I made a show with 12 students in Kenya called KUMI NA MBILI. Two hundred people came to see the show. For the first time in my three months in Kenya Harambee Hall was quiet while actors worked. It was a dream come true. We imagined the possibilities and we made the impossible possible. The American/Kenyan fusion made something never seen at Kenyatta University and the paradigm of possibilities shifted. I could feel it. I am over-flowing with gratitude and pride. I wanted to give up at one point in the process. But not really. I am not a quitter. I just wanted it to be easier. But I needed to re-learn that easier does not always mean better.
Asante sana KUMI NA MBILI. I’ll see you later today on the roof to make a film.
The coincidence of sharing this piece for the first time on World Theatre Day was not lost to me. The following are not my words, but they reflect my heart. The images are from our performance tonight and our last rehearsal yesterday when I got so sunburnt at Bishop Square.
Message of World Theatre Day 2014
by Brett Bailey- South African playwright/designer/director/installation artist
“Wherever there is human society, the irrepressible Spirit of Performance manifests.
Under trees in tiny villages, and on high tech stages in global metropolis; in school halls and in fields and in temples; in slums, in urban plazas, community centres and inner-city basements, people are drawn together to commune in the ephemeral theatrical worlds that we create to express our human complexity, our diversity, our vulnerability, in living flesh, and breath, and voice.
We gather to weep and to remember; to laugh and to contemplate; to learn and to affirm and to imagine. To catch our collective breath at our capacity for beauty and compassion and monstrosity. We come to be energized, and to be empowered. To celebrate the wealth of our various cultures, and to dissolve the boundaries that divide us.
Wherever there is human society, the irrepressible Spirit of Performance manifests. Born of community, it wears the masks and the costumes of our varied traditions. It harnesses our languages and rhythms and gestures, and clears a space in our midst. And we, the artists that work with this ancient spirit, feel compelled to channel it through our hearts, our ideas and our bodies to reveal our realities in all their mundaneness and glittering mystery.
But, in this era in which so many millions are struggling to survive, are suffering under oppressive regimes and predatory capitalism, are fleeing conflict and hardship; in which our privacy is invaded by secret services and our words are censored by intrusive governments; in which forests are being annihilated, species exterminated, and oceans poisoned: what do we feel compelled to reveal? In this world of unequal power, in which various hegemonic orders try to convince us that one nation, one race, one gender, one sexual preference, one religion, one ideology, one cultural framework is superior to all others, is it really defensible to insist that the arts should be unshackled from social agendas?
Are we, the artists of arenas and stages, conforming to the sanitized demands of the market, or seizing the power that we have: to clear a space in the hearts and minds of society, to gather people around us, to inspire, enchant and inform, and to create a world of hope and open-hearted collaboration?”