Strengthening of capacities of African theatre professionals

Founded on the cooperation of four theatre training programmes and piloted by the Espace Culture Gambidi de Ouagadougou, this project aimed to professionalise students and those working in African theatre. Thanks to financing from ACPCultures+, the Gambidi centre also organized two editions of the FITMO (Festival du Théâtre de Marionnettes de Ouagadougou).

The programme allowed for support of the CRFAV Theatre School, linked to the Espace Gambidi, the only professional graduate school for theatre in Burkina Faso and a rarity in West Africa. Made possible with support from the TILGRE Project (support of teachers, international professors, supply of teaching materials, ect), the school was able to boost its assets in the past three years. The fourth promotion of the school was effectively launched during the period covered by the Tilgre project, but its financing was autonomous and not taken from the project’s resources.

Thanks to TILGRE, a permanent network of theatre schools was able to be established. “An international network of theatre schools is a pedagogical and cultural treasure that can adapt artistic teaching to globalisation through the artistic intelligence of diverse professors and theatre practitioners and the real confrontations of cultural references,” explains Claude Guingané, the director of the Espace Gambidi. The Network of Theatre Graduate Schools between Africa and Europe gathers the following institutions:

  • JPG Graduate School of Theatre – Burkina Faso
  • EITB International Theatre School of Benin – Benn
  • ARTS2 Royal Conservatory of Mons – Belgium
  • INSAAC National School of Dance and Theatre – Ivory Coast
  • “Scuola Dimitri” School – Switzerland

Tilgre allowed for the coproduction and diffusion of three performances with students from schools within the network.

In absolute terms (figures), the project allowed for the training of 500 people belonging to 72 African theatrical institutions. The two editions of FITMO gathered over 80,000 spectators and 300 artists. Around 4,000 spectators watched representations of three artistic coproductions from the TILGRE project, while over 1,300 viewed the show at the end of the training module; other showings of the four performances took place during the 3 years (around 1,500 spectators) and other means of broadcasting also materialised.

The idea of the project was born from the following issue: a large part of African cultural production, in the domain of live art, has been aimed at the public and European markets, thus neglecting the local population, who remains deprived of the fruits of their own cultural development. “We have gone against the current,” explains Claude Guingané. “All artistic productions realised by the project were developed with the local public in mind and they were very much appreciated by local populations and professionals. The broadcasts demonstrated strong popular reception for the project’s productions, all without neglecting the opening of intercontinental markets.

All young artists who must go to Western countries to build themselves professionally may be tempted to stay in their host country and build their career abroad. The support of CRFAV and the creation of a graduate school network, with three schools in Africa, works not only to train young artists capable of shining internationally, but also helps them to be able to base their careers in their home country. Professional integration and the creation of regional distribution channels encourages young graduates to develop their projects in West Africa.

“The theoretic founding and practice of the project was the formation-production-diffusion synergy,” explains Claude Guingané. “For three years TILGRE demonstrated soundness of this concept, particularly in the context of West Africa, where the artistic and cultural sectors are rapidly developing. The pertinence of this vision was appreciated and commended by the largest cultural operators, public and private. Further, the project transferred to partners, associates and collaborators the skills necessary to continue action in its practical and theoretic realisations.”

The ECG, its partners and its collaborators could better understand the importance of this synergy to establish a “sector” of artistic quality that begins in the formation stage and ends with the final beneficiaries of artistic representations: the spectators and the population. “It’s the artistic quality that establishes the pertinence of the cultural programme with respect to requirements and diversity,” reaffirms Guingané. “It’s the managerial quality that allows for the largest number of people to benefit from the artistic proposals and thinking.”

According to Guingané, the different structures implicated in the programme now have the ability to ensure the durability of a large part of their activities in the spirit and forms with which they were experimented during the project. It is particularly interesting to note the following elements:

  • The CFRAV, now strongly established in the Theatre Graduate School Network, has shown, with the establishment of a fourth development, its capacity to finance and lead its pedagogic mission with the training of new students;
  • The Theatre Graduate School Network is able to pursue its joint pedagogic theories and has demonstrated its ability to realise concrete networking without financial contribution from the project (teacher and student exchanges, coproduction in Brussels, performances)
  • The FITMO festival has demonstrated its capacity to ensure the durability of its initiatives through the organisation of its 15th edition without substantial support from the project, all while integrating the Theatre Graduate School Networks.

A production and broadcasting circuit of performances originating from schools within the network was created and counts three West African countries. The young artists are already in using the circuit to test drive their artistic proposals.

One major fact is that the attention of national and international authorities to the formation, production and theatrical diffusion has grown thanks to the activities of the project: the presence of the Minister of Burkina Faso at FITMO, the presence of those responsible for the project at MASA, the 2016 Lompolo Prize for Best Theatre Play for the end of term performance, the presence of the director of the FITHEB at the end of term performance, the growth of Theatre Graduate School Network members, and the engagement of city councils and communes in FITMO are only a few examples.


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October 23, 2017
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