Saturday, September 03, 2016

3 Summers ago, me and my flatmate took a trip down to Congo. We didn't venture out all the way to the actual country; crossing the Thames was good enough. At the Young Vic, we were treated to a 3-hour long drama about the rise and the fall of Patrice Lumumba. At every moment, it felt like, we were in Kinshasa or Kisangani, following the dreams and aspirations of a young and rowdy idealist. Little did we know that the stellar performance was portrayed by none other than Chiwetel Ejiofor, until we saw him on the silver screen a few months later with 12 Years a Slave, earning him a nomination for the Oscars...

If Joe Wright's "A Season in the Congo" at the Old Vic was ( as much an architectural reconstruction of the Congo in the 1950s, Onashile's setup in the tiny Blue Room of the Southbank Centre could not have been any more minimalistic, yet all the same representative of a nondescript, imaginary music club in Glasgow. Yet, the four female actors; Teri Annn Bobb Baxter, Jamie Marie Leary, Diana Yekinni, and chieg among them Sabina Cameron took us back and forth between Scotland and Kalakuta, Lagos. Tolu's dreams were made and quashed between the dance floors of The Shrine and the toilets of a Glasgow club. Running just short of an hour, on a stage of a few square feet and a few props; the play, as part of the Africa Utopia weekend at the Southbank Centre, ironically clashed but also complemented the textile and souvenir stalls upstairs and the food market just outside the building. With the actors' final moment of reckoning against the male gaze, the male oppression and an homage to Fela Kuti and his fight against colonialism and corruption, the stage and the spectators were set ablaze. It's almost as though my current flatmate saw it coming when she told me as I was leaving the flat earlier: "I'm sure you're really going to enjoy the performance!"

]This side of the river is home to so much significance and magnificence in my life. I walked to my bicycle which I had locked to my favourite ever cycle rack in the entire universe (the magical story from March 2016 here:
As I was cycling home, felling all inspired and still ablaze, I was confronted by the "Great Fire 350", urban, public installation in front of the St. Paul's Cathedral. Only two days ago I had met a friend here and was telling about how the architectural marvel that is St. Paul's is only over 3 centuries old in its current incarnation, owing to the Great Fire of London (1666), which, among many catastrophes, rewarded to London and cemented the influence of great Sir Christopher Wren. Now, here, an event was taking place to "celebrate" the great fire and its (extremely important) place in the history of London. On the grounds, where, few years ago we were hearing Julian Assange shortly before his captivity at the Ecuadorian Embassy, when "Occupy London" began, where, for months in, months out, tourists to London would share the space with dozens of tents. ... And there I was thinking... just a while earlier, what other city in the world could pull off a Colombian weekend and an African weekend and an X, Y, Z weekend one after another in the same, public space. What other city in the world "celebrates", with a degree of humility, and a big dose of resilience, a major catastrophe that brought its capital city to its knees from 350 years ago?
London. Noone can come between us, not even Theresa May!