As I left my father’s house
International ambitions New Dutch Connections, contact NDC at firstname.lastname@example.org
‘I saw myself in a world of light. Mountains and deserts were surrounded by colored light, red, yellow, white and blue lights. I felt like I was crazy, and was being pulled out of myself. Suddenly I saw a black light approaching. Slowly the entire area, heaven, earth, all and everything descended into this dark light, and I was sucked into this darkness. I lost my mind and only later came back to myself’. (from As I Left My Father’s House)
New refugees old patriarchs
The narrative of ‘As I Left My Father’s House’ is at times heartbreaking and based on personal experience. It’s about the long-term consequences of war and about prayer at moments that matter. It resonates with the disruption caused by major political events and with the experience of most refugees. Nearly all the prophets of the three religions had to flee at one time or another in the face of violence, poverty or war. They also went down an unknown road fraught with uncertainty and danger. In this experiment, a non-Western narrative style is combined with a Western theatrical context. Texts are inspired by the Bible, the Koran and the Tanakh and combined with personal stories and concerns, in a way that no one can point down the source of the quote at will. Anarchy, the dangers of escape / the Hijra and the pain of loss are discussed, next to the feeling of loneliness that comes with not knowing where to go next. On the other hand stands the beginning of renewal and the power of Love.
The first bridge
On January 25, 2009 there was a first try-out of the play in Lombok, Utrecht. After a period in which the text was completely rewritten and the project provided with an initial financial base, we started at Aug. 28, 2010. Since then As I Left My Fathers House met great acclaim, and was performed in very diverse locations. A number of churches, two mosques and a conference (13th International Military Health Conference in Amsterdam, on operational dilemmas and PTSS) hosted the play already. New performances at conferences, in places of worship, at refugee organizations, for businesses, and schools and universities are in preparation.
An important additional feature of the project is the discussion that immediately follows the performance and that we consider a key element of the project. We want to use AILMFH as a stepping stone for further exploration of the themes. We put a lot of energy in bringing different parties together in the preparation of the project, like in a neighborhood or else. We work to dismantle invisible barriers whether religious, cultural or social.
Despite a beautiful musical score and the poetic nature of the text the content of the play at times takes one’s breath away. The reactions of the audience move between shock and great enthusiasm and commitment, as is seen in the results of a questionnaire we share after the performance.
Dialog during and after the show
The dialog after the show creates a very lively atmosphere. Public participation is normal in many non western audiences, during or after the performance, it feels like home. We try to follow a middle way. In the meeting after the show, it is emphatically not to convince each other, but to express feelings and additional personal experiences. We have designed ways that ensure respect and security.
All contributors to As I Left My Father’s House are professional artists , and migrants as well: Bright O. Richards, Hossein Mardani, Oleg Fateev, Zoumana Diara and Pukki Pukki Marshall. A number of them have direct experience with war.
Why a religious project?
Though founded as a birthplace for religious diversity, Dutch society seems to have lost its taste for God. For most newcomers though, religion is a natural component of their lives. It is a major force that sustained them in very adverse circumstances and constitutes a very deep and central role in how they feel about themselves and the world. It is not always easy to function in a near atavistic, post secular and post modern society. Key elements of the play, like the experience of war, the drama of unwanted destruction and dilemmas faced, are themes that seem banned to the fringes of consciousness in this affluent postmodern society. Contents that are of the … and parcel of religion. That is one reason we want to perform at places where our content is well understood . We thus bring the project to new public spaces that are sometimes embedded in religious traditions and not necessarily exposed to the arts. The content, the mix of themes, gives voice to a new generation. This piece fits into one of our goals, to bring people to cross boundaries of culture and religion and entice them into meaningful contact, in a conversation that goes beyond an ever present exchanging of ‘pleasantries’ (or insults).
No doubt Internet and transport systems made the globe more accessible to travel, contact and migration. More people than expected are looking for ways to make contact with the newly ‘other’, whether abroad or in the home country. Many are engaged in new ways to deal with identity, how to work with pain and passion, and are curious to learn from other cultures. But they often do not know how, afraid to cause hurt to the other, to say stupid things or to meet anger. No inter cultural friendship is exempt from those, as the history of colonialism and the safety provided by staying locked within our own ‘comfort zone’. The hidden traps of very diverse inner value systems, often conscious until challenged, all are to be met one time or another when in contact with a significant other. Confusion galore that can be met with the humor factor and a measure of understanding.
But why is it so hot in the kitchen?
We are curious if there is a new category of people emerging: The Fresh Dutch. We hope to find people who dare, and who remain open to each other in the sometimes rough process of change that is underway in the world. We look for people who are curious whatever differences in culture, class and ethnic and religious background. Sometimes abrasive religious behavior, economic elimination processes, social change: it is sometimes hot in that kitchen of inevitable developments, but that is where we want to be.
And share the food.
New Dutch Connections
I reached the river of life
to get to the water
Water to live
I reached the river of my life
But the river is stinking
It smells of rotten bodies
Worms perform their job
I know that this is not the work of the
Creator of the living and of the dead
Can these bones come to life again?
I would like to sing as before,
But the pain in my soul is
my words fall silent.
(Quotes from the play, written by Bright Richards)
Several members of NDC were involved in other projects. Here are a few.
1. Samah was a foundation that worked with former underage asylemseekers. Usually male they now lived rough resisting going back to a birthplace they do not know. The workshop was designed to discover hidden qualities, and use those as a steppingstone to develop a plan of action for the future. Everyone had to present his brainchild on a small networking conference at the Rode Hoed, trying to enlist interest and necessary support to get it from the ground. Lately this project has been duplicated in different towns ans AZC (asylem seekers centres), and another special project is instigated dealing with Polish substance abusers in Utrecht, to motivate and organize a succesful re-entry in Polnad.
2. Modern Art and a mosque are unusual companions, but that is what happened. In 2008 the Turkish Fatih Mosque in Amsterdam hosted a modern art exhibition, in collaboration with the neighborhood art festival Open Ateliers Jordaan, and repeated the experience in 2010. Thousands of outsiders visited the mosque, often for the first time in their lives. This year another exhibition took place in the Poldermosque, a place of renewal where Dutch is used in prayer next to Arabic and who are independent of any financial backing outside of Holland. Their public mixed but more of Moroccan decent, the project took place during the whole of Ramadan, bringing modern art to many a thousand of attendants to the religious ceremonies.
3. In a project designed to introduce new African migrants to intricacies of entrepeneurship in a complicated economic enviroment, Bright Richards successfully lectured at many of the African Churches in the Bijlmer, which houses a large African Diaspora. He then organized a conference on new entrepreneurship.
4. As result of consequent contacts Margriet Stuurman gave workshops on entrepreneurship in different places in Utrecht, and started a new network on business.