Anna Modi, Anne Moraa, Carol Aya Tibi Opi, Collins Ewesor, Jay C, Jimmey Touray Sisay, Lawrence Mutasa, Leon Nyiam, Neneh Bojang, Rania Modi, Rita Modi, Sami Kor, Shingiriai Musunhe, Stephen Mwiya Simonde and Tamara Nyirenda (performers from Edinburgh)
Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn -
White South African performance maker Brett Bailey found inspiration for EXHIBIT B after picking up a book, Africans on Stage from Bernth Lindfors. It documents several cases of people from Africa who were brought by white impresarios to Europe and the United States for freak shows and human zoos of perceived curiosities to be looked at by spectators who were in the main white. The book became a catalyst for the production of EXHIBIT B.
Italian writer Primo Levi reminds that to be a mensch was a mantra among inmates of Nazi camps to retain a sense of humanity. Not easy when shackles and chains weigh and tie; when guns and guards literally hold the whip hand. Dehumanisation is the first step in control. Taking away people’s names and replacing them with numbers and generic offensive names makes the gathering of cold measurements and statistics about them a cold, detached, inhuman activity.
The first stage of experiencing EXHIBIT B is a form of control, albeit unthreatening. Audience members, or maybe participants is a better word, are told to sit in an ante room. Each seat has a number and the exhibition is only accessed when that number is called. Silence and attention is quietly demanded.
The Playfair Library’s array of white marble busts of worthy establishment figures sit in sharp contrast to the living tableaux that look right to the viewers’ eyes in silent accusation and chilling stillness as the audience walks past taking part in another kind of voyeurism. Challenge and dignity replace the “hard unseeing eyes” of plaster cast figures of museum figures in this close up reminder of the cruel legacy of colonialism and apartheid.
It is a stark challenge that anyone should watch this without being shaken up at the sharp, naked reality of horrors imposed on fellow human beings. The weight of past shame casts a heavy shadow in this profoundly affecting experience that goes way beyond the star rating system.
The EXHIBIT series is an expanding body of works that began with EXHIBIT A, produced by Wiener Festwochen (Vienna) and Theaterformen Festival (Braunschweig). It was also shown in Helsinki and Grahamstown, South Africa. EXHIBIT B has been presented in Brussels and Berlin in 2012 and in Avignon, Paris, Wroclaw, Strasbourg and Ghent in 2013. In 2014 it will appear in Moscow, Edinburgh, London, Poitiers and Paris, before going to Santiago in 2015.
The Namibian choir that sings in EXHIBIT B, adding a particular poignancy has been put together and trained by Marcellinus Swartbooi, a Windhoek-based composer, who arranged this collection of traditional songs of lamentation sung in Nama, Otjiherero, Oshiwambo, Tswana and isiXhosa
9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 19, 20, 22 and 25 August Performances from 2.00pm - 5.00pm;
16, 17, 23 and 24 August: Performances from 10.30am - 5.50pm