The Cultural Diaspora

A residency for text-based theater artists from the African diaspora at the Camargo Foundation.

About the Program

The Cultural Diaspora residency was conceived by acclaimed African-American playwright Carlyle Brown and the Camargo Foundation to support accomplished Black playwrights with diverse cultural backgrounds, and to spark a dialogue about the disparate ways in which the African Diaspora experience has shaped their perspectives and creative output.

Led by co-curators Brown and Nigeria's celebrated theater director Chuck Mike, eight accomplished Black playwrights—four from Africa and four from the United States—convened at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis in the South of France in June 2018 to take part in the pilot edition of the Cultural Diaspora playwrights’ residency. As expressed by Brown, “The idea for the residency was to bring together African and African-American text-based theater artists from opposite ends of the Africanist Diaspora to share work, ideas and strategies for surviving as Black artists, without the veil of a white/western filter, without having to explain themselves, without having to represent an entire group of people, but to explore their craft, their voice, and their African-ness in a beautiful, safe, supportive environment with likeminded individuals who express an interest in the African Diaspora as an influence on and factor in their craft, the content they create, their thinking, and world view.”

The second edition of the Cultural Diaspora residency took place in May-June 2022. Building on the experience gained with the first iteration of the program, the duration of the residency has been extended from four to five weeks, and the international open call has expanded to include Black text-based theater artists from throughout the African Diaspora, including countries bordering the Atlantic basin, Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe as well as Black text-based theater artists outside of those boundaries whose work reflects an interest in the African Diaspora and Afro-Atlantic culture.

The fruits brought by the two editions of the Cultural Diaspora program were reflected in the Afro-Atlantic Playwright Festival in Minneapolis. In 2019, the first edition of the festival was co-organized with the Playwrights' Center, and in 2023, the second edition was with the Illusion Theater and the Playwrights’ Center. In each of these editions, three playwrights who took part in the Cultural Diaspora program presented a play conceived in Camargo.

The festival is curated by Carlyle Brown and Chuck Mike. Its participants were :

  • 2019 edition: France-Luce Benson (USA), Zainabu Jallo (Nigeria, Switzerland), and Femi Osofisan (Nigeria).
  • 2023 edition: Zainabu Jallo (Nigeria, Switzerland), Cassandra Medley (USA), and Tonderai Munyevu (UK).

Find out more about the Afro-Atlantic Playwright Festival: 2019 edition / 2023 edition

  • Curatorial Statement +

    There is a word in Yoruba, Ashe’ as in Amen or so be it. It means the power to make things happen, the capacity to make change, to transform dreams into reality. It is that mysterious force that fuels the connection between all people of African descent, particularly those whose ancestors survived the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Those whose songs of lament became the blues and whose dances of joy in the face of despair have displayed their grace from the ballet to the boogie-woogie to Hip-Hop and beyond. Those whose suffering and labor financed the western world and whose art making, subversive and rebellious, created in oppressive, subjugating atmospheres 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, Cuba, where it disperses its human cargo throughout the Americas. Torn away from their ancestral homeland, to be dislocated and rootless body and soul forever, they are the ancestors of every Black person born in the new world. To heal their psychic wounds, they mixed together their disparate ideas and beliefs and made a common culture. The manifestation of that common culture is the African Diaspora.

    This kinship and connection, this expanded sense of space, geography, history, and the imagination are the ingredients of the African-ness that shapes art making on all sides of the Atlantic basin, creating art in opposition to dominate cultures saturated in racism and colonialism. As Africana scholar Maboula Soumahoro notes “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.”

