Interdisciplinary performance in
Cité internationale des arts

“C’est quoi la vie dans le costume d’un réfugié?” is the title of the first artistic event of the Specially Unknown project, a combined video and dance performance given on the 6th of March in the Cite’s auditorium, which touched the public and is heading for several follow-ups in Paris and in Africa.


Inspired by the oral history interviews for the Specially Unknown project in Paris, this moving performance explores the history and the actual lives of recently arrived refugees in Paris. It is a co-creation of the Art Cube, a video artists collective from Syria, with filmmaker Mohammad Hijazi and producer Haitham Karachay on one side, and on the other side, a choreograph/dancer duo from Africa: Taigué Ahmed (Chad) and Aly Karembe (Mali).


Sarah Clément from Génériques brought these artists together and arranged a two week residency of Taigué, who lives in Berlin, in the Cité internationale des arts in Paris, as well as a rehearsal studio in de Cultural Centre Carreau du Temple. The first contacts and brainstorming between Mohammad and Taigué were through skype. Both artists were given the same interviews to read, and they started their collaboration by sharing their reflections and impressions of these interviews and looking for ways to combine them with their own stories and experiences.


This led to an intense performance, that started in the foyer, amongst the public. Laying on the ground, reaching out with their hands to the public, asking for assistance, Taigué and Ali led the audience slowly to the auditorium and into a distinctive world of a refugee: a struggle for life and existence both at home and in Paris. At one moment, a video-triptych from Mohammad cuts their dance with its repetitive short images of, for example, children in uniform at school, or the Syrian army exercising in saluting – the pieces of life in Syria, from childhood, through suppression, uprising, heavy military reaction, and a flight overseas. They are accompanied with the powerful music cacophony, where the fragments of the Syrian anthem, the nationalist ruling party songs, army music and Syrian revolution/protests’ songs were combined with the main music theme of the French transport company, in a new way – using a guitar. Triptych ends with the fragments from two Specially Unknown interviews about finding a way in Paris as a refugee. After the video, the dancers – during the screening hiding under the piano – continue to embody a pain of always being asked about papers, feeling no possibility to express yourself, but also getting familiar with a city by its subway stations.


After the performance there was a discussion between the audience, the makers of the performance, Aline Angoustures, chief of the Mission of Archives and history at OFPRA (National Office for refugees and stateless people) and Saskia Moerbeek, coordinator of the project Specially Unknown from Amsterdam. The discussion, mostly about the actual circumstances of refugees in France, concluded that there is a need to preserve more stories for future generations, and a need for more artistic performances now in order to sensitize people and raise awareness for the struggle of refugees, since the politicians seem to fail.


The performance was sold-out, some people had to be rejected at the doors, the place was full with over 150 people. It made a deep impression on the public, which was a mix of artists residents at the Cité Interantionale des Arts, the French branch of UNCHR, Atelier des artistes in exile and Parisians interested in arts and the topic of migration and refugees.


It was followed the next day with a workshop for professionals in the Carreau du Temple, and a discussion on the different artistic angels of the performance. On the 8th of March there was a dance workshop in the Salle des 4 Chemins. During and after these discussions, ideas about more residencies, presentations and the joint artistic work in Europe as well as in Africa (especially Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso) have been developed and further elaborated.

We will report on the cultural events in Bochum (Germany, on April 6), Antwerp (Belgium, 29 April – 5 May), and Turin (Italy, in May) in the June Newsletter.


More information about cultural events you can find here.


The other articles of the 2nd newsletter you can read here: