-- The shows of Sandscape are cancelled due to the rejection of visas for the artists from Nigeria. We are very sad about this and hope for your understanding! --
Statement by the Festival Direction in German:
Ich sagte eingangs, dass wir für FRATZ International weltweit nach Inszenierungen suchen. Unser Interesse ist, den Blick auch über Mitteleuropa hinaus schweifen zu lassen. Auf unseren eigenen Gastspieltouren sind wir z.T. auf anderen Kontinenten unterwegs und empfinden die Begegnungen dort als unschätzbare Bereicherung, sowohl menschlich als auch künstlerisch. Zu den vergangenen Festivals hatten wir Inszenierungen aus Russland und Australien eingeladen. In diesem Jahr wollten wir so gerne einen Dialog mit Künstlerinnen und Künstlern aus Nigeria initiieren. Die Inszenierung „Sandscapes“ der Gruppe KiNiNso Koncepts aus Lagos hatten wir eingeladen. Gemeinsam mit dem Festival Starke Stücke in Hessen. Das Goethe Institut hatte bereits zugesagt, die Flüge zu sponsern, die Aufführungstermine standen fest und die Vorstellungen waren bereits teilweise verkauft. Umso schockierter waren wir, als wir erfuhren, dass die Kolleginnen mit ihrem Visumsantrag beim deutschen Konsulat in Lagos gescheitert waren. Auch ein Hilferuf beim Auswärtigen Amt und eine erneute Antragstellung konnten daran nichts ändern. Die jungen Kolleginnen aus Nigeria, zum Teil noch Student*innen dürfen nicht nach Deutschland reisen, um ihre Kunst und ihre Weltsicht mit uns zu teilen, um uns zu bereichern und selber vielleicht mit neuen Ideen, neuen Kontakten und neuen Arbeitszusammenhängen zurück in ihre Heimat zu kehren.
Lange wollten wir nicht glauben, dass das tatsächlich wahr ist. Dass die Angst, diese jungen Menschen könnten hier bleiben größer ist, als der Glaube an die positive Wirkung so eines Kunst- und Kulturaustauschs.
Wir können nichts tun. Die Ohnmacht lähmt und sie macht auch wütend. Das Konsulat hat entsprechend den Vorschriften gehandelt. Man wünscht sich dort, dass die wirtschaftliche Lage in dem Land bald besser wird, denn dann lockern sich auch die Visavorschriften wieder. Doch wie soll es besser werden, wenn keiner mehr raus darf, Erfahrungen sammeln. Schmerzhaft deutlich wird diese Paradoxie, wenn man die Selbstbeschreibung der Company liest: KiNiNso-Koncepts Productions ist eine Gruppe professioneller Künstler*innen, die Kunst und Theater für junge Menschen produzieren. Sie wurde mit dem Ziel gegründet, relevante Botschaften auszusenden, recherchebasiert und tief verwurzelt in ihrer Kultur und ihren Traditionen. Sie suchen nach innovativen Formen mit neuen Spielweisen und einer Storytelling-Methode, die nicht nur unterhält und bildet, sondern das Publikum und sie selbst als Menschen herausfordert, ihr Land zu gestalten und den Bedürfnissen nach intellektueller, physischer, sozialer und kultureller Entwicklung gerecht zu werden.
Wir bedauern zutiefst, dass wir als Festival nicht Teil dieser Reise werden durften. Wir senden unseren Respekt und unsere Grüße nach Lagos zu Tolu Aina, Joy Akrah, Jubril Gbadamosi, Aniefiok Inyang, Michael Ajimati und Joshua Alabi. Wir wissen, dass diese Zurückweisung euch stark erschüttert hat.
Jetzt habe ich viel Raum einem Ensemble gegeben, dass gar nicht hier performen wird. Aber ich denke, der Fakt ihrer Abwesenheit ist so bedeutend, dass wir auch in den nächsten zwei Tagen auf dem Symposium weiter darüber reden sollten und gemeinsam Strategien entwickeln diese ärgerlich banalen Grenzen zu überwinden.
Statement by Joshua Alabi, Artistic & Creative Director of KiNiNso-koncepts:
What thoughts and feelings did this visa incident invoke in you and your colleagues?
Firstly, the visa incident got at us in different ways and at different stages. We had started rehearsing for SANDSCAPE since October 2016. So much work, time, energy and resources. We applied for the visa in January 2017 and with all then necessary documents, including a Letter of reference from the Goethe institute which the Munich office, headquarters was sponsoring our trip. At the embassy during the visa application, we were even asked not to pay. We were attended to for free because of the relationship between the Goethe headquarters and the consulate. a few days after the application we got the passports back with rejection letters which Vera must have given you. Those letters were written in German and it was difficult for us to interpret. Later we got to know about the questions about our family and economic rootings.
For me, it was a normal feeling and questions which embassies could ask. I was certain that once we submit the documents to show and answer their questions we would be granted visas but after we submitted the issue kept on taking longer. No resolution. I personally submitted those documents and I was sure we gathered everything required. Only to our surprise that we were rejected again. The woman at the embassy Mrs Angerer stated that our people from the group are Young artists with no good job, not married, they don't have kids etc. This answer made me broken and sad. How can our cultural participation and exchange be determined through such parameters? I felt the embassy was being wicked. I had an existing visa which expires March 10 2017 that I could Use but I had to apply again with my company so as to get another which would serve the period of both festivals.
