“Francophone creation gives oxygen and sunshine” to French theater

With new shows from Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Quebec, Haiti, France and overseas territories, the Festival des Francophonies in Limoges, in the center of France, once again becomes the epicenter of French-speaking theatrical creation in the world. From September 21, “Les Zébrures d’automne – from writing to the stage” will host 14 shows from several continents for ten days, including six creations and two premieres in France. Interview with director Hassane Kouyaté.

RFI : The Francophonies start this year with a participatory and open-air show, To our fights, by Burkinabe choreographer Salia Sanou. What does the main fight of this 2022 edition of Les Zébrures d’Automne consist of for you? ?

Hassane Kouyate : The main fight is always to leave space for creators so that they can meet as many audiences as possible. It is also a question of making them work in good conditions and that the public can also see unpublished works. This is our fight.

Les Francophonies is one of the three poles for French-speaking creation in France. This year, the central point of Les Zébrures d’Automne is no longer the Marceau barracks, closed for works, but you have organized yourselves in “ archipelago “. What is the current state of French-language creation in France? ?

The theatrical Francophonie has a kind of aura: we talk about it a lot, but it has very few resources. The means are not at the level of this aura… For some time, I would even say that the Festival des Francophonies – from writing to the stage represents the tree that hides the forest. I think that a major effort must be made at all levels for French-language creation, at least for theatrical creation and live performance in general. I think that we are already in a certain compartmentalization of French-speaking creation in France. And – speaking of theater – French creation is not only compartmentalised, but is now even “confined”. However, French-speaking artistic creation is one of the elements that can save this creation by giving it oxygen and sunshine – and by giving it other points of view on what we are, on what we have been and what we want to be.

The festival is organized this year in “ archipelago “. French-speaking creators and creations come from Canada, Burkina Faso, Haiti… These “ he is » of the French-speaking creation that you have invited to the festival, how are they organized between them ?

In our programming, we speak of “archipelago”, because we are on the Place de la République in Limoges, which for us is an island. We are also at the Limoges Opera and other places in Limoges, not to mention places in the Limousin region: at the Théâtre de la Scène Nationale in Aubusson, at the Sophie Dessus auditorium in Uzerche, at the Théâtre du Cloître in Bellac, at the Georges Brassens cultural center in Feytiat or in the showroom of the town hall of Eymoutiers. So there are several “islands” that come together and have roughly the same concerns: how to invest the world differently, with other aesthetics.

Regarding the connection of the islands of French-speaking creation [comme La Réunion, Guadeloupe, Haïti, Martinique…] between them, it is something very difficult. Already in the islands themselves, the islands are struggling to develop their creation, let’s not talk about developing inter-island creations. It’s very complicated. And the festival in Limoges, precisely, is a gathering place. For this, we focus on ultra-marine creation [avec des spectacles et une rencontre-débat sur le mouvement de la créolité, NDLR].


Tafé Fanga – the power of the loincloth is called the creation of the Malian Jeanne Diama on the voice of women. A feminist play, but also bilingual, in French and Bambara. Other shows are also designed in bilingual mode or with other languages ​​such as Kinyarwanda, Haitian Creole, Reunionese Creole… Is this very strong presence of other languages ​​an editorial choice on your part? A trend in our time ? Or something that is required, because it has become technically easier ?

From my point of view, we cannot talk about Francophonie without talking about languages ​​other than French. For me, the Francophonie is the encounter between French and another language, or between French culture and another culture to give birth to a new language, a new Francophone culture. The two mutually enrich each other and create a plural Francophonie.

In French-speaking creation, more and more female authors and directors are appearing. Is this phenomenon different from the same evolution that can be observed in France in French creation ?

In our case, it is a desire to be attentive to the creation of French-speaking women. Afterwards, we see small changes that take place following political wills, the wills of people, desires and sometimes the necessities of creation. Today, we cannot continue to speak of the world without speaking of those who give birth to the world. So much the better, if it’s a trend, but, in general, female creation is not yet sufficiently developed.

One of your stated objectives is a “ democratization of culture “. Other than offering free admission to many shows, what is the “ democratization means concretely for a festival like the Zébrures d’automne ?

For me, the democratization of culture starts first with informing people about what is being done, about what we want to do and about what we want to show and why we want to show these artistic works. It’s a discussion with the territories and with the people we work for. This leads us to not teleport incomprehensible things to territories. We explain why the artistic object is there, available to the public and for people to enjoy. This first work is in the field of information and sometimes training of the public. Democratization starts with this.

The second work is around the question: where to show the artistic object and how to do it? The how also concerns the question of places, dates, accessibility, possible readings of the works. There are many things that come into play for a culture to be popular and democratic.

The climate crisis also crosses culture. Some museums have decided to close several days a week to save energy ; exhibitions, but also film productions have started to calculate their carbon footprint ; there are creative centers that require guest artists to take the train for journeys within Europe… This increasingly acute awareness of ecological challenges, how is it reflected at home in the Francophonies ? Is it necessarily a question of squaring the circle for a festival that is truly intercontinental with artists often coming from Overseas, Africa or America? ?

There are some things we unfortunately cannot change, such as transportation. Our festival is international and it’s hard to tell artists who come from Quebec or the Congo to take a boat a month and a half before the opening of the festival… For the moment, we can’t pass planes. But, we can change some ways of working. We can carry out this fight for ecology on certain productions and on certain creative objects, the weight of the sets, design transformable sets… With our help in the distribution of the works, we also seek to prevent the creations from being made. not only for two performances, because it’s terrible for the artists, but also ecologically.

Les Francophonies – from writing to the stage, Les Zébrures d’Automne, festival of theatrical creations, in Limoges, from September 21 to October 1, 2022