Before I went to Kenya for the first time in 2011 my friend Michael Littig said, “You must read What is the What?” It is a beautiful, harrowing, powerful and ultimately uplifting story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. It was hard to read, and it taught me a great deal about Africa and America. I recommend the book without reservation.
When it came time to name the original show about identity we were creating to share with the refugees, I looked to a quote from the end of the book that I couldn’t get out of my mind. Since then I have referred to everything I have done with and for Africans as The Collapsible Space Between Us.
“Whatever I do, however I find a way to live, I will tell these stories. I have spoken to every person I have encountered these last difficult days…I speak to these people, and I speak to you because I cannot help it. It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength, to know that you are there. I covet your eyes, your ears, the collapsible space between us. How blessed are we to have each other? I am alive and you are alive and so we must fill the air with our words. I will fill today, tomorrow, every day until I am taken back to God. I will tell stories to people who will listen and to people who don’t want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist.”
What is the What?