of around 5.4 million people – the largest number in conflict since World War 2. Millions of people are displaced. Militia with ethnic and national affiliations fragment and realign themselves. Warlords arise and gather thugs and child soldiers around them and terrorize civilians. Rape and sex-slavery are epidemic.
One of the prime causes of the continuing crisis is the extreme mineral wealth of the region. Rival militia battle each other for control of the mines. They force local men, women and children to work the mines at gunpoint. They tax them daily, leaving them barely enough to survive on. When a new militia group takes control of a mine, it massacres, maims, and rapes to assert its power. Orphaned children are conscripted into the mines or the armies.The taxes that are collected are used to sustain operations, and to buy arms and supplies.
This system is sustained by local and neighbouring government officials, and by multinationals that draw the minerals out of the region, and make huge profits out of the various stages of production of electronic and industrial goods, and jewellery. They pour cash into the conflict zone, and have been known to facilitate the transfer of arms and ammunition to militia. They are aware of the atrocities being committed. They see the civilians fleeing. They see them being torn apart. But it is collateral damage. One cannot be sentimental. Profit is at stake. And after-all, are these ‘primitive Congolese forest dwellers’ really fully human anyway?
The first impulse to make this work arose from a desire to locate Macbeth within an African context, as I did with the dramas of Medea and Orpheus.
I am fascinated with how stuff (religions, philosophies, cultural modes and material goods) is washed up or dumped on the shores of Africa and is appropriated, infiltrated, modified and put to new uses.
I wanted to take Verdi’s opera of witchcraft, tyranny and the will for power, and treat it in the same way: to appropriate it, infiltrate it, modify it. I imagined the opera as a nineteenth century architectural monolith – like a colonial cathedral – lost in the forests or grasslands of Central Africa; a memento of a prior era, now crumbling, shot full of bullet holes, sprayed with graffiti, collapsing under the weight of vines.
Themes that recur in my works are the hidden atrocities committed in Africa by rapacious European colonial powers; the ruthless exploitation of the resources of the ‘developing world’ by multi-nationals; the forgotten ‘underworld’ in which millions of people toil in misery to supply goods and raw materials for the markets of the rich world; and the instability fuelled in these countries by expedient ‘Super Powers’.
As a South African artist who has travelled and worked in many African countries, these themes are very close to home.
I have been aware of the catastrophe in the Eastern Congo for many years now: its scale and its complexity. It is striking to me that so few people outside of the region even know about it: because it smoulders in a dark patch somewhere in Central Africa (rather than in the Middle East for instance), it is almost invisible.
For Macbeth I created a troupe of refugee-performers from the conflict zones of the Eastern Congo. They had discovered an old trunk of paraphernalia (musical scores, costumes, etc.) from an amateur company that had performed Verdi’s opera in the region during the colonial period: a fascinating link between the present situation and the horrors that were perpetrated in the name of profit by the Belgian administration.
The troupe used the Macbeth material that they found in the trunk to tell the story of the plight of their country today. Like the tens of thousands of Africans who flock to Europe every year in small boats or on planes, but who are seen as problematic, nameless statistics, these performers have a desperate story to tell. They are emissaries from the Great Lakes region, come to put their story firmly on the world stage.
I commissioned acclaimed Belgian composer and musician, Fabrizio Cassol, to rearrange Verdi’s score for a small ensemble.
Brett BaileyBack to top
Brett Bailey is a South African playwright, designer, director, installation maker and the artistic director of Third World Bunfight. He has worked throughout South Africa, in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UK and Europe. His acclaimed iconoclastic dramas, which interrogate the dynamics of the post-colonial world, include BIG DADA, IPI ZOMBI?, iMUMBO JUMBO , medEia and ORFEUS . His performance installations include Exhibit A & Exhibit B. His works have played across Europe, Australia and Africa, and have won several awards, including a gold medal for design at the Prague Quadrennial (2007). He headed the jury of the Prague Quadrennial in 2011, and was a juror of the International Theatre Institute’s ‘Music Theatre Now’ competition (2012-2013). He directed the opening show at the World Summit on Arts and Culture in Johannesburg (2009), and from 2006-2009 the opening shows at the Harare International Festival of the Arts. From 2008-2011 he was curator of South Africa’s only public arts festival, ‘Infecting the City’, in Cape Town. In 2014 he delivered the International Theatre Institute’s World Theatre Day message for UNESCO.Back to top