NorrlandsOperan, the opera house of the north of Sweden, is home of a symphony orchestra, many music festivals, bars and restaurants. Three nights in the beginning of May, the sun saturates the crisp atmosphere holding the promise of the midsummer light soon to come. The house is buzzing with nightlife, music and mingling intellectuals. The guests are here for this year’s MADE Festival. Artistic director, David Moss, has created his last program – and a very eclectic and international one. French Magali Duclos combined puppet theatre and street dance in Jeux d’Enfants. Umeå artist Gunilla Samberg also took the streets with her army of white baby carriages filled with growing green oats. This convoy was a silent but utterly loud expression of love for Mother Earth. Another unusual happening was the opera’s classical symphony orchestra playing the music of the internationally acclaimed hardcore band Refused. The music of other Umeå-based bands and DJs stood next to Tinariwen’s mesmerizing beat mixing Saharan folk music and American blues rock. This north African band of the nomadic Tuareg tribe raised their voices for the painful rights of their people. The program was filled with many other powerful performances and informative talks.
Thursday night. With a long line of other guests, patiently and curious I enter the black box theater. I am happy to get a seat front row, as close as I can to the stage and the performer. Le Cargo – a dance piece and spoken word performed by war ridden Kongo’s Faustin Linyekula. Words and movements are accompanied by Flamme Kapaya’s virtuoso electric guitar.
The stage is black, barren, minimalistic. I am deeply reminded that this is how I love the theatre the most. Undressed. Naked. Magic created out of thin air.
A circle of stage lights on one side of the stage. A higher light on the other side. Center stage a microphone, an african carved footstool, two books and a computer. Without a light or sound cue one suddenly become aware of the solo dancer. Quietly he has entered the stage. How long has he been there? I don’t know. Linyekula’s dark, small and muscular body moves slowly. His black sleeved t-shirt and open knee-long skirt shift a little creating their own dance with the dancer. His face, so sad. A heart, a memory filled with sorrow. War, pain, hope, joy.
Seated by the microphone the dancer who is a storyteller speaks calmly: “I am Kabako, once Kabako always Kabako. I am a storyteller. But I have not come to tell any stories. I have come to dance. I am Kabako.” Still, he tells stories of his Kongo, of his people. He speaks of dance. The ritual dances he remembers from his childhood. Dances for grown-ups that the children were excluded from. These are the dances he wants to tell. Fascinated and mediative the audience and the spirits behold his moving feet and shaking hands. Midway, the storyteller opens a book revealing a group of an African tribe. He takes the microphone and let it rest next to the group. We all chuckle. Pictures, too, speak. Pressing buttons on the computer the exact monolog previously spoken is now replayed. The monotony and repetition are mesmerizing. Linyekula enters a trans-like state, his whole body shaking, sweat dripping, his hands and fingers like tentacles to another world.
I find myself at a threshold. I want to go with him to that other world, but the chair I am seated in binds me to this world. Yet while I long for another dimension I am aware of unknown gifts flowing from the stage, from the world of creative spirits into the many hearts of us, the audience, and we too are inside the dance. Yes, I have come, we have all come to dance, for we are Kabako.
by Ottiliana Rolandsson Umeå2014