Director, playwright, actor and painter João Samões is one of the best representatives of the Portuguese avant-garde resistance. He presents in Naves Matadero África Fantasma, a reflection on colonialism and racism.
A crocodile, a “voracious and ancient animal, the perfect metaphor for our violence and for all forms of predation”, according to Samões, descends to the sound of a helicopter. On its back, actress Paula Diogo throws combative poetic texts written by Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire. Thus begins this performance piece, where Africa is transformed into a place of imaginary representations, a vast territory onto which all fantasies and phantoms are projected. Bit by bit, the audience is immersed in a game where the realities and turmoil of the realm of the exotic and the erotic are manipulated, blending memories and reflections on colonialism and racism.
“I was just a few months old when my mother took me to Africa. I think my fascination with the form of African tribal arts owes itself to the fact that I spent the first years of my life in a former Portuguese colony. I carry the ghost of an entire continent under my skin”, explains Samões, with the quote by anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro in mind: “Our past animal nature continues to beat under layers of civilising varnish”.
About João Samões
Director, playwright, actor and painter João Samões (Lisbon, 1970) is one of the best representatives of the Portuguese avant-garde resistance. He began his career in the 1990s with the experimental theatre company Olho and the performance-installation group Canibalismo Cósmico. Towards the end of the same decade he was invited to take part in the improvisation project Crash Landing Lisboa, created by Meg Stuart, Christine De Smedt and David Hernandez. Since then he has worked on performance projects, framing each of his productions in a critical social and political context, pushing boundaries and considering the stage “a privileged place to recreate the human condition”. Based on the work of authors such as Frantz Fanon, Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Albert Cossery, João Samões’ desire is for the audience to reflect on who we are as a society, through very stark theatre with no artifice. Of particular note among his most acclaimed works in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria and Mexico are the choreographic number 18 minutos (2000), the performance piece Blackout (2008), the theatrical works África Fantasma (2010-2013), O Papagaio de Céline (2014) and his latest work Hotel Lousiana Quarto 58 (2016), a portrait of the life philosophy of Egyptian writer Albert Cossery. Samões takes from two to three years to think up and write each of his works, and he believes that “excess production is a cancer upon the world. Too many objects that have no purpose, too many books, too many plays… Authenticity is a rare thing. The call to productivity in a capitalist society is always a call to slavery. If you haven’t got anything to say, you should remain silent. In my works nobody is pretending to be some whatshisname or some so-and-so. Rather, they’re real people made of flesh and bone, who take to the stage because they have things to say”.
Foto © Tatiana Macedo
Creation: João Samões
Text: João Samões based on Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Julião Quintinha, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Langston Hughes.
Performers: Paula Diogo (actress), Ignacio Marín Bocanegra (pianist)
Music: Piano Sonata No. 14 by Ludwig Van Beethoven; Paint It, Black by the Rolling Stones
Technical direction and lights: Celestino Verdades
Production direction: João Samões and Mónia Mota
Coproduction: Próximo Futuro / Fundación Calouste Gulbenkian
Language: Portuguese with Spanish subtitles
Translation: Belén Álvarez
Age recommendation: 16+