Baraka! / 2007-2008

Intergenerational theatre project about coalmine barracks in Limburg.

Baraka is an ancient Arabic word meaning 'to be blessed'

A theatre performance with ex-miners, their children and grandchildren and everyone who felt attracted to this adventure in the Belgian-Limburg Mining region.

The closure of the mines in Limburg in the early nineties, which was also a complete shutdown and termination of the centuries-old Belgian mining activity, brought about deep traumas that were initially only remedied in financial terms. But man is of course more than an economic being. Behind every mine worker exists a family, a past, roots, stories and memories, besides the megalomaniac, man and material guzzling juggernaut that this industry essentially was.

Inspiration

The dramaturgy of this project started from a series of interviews of former barrack dwellers in the Limburg mining region.

Miners, mostly (but not all) of foreign origin, and later their families, were initially housed in very rudimentary barracks camps, before they could move into a brick house. Two of the interviewees had stayed in later recuperated barracks as prisoners of war.
The memories of that time that emerged in these filmed interviews were surprising. The witnesses – who had lived in different camps – systematically pointed out the warm, supportive atmosphere that prevailed in these, after all, primitive residential camps. This led me to title the performance ‘Baraka!’, alluding to the Arabic word for ‘blessing’.

Twenty enthusiasts, all with a link to the mine work or the barracks camps of the past, worked together for a year on a theatre performance. One of the actresses with Bosnian roots had not so long ago stayed in a similar barracks camp for refugees in Germany during the civil war in former Yugoslavia.

© ZUPP

Multidisciplinary

This performance was multidisciplinary. It included choreographies that were both contemporary and from the Turkish folkloric tradition. There was singing and live music, there were projections, and there was acting in full. All the texts came from improvisation assignments. The themes came from the interviews.

Four generations

There were four generations of actors on stage. Girls, men and women, grandfathers and a dog. Together with the recorded testimonies of individuals who were another generation older, we came upon four generations. The origins of the participants were as diverse as the mining area is diverse in terms of inhabitants: Italian, German, Greek, Turkish, Polish, Spanish, Flemish, Hungarian, Bosnian, and so on.

Results

This project created a very close group, many of whom continued to participate in all kinds of creations. Two actors would make an invaluable contribution in “Kaputt!” the production I set up two years later with homeless people in Brussels. The Baraka-clan that got most famous in retrospect were the actors who contributed to the very personal documentary ‘Mamma Irma’ by Remo Perrotti, which also dealt with the barrack theme.

Some testimonies

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Commissioned by

CC Casino Houthalen

With the support of
Erfgoedcel Mijn-Erfgoed
Flanders State of the art