“I IS ANOTHER”- Rimbaud in Africa

“I is another” – Rimbaud in Africa, premiered at Grusomhetens Teater in Oslo on 26 January 2017. The performance is written and directed by company artistic leader and founder Lars Øyno.

 

This is the story about a great poet who left his artistry to become a merchant on another continent.

 

Rimbaud in Africa questions what role art has in society. What did Rimbaud find in selling coffee and guns that his poetry could not provide? Could an answer to this question have any relevance for our lives today?

“I is another” – Rimbaud in Africa

 

After completing his duty as a poet, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1894) chose a controversial road in his life by becoming a businessman in Aden and Harar, Ethiopia. The business world probes under society`s anarchistic arena, and is therefore not the firsthand choice for most people. The stock- market demands some bravery.

 

These years in Africa is a somewhat lost chapter in Rimbaud´s life. The literary history is naturally focusing on his good poems, just like I discovered his poetry`s originality. However, it is under the sun of Africa during the last ten years of his life that his genius developed fully, and for him, a meaningful profession started. In this profession he gets precise labour: we are talking about numbers and mathematics, about science, and about feeling successful,- to reach out with one´s message, to be able to show visible and concrete results. We can ask ourselves; what has the written poetry become, has it benefitted society? Poetry is wage-presumption, floats without evidence, fiery attitudes, air-castles, often self-centered utterances, claims without hold, abstract concepts, imaginary truths, self-elevating presence, often condescending – near the limit of rude appearance, not much concrete,and zero result-oriented, imprecise, illogical, lacking in collegiality, and sometimes without any compromise, and staunchly in its being. The poetry`s wasteland showed itself clearly to Rimbaud after a time, and something in him appealed to a revolt, a turn-around. Some years after the poet had put down his pen he established “the other”, which he sought for in Ethiopia, where he transformed from brass to bassoon, from artist to merchant. The characterization of this last persona is derived from opposite terms of what is adduced about the poetry above, a man with character and strength, well known with the qualities that a well functioning society needs, that is well oriented in systems and thinking in systems.

 

Then one can ask oneself: what kind of genius acts in this last chapter where the poet perished in favor of the merchant? Is there any greatness in this? If you favor our kind of management of society the answer is unfounded; Yes. Rimbaud unfolded himself artistically from sixteen to nineteen years old and brought forth near-criminal formulations, sentences not earlier printed; even Baudelaire paled to these free verses. This way an errant man found the right way, in contact with his mother´s demands, adopted a proper profession where there is money to make. From another point of view I would say he supercedes the poetry by ignoring the forms to reach “the other” which is nowhere to be found but outside the artist´s comfort zone. The “drunken boat´s” wild journey, as portrayed in his famous poem, is let go and devoured by and within life itself! As former colleagues sat in Paris smoking cigarettes, a motivated Rimbaud fought in Ethiopia to keep the goods flowing. He equipped his camels and made the caravans ready for the troublesome journey from the Ethiopian plains to the Somali coast at Djibouti, a journey through hazardous areas where uncivilized tribal warriors could attack at any time.

 

The poet´s answer to society´s anarchy is silence. Rimbaud is described by those who knew him in Africa as reticent, however; when pleased by good social surroundings he could make long discussions about scientific themes. A merchant partner who lodged up in his house a couple of months never learned where the host was sleeping. Except for the day-to-day social chat with his colleagues he found company with a native woman from the Tigre district north in the country that lived with him for some time. She was taught the French language and it was said she often went with European clothing.

The servent Djami was faithful by his side in Harar. On his deathbed in Marseilles he bequeathed most of his modest fortune to this friend, which his mother Vitalie found outrageous. A last letter is dictated to his sister, Isabelle, some hours before he died. It is addressed to the Maritime steamboat company in Marseille which had a ship made ready for departure to Suez. New potential trade routes are discussed. The letter closes with a wish for specific boarding times; a last breath acknowledges the certainty of finding his own home. “The other” was completely adopted.

 

–From the Director´s Note by Lars Øyno

Writer & Director

Lars Øyno

Actors

Hanne Dieserud

Live Noven

Miguel Steinsland

Kirsti Sørlie Hansen

Henriette Blakstad

Gaute Næsheim

Kristiane Nerdrum Bøgwald

Jade Francis Haj

Music

Lars Tore Pedersen

Scenography

Thomas Sanne, Lars Øyno

Lights

Jan Skomakerstuen

Costumes

Gjøril Bjercke Sæther

Assistant to the Director

Johanna Øyno

Masks

Trude Sneve

Video Design

Jonas Ulleland

Press images

Stein Jarle Nilsen

Producer

Brendan McCall

Year of production

2017