Staging Times

The Project

Staging Times explores different dimensions of how visual and performing arts can interact. By linking photography and theatre, the project creates a network between artists from six African countries (Mali, Burkina Faso, Kenia, Burundi, Malawi, South Africa). The design of the project follows a ping-pong format: pictures of the photographers provide a source of inspiration for the theatre artists. Vice versa, their plays and performances, based on the photographs, will again generate new images.

Time as the main topic of this collaboration plays a prominent role in both forms of artistic expression even if approached from very different angles. While photography can preserve a moment over time, theatre lives and fascinates only in the very elusive instant. The way the passing of time or its standstill is experienced, how past and future shape the presence or the entanglement of various times at the same moment, are some of the fields the artists explore.

In February 2019 the project started in Bujumbura with a conference of all participants where they discussed the various facets of time with scholars and other artists. The outcome of Staging Times consists of three theatre productions performed at the Buja sans Tabou festival in Burundi in February 2020 and an art exhibition presenting the work of the photographers (and documents of the performances) at different places and venues in Africa and in Europe.

Additionally, the project features a component for and with young photographers of the participating countries. It offers them learning and working opportunities with their older colleagues involved in the project.

Travelling Through Time (Aboubacar Traore & Noël Minoungou)

Travelling Through Time

The Malian photographer Aboubacar Traore understands his work as a political statement. Especially the photos of the red empty chair, which he places in the suburbs of Bamako or at the banks of the River Niger speak about the absence of rulers who serve their country instead of exploiting it. In these pictures Mali’s past communicates with the present.

The theatre director Noël Minoungou from Burkina Faso has taken up Aboubacar Traore’s idea of the red chair and the question of power in his play entitled Mister Time. At the centre of the performance is a physicist who travels into the past with a time machine. But something must have gone wrong with the construction. Because suddenly African and European heads of state from different eras are on stage at the same time, reciting passages from speeches they once held. They all talk about Africa and the hope of finally freeing the continent from the shackles of its colonial past. Mister Time – with the knowledge of the present – reacts disillusioned and melancholic. Many of the visions of those days have not been realized until now.

Time Which Does Not Pass (Sarah Waiswa & Freddy Sabimbona)

Time Which Does Not Pass

Sarah Waiswa‘s first photo story is about a woman who has bought a dress at a second-hand market that, despite the recitation of a protective prayer, still contains the spirit of the previous owner. When the woman wears the dress for the first time, her body begins to transform into a younger version of herself. A healer confirms to her that she has gained eternal youth by putting on the dress, a wonderful and terrifying news at the same time.  Waiswa’s dreamlike sequence of images oscillates between life and death, expressing on a visual level the ambivalence inherent in the question of whether it is really worth giving up one’s mortality for eternal youth.

Theatre director Freddy Sabimbona and the author Claudia Munyengabe took a photograph of Sarah Waiswa as a starting point for each scene of the play Point Zero. Aesthetically, the production is also significantly influenced by Waiswa’s images. In terms of content, however, the young theatre-makers set another focus. In their collage, they ask about the future of their generation, both in Burundi and abroad. The associative scenes are mainly about violence, death and war. The actors appear more as speakers and bearers of meaning and only rarely as classical theatre figures. In language and direction, Point Zero remains rather abstract. It is musical, sometimes almost lyrical, then again a distorted, grotesque and bitter performance. In the middle of the open-air stage, around which the audience is seated one can see an open grave. The gravestone bears the inscription: “Here rests the world”. 

Time Multiplied (Lebohang Kganye & Thokozani Kapiri)

Time Multiplied

Lebohang Kganye‘s first series of photographs consists of silhouette-like images of people that she cut out of family photographs, blacked them out, and in other arrangements, pasted them back into a photo album. Through this approach, Kganye playfully explores the potentials of the visual family archive. By intervening in the photo album, she takes the liberty of reimagining (family) history. She delves into the world of possibilities and imagines, from today’s perspective, what might have been if this or that had happened differently in the past.

Thokozani Kapiri‘s play Ta O‘Reva (based on a short story by Muti Nhlema) is set in a future marked by violence and devastation. Many inhabitants from South Africa have fled to Nyasaland in the north to ensure their survival. This is also the case for a family of three generations who remember their former life in South Africa in fragmentary scenes during the course of the play. With the help of telepathic abilities, an attempt is made from the destroyed future to contact Nelson Mandela in the past. The aim of this endeavour is to correct far-reaching political decisions of the past so that their consequences will be less severe in the virus-contaminated and climate disaster-ridden future. But the experiment fails, because the past proves to be unchangeable.