Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Outtakes 1: a conversation with the French-African playwright and novelist Koffi Kwahulé

This year, Étant donnés is funding a new translation, commissioned by the Lark Play Development Center, of a play by the French-African playwright and novelist Koffi Kwahulé. The 2009 hotINK International Festival of New Plays at New York University, curated by Catherine Coray, is also throwing its lot on Kwahulé, who is originally from the Ivory Coast. The translator is the playwright Chantal Bilodeau.

What follows is the first of three outtakes from a conversation I had with Koffi Kwahulé for a special section, "Africa Writes Back," which I curated, edited and wrote for the November issue of American Theatre magazine.

RANDY: Do the French still exert a constructive influence on Ivorian arts and culture?
KOFFI: Despite a strained relationship since the Ivorian political crisis, the French's role is still prominent. For example, in all of francophone Africa and even Portuguese-speaking Africa, without the French Cultural Centers and the Alliances Françaises, there would be practically no viable cultural centers. Most festivals are sponsored by France. As for the Ivory Coast, for a few years already, this influence has become relative. Since Ivory Coast seems comparatively more wealthy than its neighbors, cultural programs are redirected toward other countries.

RANDY: Can you elaborate on the nature of this Ivorian political crisis?
KOFFI: Since 1999 and the horrifying concept of Ivoirité, there has been a coup followed by a civil war that has split the country in two: the North half controlled by the Rebels and the South half controlled by the Loyalists (government). It's this whole period that is referred to as "the Ivorian Crisis." But fortunately for a few months now, this crisis has started to look like it might be ending and the country is considering having elections in February 2009 at the latest.
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