Monday, October 18, 2021

Report Africa – Ivory Coast: the mythical “Ki-Yi village” changes artistic direction

Audio 03:34

WereWere Liking, writer, playwright, painter, Cameroonian led the Kiyi village for 36 years © RFI / François Hume

By: François Hume-Ferkatadji Follow

6 mins

After 36 years of “reign” at the head of the Ki-Yi village, an artistic training center and community center in Abidjan, the Cameroonian writer and painter Werewere Liking retired from artistic direction at the age of 71.

The “Queen Mother” discovered and brought out a whole generation of West African artists.

She leaves her hand to the choreographer Jenny Mezil, currently director of the Adjamé dance school, “Les pieds dans la mare”.

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From our correspondent in Abidjan,

Created in 1985 by Werewere Liking, the Ki-Yi village experienced its golden age in the 90s. At that time, more than a hundred artists lived there in community and adopted a very strict discipline.

Get up at 4 a.m.

Eight to 14 hours of work per day.

And tours around the world within the company “Ki-Yi M’Bock”.

Today a renowned choreographer and actress, Bacome Niamba remembers her beginnings in the Ki-Yi village: “

It was a magic in Africa. There were incredible desires to return to this village. But not everyone succeeded. And those that Werewere was bringing in, I have the impression that she saw in their heads and in their hearts. That was it too, Werewere, it was a mystery

 ”.  

Draped in a long red dress adorned with a seashell necklace, hair held back by a matching scarf, Werewere Liking moves with the help of her carved wooden cane amidst her paintings.

At 71 years old, the “Queen Mother” still takes the same pleasure in showing visitors the Ki-Yi village: the museum, the library, the large rehearsal set and the sewing workshop.  

The village was a temple of African cultures and of “ritual theater”, formerly described as mystical and hermetic by its detractors.

But today the buildings are somewhat decrepit, the famous company almost dissolved, the programming less rich, and the artists have left the Cocody houses.

The “Queen Mother” has decided to leave her place.

“ 

But because sooner or later you have to hand it over.

And in any case, there had to be someone who had enough passion to be able to do it and the young Jenny Mezile has enough generosity to put herself at the service of others.

 “

Jenny Mezile takes over from October.

49-year-old Franco-Haitian choreographer who arrived in Abidjan in 1997, she is at the forefront of contemporary dance in Côte d’Ivoire and has created a dance school for young people who have dropped out of school.

By taking over the reins of the structure, she first of all wants to make the estate a place of life for artists.

“ 

Rediscover the soul of Ki-Yi village, because what made the strength of Ki-Yi village was that this place was inhabited by artists, real artists.

We are waiting for them, we are going to put on beautiful plays, beautiful musicals, things that enhance us, avant-garde things.

This is my mission.

 “

Renovation of the premises, openness to rap and urban dances, his projects are numerous to give a second life to the mythical Ki-Yi village which has seen the birth of Ivorian comedy and song stars, such as Didi B and Black K de Kiff No Beat or Dobet Gnahoré;

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