Camargo Foundation’s Cultural Diaspora 2018 Fellows Participated in Afro-Atlantic Playwright Festival
July 12-14, 2019, The Playwrights' Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, US
The Camargo Foundation, the Playwrights' Center and Carlyle Brown & Company presented the first Afro-Atlantic Playwright Festival (July 12–14, 2019) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The festival, free and open to the public, , featured works by residents who participated in the Camargo Foundation’s Cultural Diaspora Program, which convened eight playwrights from Africa and the U.S. in Cassis in Summer 2018. While at Camargo in 2018, they had to opportunity to share work, meet with local theater students, and participate in a roundtable discussion entitled "African and Afro-Descendent Writing," which was presented as part of the Festival de Marseille and Massilia Afropea. The three-day event included readings from three participating playwrights, workshops, and a panel discussion.
Curated by playwright Carlyle Brown and theater director Chuck Mike, the event addressed various conceptual and cultural facets of African diaspora studies and their impact on playwrights from around the world. From the eight participating playwrights, three were included in this festival: France-Luce Benson (New York City, U.S.), Zainabu Jallo (Bern, Switzerland and Nigeria), and Femi Osofisan (Ibadan, Nigeria). The festival is made possible with kind supports from the Venturous Theater Fund, the Ford Foundation, and FACE (French American Cultural Exchange).
Press release of the event: click here
Learn more: www.pwcenter.org
Livestreaming of the closing roundtable:
Curatorial Vision of the Festival
The African Diaspora +
By Carlyle Brown
My overall artistic practice as an African-American theater artist is rooted in the traditions of the West African Griots who with their songs and recitations are the traditional story tellers and the repositories of the history of African peoples in oral culture. In African-American culture I consider preachers, spoken word artists, stand-up comics, blues singers and playwrights as part of that tradition. I have long been fascinated by the mysteries of the transference of those traditions from Africa to the new world through the transatlantic slave trade and how it managed to survive through subversion and rebellion the oppressive, subjugating atmosphere in which it shaped and transformed itself into one of the major cultural influences in the world.
The Atlantic Ocean is a cultural lake whose principal port is the West Coast of Africa from where it has been exporting its African-ness aesthetic for hundreds of years spreading across the Western Ocean in slave ships running before the trade winds through the Caribbean Islands to ports like Havana where it disperses its human cargo throughout the Americas. Jam packed in the bowls of those slave ships, back to back and belly to belly, breathing in each other’s faces, sweating on each other’s bodies, pissing and defecating in each other’s space, people from different language groups and different ethnic groups, some old friends and some old enemies and many strangers all howling in fear and desperation over being torn away from their ancestral homeland, to be dislocated and rootless body and soul forever. It is estimated that between 11 and 22 million Africans survived this ordeal and to heal their psychic wounds they mixed together their disparate ideas and beliefs and made a common culture. Part of the greatest act of human trafficking in the history of the planet, a mass forced human migration, they are the ancestors of every Black person born in the new world. The common culture that they made is the manifestation of the African Diaspora.
In the United States, one of Africa’s major cultural colonies, where Black Americans are its most noted beneficiaries, Black American artists who are aware that they are related historically and aesthetically to the artists of West Africa have over time created a body of artistic expression so distinct and unique that American culture could not be what it is without it. This kinship and connection, this expanded sense of space, geography, history and the imagination are the African-ness ingredients that shape art making on both sides of the Atlantic. Contemporary West African and African-American text based artists share these traditions and accompanying history, as well as the common problems of creating art in opposition to a dominate culture saturated in racism and colonialism. As noted by Africana scholar Maboula Soumahoro, “Africana studies, the academic discipline specializing in the systematic study of peoples of African descent globally through the prism of history, geography and culture has emerged as a specific field rather recently… is an attempt to place the African continent at the center of all preoccupations…acknowledges Africa as the locale of all departures and ultimate returns.”
This spiritual, resilient, ethereal aesthetic is like a restless virus seeking out welcoming hosts in places like Bahia, London, Toronto, Brooklyn. Born out of suffering and nurtured in oppression it makes itself from the improvisational complexity and multiplicity of a collectively lived experience. There must be a multitude of stories out there that make themselves out of an Afro-Atlantic point of view. New, intricate, expansive narratives that do not simply explain who we are but celebrates our return to ourselves. That explores and discovers our African-ness. Narratives that are for ourselves where Black Lives don’t simply matter, but are essential.
Carlyle Brown & Company