Feature: Introducing Faustin Linyekula

Friday 27 August 2010

Faustin Linyekula in 'More more more... future'Photo: Agathe Poupeney Continuing on from their African Crossroads season in 2009, this year Dance Umbrella brings Congolese dancer/choreographer Faustin Linyekula to the UK. Catch him in his own piece for three male dancers and full on rock band More more more…future at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 9 October. In striking contrast Linyekula also performs in duet with German choreographer Raimund Hoghe, in his new work Sans-Titre at Laban on 12 & 13 Ocober.

Donald Hutera introduces this dynamic artist…

A real mover and shaker in his native Republic of Congo, Linyekula can first be seen in *More more more…future*, a creation for the multi-disciplinary arts organisation he established in Kinshasa in 2001 called Studios Kabako. Using as a springboard, the rowdy, racy and controversial form of Congolese pop music known as Ndombolo, this piece for three male dancers and a live band is as much of a rock concert as a dance performance. Linyekula then switches gears as the co-star of *Sans-titre*, a far more spare and contemplative work by the German choreographer and performer Raimund Hoghe which is accompanied by the music of Bach.

Born in 1974, Linyekula was raised in a multi-lingual, multi-cultural household in northeast Zaire. “I did not dream of being a dancer as a child,” he says. “In my country you would rather dream of being a lawyer or a doctor.” Nevertheless he started to become involved in theatre at a French cultural centre. “There I had the chance to meet professors who taught me that theatre was not just about text, costume, setting and characters but was, above all, about a body in a space in front of other bodies.”

Linyekula studied literature and theatre in the city of Kisangani and later in Kenya, after political instability caused the universities in Zaire to be shut down. In 1997 he co-founded Gàara with Opiyo Okach (one of the featured artists of Dance Umbrella 2009) and the dancer Afrah Tenambergen. Gàara has the distinction of being that country’s first contemporary dance company. It is also where Linyekula enjoyed his first experiences as a choreographer.

Following creative residencies in France and Austria with the likes of Regine Chopinot, Mathilde Monnier and Gregory Maqoma, and several years of traveling between Kenya and Europe, Linyekula came back to Kinshasa and founded Studios Kabako. It was conceived, he says, not as a company but “more of a mental space to share, doubt and sometimes find. Contemporary dance did not exist in Congo, and I was not particularly interested in the solo form.” Craving collaboration, Linyekula trained four dancers and began creating his own work with them. Studios Kabako itself has since been groundbreaking in the development of African culture in the fields of dance, theatre, music and the visual arts.

In 2006 Linyekula returned to Kisangani. “The city had suffered many years of war and privation. What had become of my friends? And what are the dreams of young people today? Kisangani had changed and lost so much that very quickly I saw the necessity to confront this territory in my work, and to make it possible for other, younger voices to get stronger. Maybe just to feel a bit less alone.”

Linyekula continues to be motivated by his socio-political commitment: “I did not care so much about art but instead how to show the younger generation, who only dream of leaving the city and the country for better lives in Europe or United States, that it is possible to dream and build in Kisangani, and that what is happening in this city is as important as what is happening in London, Paris or New York. And this in a country where legitimacy always comes from abroad!”

Linyekula is modest about his activities and achievements. “My action is so very local, and I am definitely not working or talking for Africa as a whole. But yes, I can say that I do my part to assist young artists in Kisangani and in Congo. This has become one of my priorities.” As directly involved as he is, he finds it difficult to gauge the health of the dance scene in Africa or abroad. “I know wonderful artists in the continent whom I feel very close to, but we are still very few. And abroad we are still confronted with a certain idea of what Africa should be and what African artists are meant to show. So Africa is sun? Yes! Africa is disease and war? Yes! Aids and refugee camps? Yes! Elephants and giraffes? Yes! But only once all of this is said,” he adds, “can we start our journey.”

Faustin Linyekula in 'More more more... future'Photo: Agathe Poupeney How does Linyekula describe *More more more…future?* “Loud sound, beautiful costumes and delicate words! I define myself as a storyteller, and one who is particularly obsessed with the big history of his country and how it affects daily life and personal destinies. For several years, too, Ndombolo has been haunting my pieces. How could I use its wonderful energy? Not to talk about big cars and beautiful women, but to tell about ourselves and our truths.”

Linyekula’s key collaborators on the piece include Flamme Kapaya, “one of the best guitarists of his generation in Congo, a real star there but above all a wonderful composer,’ and Vumi – “a childhood friend who is serving his ninth year in jail in Kinshasa for political reasons. I asked him to write a text about the future, and he gave me five delicate songs.”

Faustin Linyekula in Raimund Hoghe's 'Sans-Titre'Photo: Rosa Frank As for Sans-titre, Raimund Hoghe offers his insight. “My work and Faustin’s are very different’ he says, “but I’m always interested in these differences and seeing that as human beings we can communicate and jump over some walls. The creation was from the beginning a kind of dialogue between his cultural background and mine – Africa and Europe, black and white. In a way I invited him to enter my artistic universe as you would invite a person to enter your house. I prepared some simple materials like stones, a candle, sheets of paper. Faustin plays with them and connects himself with the classical music. It’s great that as a sensitive person and a wonderful dancer he was so open for my kind of work. But of course he is also representing Africa, and watching him I understand many things about this continent.”

Dance Umbrella audiences will be richly rewarded by Linyekula’s vivid presence in these two uniquely different performances – one an expression of socio-political struggles in his home country, and the other a touching dialogue with one of Europe’s leading choreographers, Raimund Hoghe.

More more more… future
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Sat 9 October, 7.45pm
Tickets: £12 – £20 (conc.s 50% off – limited availability)
“more details/online booking”:**

Laban Theatre, Tue 12 & Wed 13 October, 7.30pm
Tickets: £15 (concs £12)
“more details/online booking”:

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