Faustin Linyekula | Interview
Congo’s incisive actor-turned-choreographer talks staying awake and remembering his name.
In more more more…future, opening Friday 21, Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula shares thewith a five-piece band led by Flamme Kapaya, guitarist and star in Congo’s ndombolo scene. From his hotel in Los Angeles during the show’s world tour, Linyekula, 37, explains the concepts behind his and two other dancers’ body-swallowing costumes.
He also dissects the punk-infused take on ndombolo you’ll hear, which he developed with Kapaya and Kisangani MC Pasnas, who raps lyrics penned by Antoine Vumilia Muhindo, a poet who escaped from a Congolese prison last month.
For the show’s title, Linyekula wanted to sum up this new sound. An old punk-rock slogan, “no future,” didn’t apply “because we can’t destroy a future that was never promised to us,” he explains. Linyekula says what the Congolese people need today is any future. More future.
Tell me about these voluminous costumes that Lamine Badian Kouyaté designed for you and the other two dancers to wear.
It’s so loud, literally [in Congo]. You’re always trying to be louder than the next person, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have something to say. The question was, How can bodies survive in the middle of all that? When I asked Lamine Kouyaté this, one of his first reactions was, “Because you talk of bodies being fragile in the middle of all this, my first idea was to put them in a protective shell.” Then, [Kouyaté had the idea to] recycle things from ancestral traditions. He looked at images of costumes in our ancestors’ society, traditional dancers clad in fragile costumes made of banana leaves, for instance, and how he could recycle that [idea] with literally recycled materials, like plastic that’s used for cheap bags.
I get the shell idea, but your outfits look soft, like pillows.
No, they’re not soft! And they’re heavy! It’s difficult to dance in them.
Oof, my costume is the heaviest and weighs ten kilos, which is what, 25 pounds?
About 22. And how much do you weigh?
I weigh 52 kilos [115 pounds].
What about the bright sequined costumes the band members wear?
One of the things that you see about the Congolese music scene is that it’s one of the last places that makes Congolese people dream.… [Kapaya] comes from this flashy, make-believe scene. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are rich, but they have to appear to be rich, they have to shine.