Category Archives: Theatre

The need for Afro-Dutch reviewers: PaarsPaars and upcoming event

On Friday November 11 Romana Vrede, Ira Kip and I launched PaarsPaars (PurplePurple), the space where Blackity Black thinkers reflect, share and cultivate conversations about Black art in the Netherlands. We started with an open letter to our kinfolk: A note about the need for Black reviewers. During the #BPTUnpacks event at Bijlmer Parktheater on Friday December 2, we’ll gather to discusssss. We’ll unpack a variety of Dutch theatre reviews and (re)imagine the kind of conversations the work of Afro-Dutch theatre makers, choreographers and playwrights truly deserves. Please note: The presentations and conversations during this event will be in Dutch.

#BPTUnpacks event info
Date and location:
Friday December 2, Bijlmer Parktheater (Amsterdam).
Time: Doors open at 19.10h, we start at 19.30h sharp-sharp.
Presentations by: Ernestine Comvalius, Emilie van Heydoorn, Ira Kip, Richard Kofi and yours truly.
For our panel we’ll be joined by: José Montoya.
Tickets: Click this link to buy tickets for #BPTUnpacks on Friday December 2 .

Excerpts from our note:
‘From Eurocentric expectations and a less than minimal knowledge of Black arts to the use of terms like “gorilla” to describe Black performers… In its current form, the world of Dutch reviews has nothing to offer creators like us. It’s horrendous to witness how, time and time again, various art editors try to suffocate this work that is so important to us by squeezing it into the narrowest forms of whiteness. Horrendous and beyond boring. (…) We need reviews and reflections that inspire Afro-Dutch makers to further strengthen, deepen and broaden their artistic signatures. We long for art criticism and other forms of reflections that don’t just fit our imagination, involvement and expertise, but that also emerge from them. (…) Our imagination, our joy, our rest, our worries, our commitment, our knowledge, our curiosity, our history, our now, our future, our spectacles and our everydayness deserve more in depth conversations. Our future makers deserve an archive in which they see us and themselves reflected in pieces that are written by us. We can’t trust anybody else with this responsibility. To remix Toni Morrison: “We are our own best thing.”’

Instah fam, be sure to follow @paarsispaars for all your updates. The note will soon be translated in English. Click here for the full version (in Dutch).


Articles: Comvalius, Poitier and Washington

“What she also longs for: more ownership. More studying. More stories in which our pain doesn’t sound like an invitation to stand on the edge of our traumas, look deep into our wounds and there, with faces hanging over the Lake of Black Tears, fall in love with reflections of whiteness. More decolonial thinking Black playwrights, dramaturges, drama school teachers and critics.

In one of the letters published in her informal autobiography To Be Young, Gifted And Black, playwright Lorraine Hansberry writes: ‘I believe that we can impose beauty on our future.’ This imposing of beauty always reminds me of that which Chrisje Comvalius is the personification of and that what she urges those of us lucky enough to enjoy her view to always keep in mind: ‘Create and demand work that reflects our dignity.’”
Excerpt from my article about Afro-Dutch actress Chrisje Comvalius for Theaterkrant (Theatre newspaper). Published: June 27, 2022. This article is in Dutch.

Two birds in one night…” It’s March 24 2002, the evening that the institution we know as the Oscars stretched their credibility to such a maximum that they hád to grant Denzel Washington an Oscar. Denzel, titan. The absolute best who shines in every film. So absolutely, he was great in his role as detective Alonzo Harris. Nevertheless, it is only in the context of white comfort and the imagination it hijacks, that we can explain why he didn’t win the Oscar for Best Male Actor for his roles as al-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, or Rubin ‘The Hurricane’ Carter, but specifically for Training Day.
What remains is the cliché question: “Who, here in the Netherlands, is our Denzel Washington?” With the answers I’ve heard so far, I think we mean: “These are great actors who we’d love to see have careers similar to Denzel’s.” With our answers, we refer to those who would be capable. From Emmanuel Ohene Boafo, José Montoya, Werner Kolf and Adison dos Reis to Kenneth Herdigein, from Akwasi and Yannick Jozefzoon to Felix Burleson… we’ve got some excellent actors who, of this I’m 100% certain, could be the answer to the question. But, to be honest… with the current range of Dutch films and plays, how would we know?”

Excerpt from my article about Black, intergenerational mentorship among Afro-Dutch actors plus the love between Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington. I wrote this piece as part of the Poitier and Washington-festival organized by Eye cinema (Amsterdam). I wrote the Dutch one and Eye provided English translations. Published: August 12, 2022.