We later sent several emails and asked questions from the embassy but they were adamant. They insisted that we would not be given the visas. For me company, it was a very difficult, traumatic and disheartening moment. After we submitted the documents the second time, they had hope that everything would be sorted out but when I broke the final news to them that we cannot travel to Germany as the embassy refused again. It disturbed them emotionally and psychologically because we had rehearsed so much, spent plenty money and time I to giving the best performance at the festivals. We looked forward to meeting New people, watch new shows and exchange ideas. All these were dreams which was shattered. It never came true. It never saw the light of Day. I was supposed to be in Frankfurt to continue with my next generation workspace but because my company members were down I couldn't summon the courage to travel anymore. I got tired and frustrated.
Also unlike before where the Goethe institute Lagos would stand up for young artistes, the former director Marc Andre schmachtel would do that but the new director Mr Alfons Hug is a difficult man and he has no time for young theatre artistes. We tried talking to him to speak to the embassy for us but he didn't care about us and our work. We miss Marc Andre. He also even though he's in Munich tried to help us but he could only do a little from there. We had to face our problems in Lagos alone. This issue almost made my artistes loose hope about getting our works showcased on international platforms. Why would we be judged by the sins of others? Why should young artistes suffer because of the economic situation of the country. I have travelled all over Europe and Africa as well as some of my company members who have been to Germany and other places. Our art is what matters to us. It was so painful because it meant all our work, vision, creativity and innovation means nothing to the consulate authorities. in our company most of our works lampoon and talk about socio political issues and the failure of the Nigerian government to develop its people and the country. Our reviews are online of the different works. We never expected to be slapped by the German embassy.
This was just an unfair, unjust, and thoughtless attitude. Our other friends from south Africa at magnet theater also attended a festival Hellwach in Hamm and they got Visas. South Africa is presently violent and has economic issues. Why were the south Africans not rejected visas?
The embassy made us feel worthless. But however, we have moved on and this has helped us birth newer works. We realized that they only made us stronger than we were before. Now we are capable of handling such issues, we would try and try again until we are accepted someday. We will contain to create beautiful works not caring if we have visas or not. Our passion is more about the theatre we create and the lives we empower and develop. Our company's goal is to find platforms for young people to empower, explore, develop themselves giving them avenues to become masters of their fate.
How would you describe the proceedings of the (German) authorities?
The proceedings of the authorities was not fair and favourable. Everyone ought to be given a fighting chance but the embassy in this case didn’t give us a chance to express or defend ourselves. We somehow have a discussion relationship with the German cultural attache in Lagos. They know our work and what we stand for. We have ideas of projects for funding we have discussed and I am sure they made their research about us. They know we are authentic, they know we only want to travel and come back to improve on the things we have learnt abroad. Their attitude towards the situation was not to scrutinize but to reject basically. Just to reject.
And what would you like to change in the practice of International Cultural Exchange if you could?
What I would like to change is the way African theatre companies are being presented and invited. I would want that long before the whole festival process starts, All Foreign affairs commission and German embassies in the different African countries be informed that the festival is inviting them just so that dial minute visa rejections are not happening. So far, the international cultural programs in Germany have been nice, interesting and accommodating but they can do more by making sure that they government who sometimes sponsor their festivals also make it a point of duty to facilitate visas and easy access for companies from Africa attending these festivals. Fair cooperation is the word. They need to be more sensitive towards us and help create better relationship atmosphere.
Artistic & Creative Director
KiNiNso-koncepts Productions, Lagos
KiNiNso Koncepts (Lagos, Nigeria)
How does it feel when sand runs through hands, over umbrellas and into buckets? Sand whirls through the air, leaving imprints or lines. Sand creates new games and landscapes to be discovered over and over again in a rhythmic game utterly devoid of words, focusing entirely on the visual and acoustic senses.
KiNiNso-Koncepts Productions is a professional young people’s art and theatre company. It was established with the sole aim of creating relevant statements, deeply rooted in research into their culture and tradition. These expressions serve to innovate the form with a creative new performance style, and a storytelling technique that not only entertains and educates, but also challenges their audience, and themselves as people, to build their nation and serve the needs for intellectual, physical, social and cultural development. Through the media of dance, drama, music, movement, poetry and nature, they create stories infused with unusual elements, blended with groundbreaking, mentally and physically energetic performances that utilize the body as a tool to convey messages with a strong sense of creativity and aesthetics. This expression is evident in their physical and experimental theater technique. They think beyond the basics of themes, venues and audiences to carve performances that educate and enrich, creating avenues for young people to explore themselves in the arts – and most importantly, to revive and further develop the culture of theatre in Nigeria.
Performance: Tolu Aina, Joy Akrah, Jubril Gbadamosi, Aniefiok Inyang, Michael Ajimati
Director: Joshua Alabi
Costumes: Abisoye Kadiku
Original concept: Joshua Alabi, Chipo Basopo, Joy Akrah and Lloyd Nyigadzino with direction by Jennie Reznek and Barbara Kölling
Length: 30 minutes