History(-ies) of Theatre II
Faustin Linyekula revisits the early years of Congolese independence and nationhood with original members of the Zaire National Ballet.
Faustin Linyekula’s first memory of theatre is a televised performance of The Epic of Lyanja performed by the Zaire National Ballet in 1974. The piece is a mythical origin story of the newly-independent country, combining song and dance from its different regions. It was the national ballet company’s biggest success, and the clearest manifestation of the nation-building goals of its founder, President Mobutu.
Soon after the independence movement in the 1960s, political leaders in several African countries (including Sékou Touré in Guinea and Léopold Senghour in Senegal) sought to use dance and music to create a national identity. But what could have been a formidable experiment to reflect on the "body of the nation" quickly became a propaganda tool and a source of fierce political rivalries.
In History(ies) of Theatre II, three members of the original company, some on stage and other on screen, are joined by a Congolese actor who grew up watching them on TV, and a Belgian actor. Exceptionally, in this occasion, Faustin Linyekula will also be performing on stage. Together, they interrogate the legacy of the company, the history of the early years of independence, and their own roles in these stories.
Artistic director Faustin Linyekula Assistant director Papy Maurice Mbwiti With Faustin Linyekula, Wawina Lifeteke, Papy Maurice Mbwiti, Ikondongo Mukoko (video), Marie-Jeanne Ndjoku Masula, Oscar Van Rompay (video) Dramaturgy Stefan Bläske Dramaturgy intern Castélie Yalombo Costumes Ignace Yenga Light technician Geert de Rodder Sound & video technician Frederik Vanslembrouck Video L’épopée de Lyanja performed by Ballet National de la Compagnie Théâtre National Congolais (excerpts) Produced by Virginie Dupray/Studios Kabako, Greet Prové/NTGent Coproduced by Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt am Main With support from the Belgian Tax Shelter In collaboration with Ballet National de la Compagnie Théâtre National Congolais and Isaano/ Positive Production (Kigali)
Co-funded by the Creative Europe programme project Create to Connect, Create to Impact
Presented in Portugal with the support of Institut Français
About the artists
Faustin Linyekula is a choreographer and dancer who lives and works in Kisangani, in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He has created 17 pieces that have toured extensively in Europe, Africa, Australia, and South and North America. His work deals with memory and forgetting, particularly in regards to the legacy of decades of war, terror, fear and economic collapse. He has received many awards in his career, including the Tällberg/Eliasson Global Leadership Prize (2019), the Soros Fellowship (2017), and the principal award of the Prince Claus Fund (2007). He was associate artist at the Manège in Reims from 2018 to 2021 and associate artist of the Holland Festival in 2019. In 2016, he was associate artist of the city of Lisbon. He is the founder of Studios Kabako, a centre for production, training, research, and creation in Kisangani.
Papy Maurice Mbwiti is an actor, playwright, and director. He is also artistic director of Mbila Kréation Théâtre, manager of the cultural space Les Béjarts and works with the company Utafika théâtre. Mbiwti has performed in three works by Faustin Linyekula, The Dialogue Series: iii Dinozord (2006), La Fratrie errante (2007), and Sur les traces de Dinozord (2011), which toured extensively in Europe, Africa, and the United States. He regularly collaborates with Johan de Hollander, Marie-Louise Bibish Mumbu, and Monika Gintersdorfer. He currently lives in Montreal and is an artist-in-residence at Centre du Théâtre d'Aujourd'hui.
Suzane Wawina Lifeteke joined the National Ballet of Zaire in 1975. She performed in L’épopée de Lyanja, the company’s greatest success. She then performed in numerous plays including Nkenge (1980), Elima Ngando (1983), Rythmes et danses du Congo (1986), Kayiba (2008), and En remontant le fleuve Congo (2003 & 2015). She toured internationally with the National Ballet, performing in Nigeria, Morocco, Burundi, Egypt, Angola, Rwanda, Kenya, Libya, Niger, Algeria, and also in the United States, Russia, India, Japan and several countries in Europe. Since 2003, she supervises young actors at the National Ballet.
Singer and dancer Marie-Jeanne Ndjoku began performing at the National Ballet of Zaire in 1974. She performed in several plays such as: L’épopée de Lyanja (1974), La fille du forgeron (1976), Nkenge (1980), Elima Ngando (1983), Rythmes et danses du Congo (1986), Kayiba (2008), and En remontant le fleuve Congo (2003 & 2015). She toured internationally with the National Ballet, performing in Nigeria, Morocco, Burundi, Egypt, Angola, Rwanda, Kenya, Libya, Niger, Algeria... but also in the United States, Russia, India, Japan and several countries in Europe, including Portugal.
A griot trained as part of the Oyingi group on the Idiofa territory in Congo, Rodolph Ikondongo Mukoko entered the National Ballet of Zaire in 1974. With the Ballet, he performed in L’épopée de Lyanja (1974), La fille du forgeron (1976), Nkenge (1980), Elima Ngando (1983), Rythmes et danses du Congo (1986), Kayiba (2008), En remontant le fleuve Congo (2003 & 2015). He has toured internationally in Africa, United States, and Europe.
Oscar Van Rompay is an actor in the resident company of the Belgian theatre NTGent. At NTGent Van Rompay has been seen in Platform, Opening Night, Tien geboden [Ten Commandments], Vergeten Straat [Forgotten Street], Woyzeck, God van de slachting [God of Slaughter], Kroniek oder wie man einen Toten im Appartment nebenan für 28 Monate vergisst [Chronicle or How to lie dead in your apartment for 28 months],and FRONT Polyphonie, JR. He made his film debut in Win/win (2010) by Jaap van Heusden as the main character Ivan, a young stockbroker. For that role he received the ‘Certificate of Outstanding Achievement’ for best actor at the New York Film Festival. He wrote the monologue Africa with Peter Verhelst based on his experience managing a tree plantation in Kenya.