Mohamed Toukabri The Power (of) The Fragile [postponed]
dance premiere coproduction

Read Mohamed's statement about the postponement of his newest production for the second time in a row.

All the animals, the plants, the minerals, even other kinds of men, are being broken and reassembled every day, to preserve an elite few, who are the loudest to theorize on freedom, but the least free of all. - Thomas Pynchon 

A few days ago the decision was made to cancel / postpone the creation of my newest production ‘The Power (of) The Fragile’, a duet together with Maimouna Latifa Khamessi (my mother), for the second time in a row.

The first cancelation was due to the covid-19 spread and lockdown, the second because my mother, Maimouna Latifa Khamessi, was not given the visa authorisation to enter Belgium coming from Tunisia. Her contract for 9 weeks of rehearsals and for 9 performances in 4 different venues was signed, her work permit was ready, her corona test was negative. The artistic team of 7 people was put on hold for the second time in a row, and is again left unemployed. The production company had flexibly reworked schedules of 7 people, for 4 rehearsal spaces and for 4 theatre venues for the second time in a row. This essential travel was not considered essential by the the ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not essential? My mother was supposed to join an artistic team to take part in an international artistic project worth 65.000 euros, being supported by the Flemish authorities and the VGC, andcoproduced by Beursschouwburg, Vooruit and Needcompany with performances for which tickets had been sold and audiences were waiting. Cancelations imply financial damage but let’s not forget to give space to an even more important factor: the psychological, mental and emotional involvement. Who will take the responsibility for all this mental, emotional and financial damage? 

Politicians are contributing to a total crash of cultural and creative sectors by imposing rules which are not applied to other sectors. Cultural workers are no longer protected by the representatives of this government. Cultural venues, event organisers, art workers and especially freelancers are facing a total catastrophe. Even when we create job opportunities we’re blocked by the authorities: we need protection. We urgently need appropriate support measures . 

Who will take this responsibility? Who can we address? What is the future framework for the sector? What is the plan? What is the vision for culture and cultural workers in the following weeks, months and years? Silence. 

I have seen privilege, I have read about privilege but I had never experienced what it meant to have privilege until the day I obtained the Belgian nationality, and as such became a European citizen. That day, now two years ago, a heavy weight which I had carried for the past ten years living in Belgium, fell of my shoulders. During the visa procedure of my mother, and ultimately facing the decision that she is not allowed to enter Belgium from Tunisia, I was again confronted with privilege. Tunisia was the first North African country to reopen its borders since the lockdown. This corona crisis is being used on the European side to control the movement of non-European citizens. In this situation I felt very angry to the point I wanted to let every person holding a European passport know how privileged they are, and I am one of these people. 

Some of my friends and professionals with good intentions asked why I’m not making this new production into a zoom performance. My answer is no. Why would I share my mother’s presence on stage in countries where she’s not allowed to enter? I am aware that such a method was successfully used in other artistic works and helped the visibility of those who couldn't make it to be present personally, mostly in the context of conflict or war. In my specific case, as a maker whose principal performer was’t given the authorisation to enter the country, I see it as an act of resistance. This is about white privilege pushing people out of borders, while claiming them back in online. To invite my mother physically on stage is the whole purpose of this creation. I am standing hopeless, powerless, helpless, I don’t know what to think or how to feel knowing that on one side - the other side - stands the person who has offered me life, that person who is called mother, who carried me inside her belly and fed me for a whole nine months, then gave birth to me. Today I stand alone on this side, calling myself a citizen of the first world, the world of fairness and equality, of white privilege, the civilised world, the world of white saviours, but the person who offered me life is considered a third world person, and she’s not allowed to join this side. 

Despite who you are and where you are, today more than ever I invite you to stop for a moment, to reflect and acknowledge your privileges. Obviously I am not the first, neither the last who will share these kind of words with you, but I invite you to work with me, and to raise your voices in order for our governments to treat people equally. It’s our task as members of a society to take our personal responsibility to cultivate our thinking. How can we start shifting our focus from the individual towards the communities? Until when the presence of people who aren’t holding a privileged passport has to be ephemeral? How to make sure people and artists aren't reduced to only being content producers for online platforms? 

I hope my simple words and sentences find you well, because as a dancer I have spent more time crafting and mastering my body language. I am used to express myself through movements - which are basically my thoughts translated into a set of movements - but looking at the world around me, seeing all the injustice and inequality, with time little by little I started realising that we live in a world that has always belonged to the others, the elites, the privileged, those who hold the power, those who decide who can live and breathe and who can’t, those who master the culture of appropriation, oppression and the language of manipulation. I need to learn the rules of that language, since language shapes our way to think and see the world. In our political and politically correct world I realised that language is what will help me to protect myself. Language will empower me, this is my freedom. 

Mohamed Toukabri
(The Upside Down Man) 

 

THE POWER (OF) THE FRAGILE

In The Power (of) The Fragile Mohamed Toukabri brings two bodies to the fore: a powerful young one and a fragile old one. In the middle of a desolate ground he extends the edges in order to pass their memories to the future. The performance is a poetic treatment of the natural cycle of life and death, a creation, where the visual and auditive material support the physical appearance of the bodies of a man and a woman, a child and a mother, Mohamed’s and Mimouna’s. He investigates what a safe space is, and claims the answer to be the womb, a place beyond concepts and theories. Different tableaux will visualise the life cycle (childhood, youth, adult, old age, the dying body) and symbolic figures like the goddess will take the audience on a visual futuristic journey. Mohamed Toukabri draws inspiration from symbolic paintings, the danse macabre, nature, holy places, futuristic films and miniature art. A newly constructed language addresses the power of the fragile, transgressing questions of male and female by diving into fluidity and connecting contrasts.

BIO

Brussels-based choreographer and dancer Mohamed Toukabri was born in Tunis and began dancing at the age of 12, starting with breakdance. In 2008, he joined P.A.R.T.S. dance school in Brussels. He collaborated with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet, was a member of Needcompany (2013-2018), and performed in the re-make of the repertory piece Zeitung by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (2012) and Sacre? Printemps! by Aicha M’Barak and Hafiz Dhaou (2014). His first self-devised work The Upside Down Man was presented at Beursschouwburg in 2019. The work has been touring in Belgium, UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Austria. It was selected for the Het Theatre Festival 2019 as part of the #NewYoung category.

 

In English

Concept and choreography: Mohamed Toukabri, Performance: Mimouna (Latifa) Khamessi and Mohamed Toukabri, Dramaturgy: Diane Fourdrignier: Technical direction: Lies Van Loock, Music: Annalena Frohlich, Costume designer: Ellada Damianou, Research & development: Eva Blaute, Executive production: Caravan Production, Coproduction: Kunstencentrum Vooruit, Needcompany, Beursschouwburg, With the support of The Flemish Authorities

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