    Today this spiritual, resilient, ethereal aesthetic is like a restless virus seeking out welcoming hosts in places like Bahia, London, Accra, Toronto, Lagos, and Brooklyn. Born out of suffering and nurtured in oppression, it makes itself from the improvisational complexity and multiplicities of a collectively lived experience. We are seeking out storytellers, the New Griots who make their narratives out of an Afro-Atlantic point of view. New, intricate, expansive narratives that do not simply explain who we are but celebrate our return to ourselves. That explore and discover our African-ness. Narratives that are for ourselves as well as others, narratives where Black Lives don’t simply matter, but are essential. Ashe’

    Carlyle Brown, playwright and program’s co-curator

  • Purpose of the residency +

    The Camargo Foundation offers Fellows an isolated retreat for the soul, nurtured by the natural beauty of it grounds and surrounding environment, to escape and create. Selected participants will be invited at Camargo to explore, experiment, write, and exchange. There will be weekly work sharing sessions of works-in-progress, two scheduled topical discussions on craft or the business or politics of writing facilitated by Brown and Mike, the possibility of staged readings of works-in-progress in partnership with acting students of Marseille, and networking opportunities with European theater professionals. And most importantly a clean, well-lighted place to work.

  • Eligibility +

    •    The program welcomes applications from Black text-based theater artists from the African Diaspora, including but not limited to: Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe.
    •    Eligible applicants have an interest in the African Diaspora and Afro-Atlantic culture as an influence on and factor in their craft, work, and thinking.
    •    Eligible applicants are established or mid-career artists who assume primary responsibility for creating the texts of theatrical productions and/or performance. This program recognizes that practice is increasingly interdisciplinary (including performances that embrace a combination of live theater/dance/film, for example), can include both spoken and musical work, and can assume different scales and forms (from solo performances to storytelling to large-scale theatrical spectacle). This program is designed for artists who play a primary or exclusive role in creating the text component of live theatrical or performance work where spoken language is a critical and primary component, whatever the scale and form. Text creators, of course, may play additional roles, such as directing, designing, and/or performing without compromising their eligibility. Actors, choreographers, designers, directors, etc. who have not been a primary creator of texts, however, are not eligible to apply.
    •    Eligible applicants have had at least three different texts/performances fully produced at reputable venues for public audiences.
    •    Students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs at the time of application are not eligible to apply.
    •    Work developed during the residency may be in any language. In the interests of Camargo’s interdisciplinary, multicultural community, eligible applicants are able to communicate well in English. A basic knowledge of French is useful, but not required.
    •    Playwrights who participated in the 2018 edition of the program are not eligible to apply.

  • Duration, Grant, and Accomodation +
    • Duration

    The program will take place from May 10 to June 14, 2022.

    • Per diem & Grant

    Each of the eight participants will receive plane fare, local transport to and from the home airport and Camargo, and both a per diem allowance of US$1,250 and a grant of US$1,000 (making a total of US$2,250 per artist) to participate.

    • Accomodation

    Each artist will be provided a furnished apartment. The apartments are intended as the workspace for writing and electronic media. Additional workspace at Camargo may also be available, such as the library or the open-air theater. Residents are expected to prepare their own meals.

    • Accompanying family members

    Spouses/adult partners and dependent minor children may accompany fellows for short stays or for the duration of the residency. Accompanying children must be at least six years old upon arrival and enrolled in and attending school or organized activities outside the Camargo Foundation campus, during the week.

  • About the selection process +
    • Selection Criteria

    Selection is based on:

    •    The quality of the applicant’s writing;
    •    The significance of the project or area of inquiry proposed;
    •    The quality and significance of the professional accomplishments of the applicant;
    •    The relevance of the link(s) between the proposal and the African Diaspora;
    •    The potential impact of the residency to shape and inform the writer’s creative process and artistic vocabulary in both the short- and long-term;
    •    The ability of the artist to contribute to and participate in a community of artists, both in Cassis and in one’s home country.

    • The Selection Committee

    The Selection Committee is composed of Black professionals and artists who are working in the field(s) of theater and performance, as well as scholars and thinkers in Africana studies.

    • Results Announcement

    Applicants will be notified of decisions in October 2021. Applicants should not seek information about the status of their application. General information about the selection process will be available to all applicants. Please note that notifications are sent through Submittable, Camargo’s submission management platform, and may be marked as spam. Please check your spam folder if you do not receive news by the end of October 2021.

With the generous support from

For the 2022 edition