Bridging Two Worlds with ‘Dear Beloved Friend’

Bridging Two Worlds with ‘Dear Beloved Friend’

Yinka Olatunbosun

A collaborative project by Studios Dries Verhoeven and Kininso Koncepts, the experimental live film performance titled ‘Dear Beloved Friend’ was recently screened at a Dutch theatre to a large audience. Performed in Nigeria, the live filmwas set against the theme of mass migration with reference to Africans moving into the Europe. The play director, Dries Verhoeven revealed the rationale behind the story and the production. For starters, he had always wanted to do a work on Africans’ exodus to the Europe to show a different perspective of the trend.

“About a few years ago, I was reading some articles that were describing this exodus to Europe from Africa. In Europe, we talk about it in an apocalyptic way- like something we should be fearful of. I read about how migration is connected to climate change and that is a lot written about the explosion of population which explains why many people want to go to Europe. That is what I came to Nigeria- to dive into the material. Not to look from the sides. I like to surround myself with the topic that I would like to research.’’

During his research, he discovered that many Europeans who argue against migration are quite ignorant of what it means to live in Africa. He decided to spend some time in Nigeria, connect with the people and experience their daily struggles to be able capture this in the production.

“My visit to Nigeria is a very open visit,’’ he continued. “I was very happy to be introduced to Kininso Koncepts and meet the people who are so full of creative ideas, so professional about curating events and setting up theatre productions here and internationally.

“I ask two questions: have we reached the place where Africans are going massively to the Europe and should we be afraid of that? I found myself talking about myself by talking about Europe. I think in the end it is more of what we can call the European mid-life crisis. The fact that Europe is looking back instead of forward. It is nostalgic yet I was awfully depressed.”

From this perspective, the 75-minute live film ‘Dear Beloved Friend’ was produced to stir emotions and a rounded reasoning on the issue of migration. Screened in Netherlands and other European cities, the performers were domiciled at Seaside Cottage, in the heart of a Lagos suburb on the mainland.

“We are looking at the potential or the possibility that they would be on stage one day. the performers question their future presence on that stage. And that future presence is being converted to fear by the Dutch. Those 75 minutes we try to scrutinise the feelings of nervousness of the Dutch. Instead of being behind our walls, thinking about others without opening the doors to have a conversation on issues such as climate change. This is what the piece does. We should have open hands look each other in the eyes and have conversations without stereotypes and prejudice,’’ he affirmed.

‘Dear Beloved Friend’ illustrates the typically suspicion of an average European to genuine affection of the African. The performers enact various European nightmares with provocative and disruptive showmanship.

The producer of Dear Beloved Friend and Founder, Kininso Koncepts, Joshua Alabi also gushed about having a Nigerian theatre production screened in European theatres during a recent virtual chat with journalists in Lagos. He noted that the infusion of technology into theatrical production is a 21st intervention to satisfying global audiences.

“As this project is going on in Lagos and in parts of Europe, another piece of our production is going on in Germany. With dear beloved friend, when I met Dries and we began talking about this project, it was intriguing to be able to blend live performances with film with the use of technology. It is something that several African content makers have tried to do over the years,’’ he said.

The production runs till June across various theatres and festivals in Europe including SPRING Performing Arts Festival, Utrecht and Oerol Festival, Terschelling.

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