with Gaëtan Noussouglo, Eustache Kamouna, Anani Gbeteglo, Roger Kodjo Atikpo, Marcel Djondo und Florisse Adjanohoun
Lomé (Togo), 2020
The “Racontottes” are little stories told during evening gatherings around the fire or under the palaver tree. The six storytellers, who have long experience in the art of storytelling on the African and European stages, bring to life the story that spins, under and over, jumps back and forth, and takes up the German invasion of Togo in 1884. This history overlaps their mouths and becomes a string of short stories and jokes.
In these stories, resistance to the Germans took many forms: mental, physical, and moral. They were taken from the narrators’ families, but also freely inspired from history books. In the staging, a still shot was chosen to symbolize the gaze of the wise man sitting apart and watching the “little” people debate.
The story of the arrival of the Germans in Togo begins with a protectorate treaty signed with a village unknown to the Togolese*. Thanks to this signed treaty, the invasion of the territory began, with its share of punishment and forced labor. “Togoland” was born. The resistance was made with the means at hand. How to really defeat the “invaders” who had firearms the likes of which the local population had never seen? In these stories we find the humorous side of the situations, an amusing and at the same time tragic portrayal of colonial life and disturbing parallels to the official historiography.
The theater company Gakoekoe
1. The protectorate treaty and the resistance of Agotimé Batoumé
Narrated by Gaëtan Noussouglo
Duration: 06:44 min.
“Once a boat full of white people appeared in the sea, to the great astonishment of the local population. Despite their white skin, they also wore white hats on their heads!”
About the arrival of the Germans in Togo, about language, resistance and cruelty.
2. German Colonization and the Resistance of the Vodu Priestess
Narrated by Roger Kodjo Atikpo
Duration: 07:06 Min.
“The Bremen forbade the worship of such gods and forced people to convert to Christianity. (…) The pastor as well as the participants ran out of the church. Since that event, many parishioners rarely came to church. Many preferred to stay with their tradition rather than convert.”
About the Bremen mission and its difficulties in getting the population to convert, and how the farting of Vodu priestess Tassi Nonie derailed the Christianization of the villagers*.
3. The demystification of the german colonist
Narrated by Marcel Djondo
Duration: 09:26 min.
“What does a white man’s feces look like? That’s what people are interested in.”
A story about a “huge fat German” and his feces, and how the villagers* no longer had a complex about whites after seeing the feces.
4. The Konkomba resistance and the cut thumbs
Narrated by Gaëtan Noussouglo
Duration: 08:36 min.
“When the whistle sounded, the Konkomba shot their arrows at the Germans. Many Germans were hit and died.”
A story about the Konkomba fighters whose thumbs were cut off by the German colonial rulers so they could no longer use their bows and arrows and how their weapons ended up in German museums.
5. “Why does the railroad line stop at Blitta?”
Narrated by Eustache Bowokabati Kamouna
Duration: 05:13 min.
“The Germans promise that the Emperor will come to give gifts. But the emperor does not come. On this ground, the railroad lines ended in Blitta.”
A story about the construction of the railroad in Togo, the forced labor involved, and the ensuing resistance.
6. “Dying in resistance is not a disgrace”.
Narrated by Anani Gbétéglo
Duration: 04:45 min.
“We don’t let death discourage us. No matter if the white man insists. No matter if the white man continues to murder. We will not be discouraged by death as hard as it is.”
A story of resistance and encouragement.
Gaëtan Noussouglo (lives and works in Lomé, Togo and Paris, France) is a Togolese director, actor, performer and storyteller. He has participated in several festivals in West Africa, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and South Korea. Since 2003, he has collaborated in France with Cie Gakokoé, Théâtre de l’Unité and many other companies. He performs in museums in Europe and was responsible for the programming of the FESTHEF of Assahoun and director of the Festival-Atelier Filbleu in Togo. In 2007, he also created the website Togocultures.
Eustache Bowokabati Kamouna (born 1970 in Lomé, Togo) is a storyteller, actor and musician. According to certain sources, he would have been born with a guitar in his hand and a musical key drawn on his belly. So he decided to start a professional music career. His music represents a kind of bridge between musical genres, a mixture of reggae and rhythm’n’blues with African instruments. He participated in several international festivals. In 2010 Kamouna joined the company ZITIC of Béno Sanvee. Today he has 4 albums to his credit.
Anani Gbeteglo (born 1957 in Togo) is a percussionist. He was born in 1957 in Togo into a family in which the Vodou ritual is part of everyday life. The rhythms and dances of the ancestors inspire him already as a small child. He taught himself to play the drums. With the company Zitic from Béno Sanvee he toured at storytelling festivals all over the world. In 1989 he won a gold medal at the first Jeux de la Francophonie in Morocco with the show Et la femme découvreit l’homme (And the woman discovered the man), choreographed by the Togolese choreographer Ass Ayigah of the company Ayigafrik.
Roger Atikpo (born 1972 in Lomé, Togo / lives and works in Togo, France and Belgium) is a Togolese actor and stegharp player (kora) with an international career in the world of storytelling and theater. He performed in Togo with ENAL and the Atelier Théâtre de Lomé, among others, before founding his own company, Aktion Theatre. His professional life as an independent artist is now divided between Lomé (where he has set up his studio), France and Belgium, where he works with the company Jean Claude Berruti and the company Vladimir Steayert, and Mali, where he is at the disposal of Adama Traoré’s company Act Seven.
Marcel Kodjovi Djondo (born in Togo / lives and works in Montbéliard, France) is an actor, storyteller and director. He was born into a family of Vodou priests and priestesses in Togo and spent part of his childhood in Benin. As a child, he loved to listen to the stories of the “Fa” divinations. This passion for words later led him to become a storyteller and actor. Today, Marcel Djondo is the artistic director of the Gakokoé company in Montbéliard, France. He has worked with L’Illustre Famille Burattini, Michel Crespin and the Théâtre de l’Unité.
Florisse Adjanohoun (born 1971 in Cotonou, Benin) is a Beninese actress, storyteller and writer. She has participated in several shows in Africa, Europe and the United States. She won several awards and prizes: Prix SEM Patrice TALON at ReCiCo 2019, Trophées Fitheb award 2018, Grand Prix Best Actress of Africa in Brazzaville 2013, CANAL + and UEMOA award for Best Female Interpretation in Clap Ivoire (Côte d’Ivoire) 2014 and 2012, the award for Best Lyrics 1999 in Carthage in Tunisia with Atakoun.
Foto: © Fidèle Noussouglo