A Midsummer`s Night Dream

HD video installation
30 min
4- channel sound system with remotely controlled / synchronized gramophone
Tanzania, Kigoma
2012


Captured, chained and forced to walk hundreds of kilometres by their captors to be sold as cheap labour in Arab countries; This was the cruel fate that of millions of Africans befell till little over a hundred years ago. Tanzania was one of the central hubs of the Arab slave and ivory trade with a caravan departing from Ujiji (Kigoma) ending up in Bagamoyo, opposite of Zanibar on mainland Tanzania. Whilst slavery officially was abolished because of British pressure in 1873, Tanzania would bear a heavy colonial cross up to its independence in 1963. The remains of this tainted past are visible till this day in the smorgasbord of German, English and Arab architecture of the country. Whilst the oppressors might have left, their structures remain erect and stand firm as ardent reminders that freedom might be a fleeting state of being.

In the majestic A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Sanghee Song, German built Kigoma railway station becomes the stage for releasing the ghost of oppression and the point of reconciliation for past trauma. Wedged between English playwright Shakespeare and German composer Mendelssohn is the two-act ballet by Balanchine who advocated joy and freedom for his dancers. As the ballet shoe graciously scrapes over the surface we scratch at the uncomfortable surface of history and remember the slaves, who too found their freedom in song and dance.

Steven van Grinsven, 2012