Using several elements of storytelling, physical theatre, dance and sonic art, Tonny Ajoup has adapted various poems from some of Senghor’s notorious poetry collections – Chants d’ombre (1945; Songs of Shadow), Hosties noires (1948; Black Offerings), Éthiopiques (1956) – to create a show which re-explores the emergence of the literary and ideological Négritude movement in France in the Mid-Twenties to the early 1930’s.
Taking inspiration from a similar movement in United States – the Harlem Renaissance, the concept of Négritude aimed to fight against the French political and intellectual hegemony; disavowing the cultural assimilation, it dived in the African heritage in order to re-assert the Black identity. Senghor’s poetry theorized on its “ideology” and somehow acknowledged the fact that Négritude was “split between the call of the ancestors and the call of Europe”.
As a re-interpretation of this historical testimony, In the Shadows of Senghor is “universal (…)as Senghor’s powerful message of identity is not only about where a person comes from, but how you make sense of your own personal identity in light of the many cultures that you experience” (Colourful Network).
The show swings from English to French while traveling through times, memories and ancient myths, from the discovery of the African art by the Cubists and the Futurists to Paris’s Black craze partly caused by Josephine Baker and her “Revue Nègre”. Man hunts the Beast while Kaya-Magan declares war to the Enemy; the song of the Kôra recalls the sweetness of the fishing village and the Mediterranean Sea witnesses the agony of the Rebel land.
The visual, sonic and cultural journey will be followed by a Q&A session with Tonny Ajoup and the casts members of the piece on Sunday 21st October.
“In the Shadows of Senghor” has been developed partly thanks to the kind support from Tower Hamlets Council, the Central Foundation School and The Space.