Second exit after the soul | Nganji Mutiri

A/ How would you feel if your hands were cut off to feed a rich bastard?
B/ Stop with the metaphors.
C/ Yeah but you get the message.
B/ I am tired of the metaphors, the poems, the prayers and all the Jesus -said-turn-the-other-cheek-bullshit.
D/ Come on, that’s the spirit of Sheppard and our characters are paying homage to…
B/ Your character, not mine.
D/ Not your character but at least his and mine are paying homage to the…
A/ No, no, I don’t recognise myself in the character you portray, that’s why I named mine William Henry Sheppard the third.
B/ Hahaha… wawww… and you think that’s enough?
A/ Yes! Stop mocking… laughing at me.
C/ She is not laughing at you, she is laughing…
A/ With me. Yeah. Whatever.
D/ Don’t forget; we are in a white theatre, with a white director, and a…
B/ So what?
A/ Remember, the title of the play? Black!
C/ The Sorrows of Belgium. And it’s the beginning of a trilogy.
A/ Yes but the first word in capital is “Black” and I am not sure that if we are the ones playing the Blacks, that we are really doing justice to…
C/ Symbolically, Black stands for the first colour of the flag…
A/ Let me finish.
C/ It’s a human story taking place in Congo not a Black and White story…
A/ Can I finish!?
B/ Ouuuhh, toxic masculinity.
A/ Really? You want to go there?
B/ Why not?
C/ Look at him, he doesn’t like that.
D/ Let him finish, please.
A/ Thank you. What I’m saying is that our characters don’t express as many dimensions as the white characters.
D/ And it’s a pity for a performance titled: Black.
C/ It’s really not a Black or White story, don’t you get it?
D/ We also need…
D/ We also need tridimensional black characters.
A/ Voilà!
B/ We already know that.
A/ Why didn’t you say it then?
B/ To let you express your unheard voice, maybe.
A/ You see. We can’t talk seriously with you.
B/ Listen man, it’s not because I smile that I don’t take things seriously. You don’t know me. We speak about self-empowering tools every day.
D/ She’s right, you don’t know her or us as well as you think.
C/ There you go.
B/ Were you there when we talked about patriarchy or colonial apologies?
C/ Were you there?
A/ No.
B/ So. Shut. Up.
D/ Come on. It’s alright. Let’s try to think like a team. She doesn’t mean it.
B/ Oh yes, I mean it.
A/ I’ll shut up. Have fun with your superficial characters.
D/ Hey! Come back! Listen, we are different shades of brown and even if black is not a real skin colour, racism is a reality.
C/ Socially constructed during centuries.
D/ Exactly, but we can agree on the need to bring different ‘black’ contemporary voices on stage and elsewhere. We can start here; we have a chance to engage the local audience’s perceptions in a refreshing way.
A/ That’s what I’ve been trying to say.
B/ Acting like a Congolese dictator didn’t help, did it?
A/ Stop it.
B/ You, stop it.
C/ He is more African-European than Congolese, you know.
A/ No, I’m African.
C/ You wish.
A/ What does that mean?
C/ You know.
A/ No I don’t, tell me.
C/ Yes, you do. Remember the book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome?
D/ Listen. Expressing different tridimensional ‘black’, or, ‘African’ characters as deeply human characters on European stages will not happen overnight. So, for the moment, let’s focus on why we are not talking about the links between centuries of building ‘white’ privileges and the lack of… or let’s say; and the incommensurable fear of walking the path to financial reparations.
C/ In a country haunted by colonial realities? With a history of cognitive dissonance and disguised shame? I wonder what Dr. Joy DeGruy might…
(Door opens)
E/ My brother, my sisters, costume fitting in five minutes.
C/ Thanks.
(Door closes)
A/ Brother and sisters, pfff. He still thinks he’s being…
B/ Cool.
A/ Yes, or funny.
C/ He meant it like in the second act of the play; my religious brother and sisters. Not as funky soul brother and sisters, or whatever you think that was.
B/ You’re always there to defend him, hun? I know you find him attractive.
C/ Nonsense.
B/ Don’t be ashamed of it.
D/ Anyway, I am saying the colonial past, crimes against humanity, structural lies and centuries of despicable businesses created wealth and privileges that some Belgians are still benefiting from today. We should talk about it too.
A/ Nah, they will not let us do that. They will say it’s anachronic.
B/ Anachronic? Some of the dialogues and songs in the performance are anachronic.
C/ Yes, but they are not as deeply disturbing as facing this structural taboo: the history of how to make money on other people’s back.
A/ Accumulating economic power, mind control and mass manipulation.
D/ We should bring those issues to the table.
A/ That’s not a battle we should start in this building. It doesn’t feel right. Plus, it’s not sexy.
C/ Why does everything have to be sexy?
A/ I mean, it’s not locally appealing.
B/ That’s why you need to produce, write and direct your own stories Othello.
A/ Not funny. But you know what? I am already working on that.
D/ I am, as well. That doesn’t mean we can’t influence things here.
B/ Really?
D/ Yes.
B/ Great! I’m eager to support you, but I will not put too much energy in trying to change things where changes are not welcome. Not everyone got a Winnie Madikizela in her, if you know what I mean.
C/ What is your hot secret project? Who is financing it? Got a title?
A/ Yes. No excuses, pay back what you stole.
Nope. Too long. And not sexy.
A/ It is sexy.
D/ Can we say that?
A/ No excuses? Or, pay back what you stole?
D/ Both.
A/ Yes, we can.
B/ Thank you Barack.
A/ Barack? Obama is not ‘black’.
D/ Don’t start again.
A/ He is ‘biracial’.
C/ Exactly.
B/ Thank you Kwame then.
A/ Nkrumah had a white wife.
D/ Here we go.
B/ So?
A/ Whatever.
B/ Your racism level is… interesting.
A/ I am not racist. I’m just saying, choose your metaphors carefully.
B/ Actually, his wife was not white. Fathia was Egyptian.
D/ Real love has no colour.
C/ Are you sure?
D/ Yes.
A/ It all depends on who we are talking about.
D/ No, it’s…
B/ Who we are talking to, is more accurate.
D/ I’m so tired of this. Anyway, our ‘white’ colleagues are waiting for us.
C/ Just say: our colleagues.
D/ I’ve used these, didn’t I? Look: ‘white’.
C/ Alright, I see your fingers now.
A/ When can we meet properly? When can we focus on building bold perspectives for new audiences? I mean, if you are interested in really doing something.
D/ I am interested, but I am not sure your artistic ambitions match the place you live in.
C/ Or, maybe you are not knocking at the right doors.
B/ Voilà!
D/ I don’t know about you, my brother and sisters, but I’m going to find something comfortable to wear.
A/ Wait. I thought you were interested in self-empowering tools.
B/ We are.
C/ But there is a place…
B/ And a time…
C/ For all things.
D/ Let’s go try our costumes.
(Door opens)

The End

Nganji Mutiri is an artist born in Congo, currently living in Belgium. Storytelling through acting, filmmaking, poetry and photography is his passion. Searching for links between singular perspectives and universal spirit is his artistic obsession.