If context is everything–and I’m not saying it is– then then last night’s T.C debut of Faustin Linyekua’s “Festival of Lies” at the Cedar Cultural Center (smack in Minneapolis’s African neighborhood) deserves an effort to place our hearts and minds in the context of the African condition.
The gorgous dancing and the physical beauty of the three male dancers (Linyekula, Papy Ebotani, and Djodjo Kazadi) and the luscious body, dry delivery of text by Marie-Louise Bibish Mumbu held me thoroughly captive for 3/4 of the performance. There were powerful images (detached dolls, frames, reminding me of Debra Jinza’ Thayer’s great duet at eh Southern last month; borders of countries, coffins). I confess to losing interest, suddenly, for the last 20 minutes.
Given that the Congolese-Zaire-Belgian conflict began at least in 1960, I felt horribly out-of touch with the political history “Festival of Lies” is based on. My context this week is related to the Darfur film my cousin-in-law brought to the U of MN last week; visits with friends in the cast of “Lion King” in town this month; and my own upcoming trip to Africa in February.
Music humming, cricket-like sounds, flourescent lights, the yummy smell of fried plaintains and of incence. The plain stares of the performers, just seeing if we are watching, feeling the vibe. Are they going to shed light on the truth?
On opposite walls translations of rebel leaders from french to english (boy those dirty rotten stinking Belgians were quick to colonize the Congo, making french the spoken language!) are projected. Starting with the most recent speech by liars in 1998, it works backwards to 1960 (and then, in a quick history lesson by Faustin, to 1885, when the Belgian Congo was established) when no one could imagine the years and years of lies that would sweep the nation, turning people against each other, confusing media, international politics, and most of all Faustin Linyekula.
He doesn’t seem confused now. But his muscles, wirey and bowed, looked so complicated and intense. At times I thought of Chris Kattan from Saturday Night Live. Africa is a huge continent! People seemed to have constantly tried to take advantage of its natural resources, most especially, it’s people, or “strands of muscle” as Linyekula says.
The lies make us puppets. Who taught us about corruption?
It is chilliest (though my companions and others laughed, nervously?) when the men start leading each other by the head, gradually getting more menacing. Such a tender, beautiful gesture, taking someone by the head with two hands as though to draw someone in for a kiss, can turn ferocious, and does.
Again context: I had just taken class with Morgan Thorson, whose appealing, sophisticated movement I first got to know through Chris Aiken’s contact Improvisation classes. Thoroughly spine and pelvis driven, I thought of those two great movers (Chris and Morgan). Just then, Marie-Louise Bibish Mumbu joked “This is Africa modern dance” in her dry, french accent. It’s wonderful, slurpy, articulate, inimitable.
By the end, I felt I needed to get home. Faustin yelled out “Long Live the Losers!” and the others got audience members to get up and dance. I shrank, confused, not feeling at all like celebrating.
I don’t like liars.