Faustin Linyekula and the Festival of Lies Nov 30, 2007

by Tania Kupczak

I have to be honest. When I first read that Faustin Linyekula was to turn On the Boards into an African  “social club and soukous party," the first image that came to mind was Disney World’s international village. I pictured a faux African nightclub where vacationer’s were encouraged to dance and spend money. Upon arrival I found the stage had indeed been transformed and the audience was encouraged to dance and spend money. However, rather than the plastic façade of a nightclub, Les Studios Kabako had created the atmosphere with minimal trappings – a dozen tables scattered the outskirts of the stage, a bar had been set up dishing out beverages and heaping plates of mafay, and a bandstand where Tacoma’s Wawali & Co. performed. I mention all this because Linyekula uses the environment skillfully throughout the course of the evening to move the audience between the roles of spectator and participant. This isn’t your simple  “let’s invite members of the audience on stage ” approach (for those who would rather keep their role as spectator firmly in place). Instead, Festival of Lies moves fluidly through periods of time and locations, and the voyage feels more like a journey with the Ghost of Christmas Past than a performance unfolding on a stage. Dancing and storytelling are interwoven with political speeches of Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent Désiré Kabila (among others). The effect is mesmerizing and the portraits of a few individuals struggling to create their identity in the midst of political turmoil emerges. A lot of ground is covered over the course of the evening. Questions of what is fictional and what is real, how does where we come from effect who we are, how does the past effect the present, are raised. The answers remain as elusive as the subject matter. I have the feeling I’ll be mulling this performance over for quite some time. - Josh Windsor