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Anne-Fays Reaspora makes tangible how the slavery past still echoes in our generations

Someday, the diversity of theatre and the audiences it attracts will be fine. On Thursday, February 16, I sat in The Hague's Theater aan het Spui in an auditorium that was on average 50 years younger than the average theatre audience and also had all the colours of the rainbow.

You guessed it: youth theatre. The theatre where diversity has hardly been an issue for years. This time it came from DOX, the club founded in Utrecht in the 1990s that began by getting young people from Kanaleneiland to dance to Tchaikovsky, and is now just a urban movement has become a movement in itself. Rea's Diaspora is the name of the theatre concert, and the full house - a school class or two helps, of course - could witness a shared story on stage. With nice music and good visuals. Plus a touch of Bodil de la Parra.

Four continents

That shared story is what colonial Holland gave itself by stripping people from all other parts of the world of their humanity and placing them in slavery on plantations in Suriname. Singer Anne-Fay Kops has ancestors from four continents: Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. She unites in her roots, as she pithily tells herself, the victims and the guilty of history.

Anne-Fay's mother is black, on her father's side there are Dutch and Chinese roots, and this leads to Anne-Fay herself having white skin and black shapes, as she herself says. This proves tricky, especially in a world where appearance and identity thinking have entered into a rather uneasy marriage. Is she too light to be allowed to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and too African in shape not to be treated racially by white Dutch people?

Ghanaian mother

In a programme consisting mainly of softly swinging songs, film footage shot by her brother Roy Kops of the trip she made to Africa and Suriname, and short stories about her torn origins, Anne-Fay focuses mainly on her mother. That woman, with Ghanaian roots and a long-standing history of slavery in the family, has always ignored or at best patiently endured the racism that befell her in the Netherlands.

As the white daughter of a black woman, Anne-Fay did see and feel that racism, and it made her angry and rebellious. She has since found a form for herself to deal with it. This programme is meant for people like her mother, who still silently suffer their daily humiliation. Or those who still think or talk racist, consciously or unconsciously.

English

And that this humiliation is there, Anne-Fay makes clear in a few sharp observations. In this, the hand of co-writer Bodil de la Parra is certainly noticeable. She gives a edge to the sometimes very subdued songs in this show.

Convincing it is, and the multicoloured audience, from young to old, endorsed it with warm applause.

The only downside, as far as I was concerned, was the fact that the song lyrics were in English. An all-Dutch programme would have conveyed even more meaning.

The performance Anne Fays Diaspora is yet to be seen. You can find the album on spotify

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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