The Living and The Dead Ensemble Port-au-Prince

The Wake

theatre / performance / installation — premiere

Zinnema / Online

| French, Haitian, Creole → NL, EN | ⧖ 1h

The Wake is a performance reflecting a fragmented geography, a broken mirror of the complexity of the world. It is made of intimate stories and fables, songs and cries of revolt, demands and delirium. It is an assembly trying to make itself heard: is there a possible future beyond the repetition of catastrophes of all kinds? Is there a common fire to be shared with those who have lost their voice or never had it? The Living and The Dead Ensemble is a group of artists, performers and poets from Haiti, France and the UK. While writing this uncertain journey through space and time, they also read fragments of the play Melovivi or Le Piège (“The Trap”) of the Haitian writer Frankétienne, a work anticipating the earthquake that would devastate Haiti ten years ago. By referencing this work, The Wake becomes today a space that anticipates a new future. The Wake is also presented online, in a video of the performance that combines physical presence and fragments of scenes shot in Clichy-Montfermeil and Haiti.

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Polyphony for The Wake

The Living and the Dead Ensemble

Impossible, it is believed, to avoid the beginning. Just like when joining an ongoing discussion or taking a seat in front of the screen in the middle of a film, we are disoriented. Accordingly, The Wake takes the norm by the tail. A first success. We wait for the thread to unravel. First access, one colour. A first voice as a point of reference, and little by little others approach, coming to mingle with the first thread. And lo! already there’s a rope. Not the memory of the journey, but nonetheless an awareness of the present moment. Good news, we are not lost. And then we hear a voice, and other familiar voices in the mouths of others. Other bodies that feel the same jolts and that bear the same traces as ours. There we meet, the map takes shape. Yet it is difficult to anticipate the next steps. We move forward confidently, despite everything. The mouth composed of poems. We can already see a glimmer of hope, the fire in the distance, towards which we are gradually moving, the tremors of the world on our tired shoulders. Whoever wants, throws their burden into the flames. This is the ritual. Turning our lament into smoke, and letting it evaporate to the high places. Some voices still hesitate, awaiting the act and the green light of effectiveness. Then in the full light of day, they will approach, oppressive gazes flushed away. Finally the gesture. And the flame grows. The Wake is an invitation to a gathering worthy of our torments. A magnet for our cries. The bitter taste of the opposing winds.


Within the most morbid constraint,
The Wake opens on the realities situated in the register of the unthinkable
You laid bare the assassinations that some take pleasure in covering up
Oh The Wake!
An awakening to the state’s lethargic sleep
Faced with turpitudes, you claim your right everywhere and Elsewhere
From earthquake to emotion
The fire stirs up your stance
Oh The Wake!
Accused of cock and ass, because your subjects remain unshakable
Oh The Wake!
I love when you turn back, when slavery and neo-colonialism go hand in hand
At the edge of the cliff of desecration, you invoke the sacred
Oh The Wake!
You do not cease to evoke in equal part the value of the human being stuck in a world without equality,
memory work for acts forgotten…


Failing to be armed, The Wake uses the verb to combat the void. In an oppressive darkness, the unpleasant phrases of our reality are born, sculpted by unleashed raging – sometimes discordant – notes, which try to conjugate the world in its modes and in its times. Intertwined spellings, chants, sighs, cries… fix our words, overflowing with anger and indignation. From one voice to another, the harmony of appalling facts borrows the alphabet of injustice. We exteriorise the jitters of our daily life. For some, it’s the fear of not being able to escape from a situation that deteriorates to the profit of the oppressors. A dance, gestures that tell a story, the toques of a drum, rhythmic under our feet and directed by the conductor who is our pain. It is a demonstration, a festivity of revolutionary beauty. The Wake, like an incantation, chases away the spirits who would have us believe that everything is acceptable under the empire of inequality and the masked reign of dictatorship.


The Wake, a ‘tchaka’ or even a ‘djak’, as it is called in my homeland of Haiti; a simmering stew containing whatever the mouth can eat. In Voodoo, we speak of ‘Manje Ginen’, the food of our ancestors.
And voilà, The Wake, in the image of The Living And The Dead Ensemble; “Ti rat pa konn fèt san ke”, “like father, like son”. The Ensemble weaves together the fragments of our ten experiences, Europe (France, England), and the illegitimate father of the fruits of slavery (Caribbean, Haiti).
The Wake, a whole, a mixture, a multifaceted brew (poetry, rap, slam, story, song, theatre) plays with the body and the voice, which are the only channels within our reach to convey the different kinds of claims made by an oppressed people. Oppressed, but proud, inventive and combative. The people of the future.
The Wake is sourced from our encounter in July 2019 with Clichy-Montfermeil, a city on the outskirts of Paris, destined to take shape in January 2020 in Port-au-Prince.


Port-au-Prince, 12 January 2020. That evening, we cancelled the performance of The Wake at Lakou Tokèt – but what did it mean for the eight Haitian members of the Ensemble, to return to personal stories from exactly ten years ago? What does it mean to later position these stories in relation to one another; Mélovivi ou Le Piège (The Trap) by Frankétienne? His play, written two months before the goudougoudou (earthquake), features two characters, A & B, “… besieged by debris and corpses”, and it seemed, then, to predict the chaos that was about to befall Port-au-Prince on 12 January 2010. During the rehearsal of this work by the Ensemble, incorporated in fragments, with characters A & B fractured into eight bodies protesting against the chaos of the present, we can find a sort of return that advances in space and time, a prophetic vision of the past through infinite repetition, a detour in the shape of a spiral.


The Wake is a work that makes all interventions possible. “Off topic, out of context, it doesn't exist,” as Franketienne said during a conference at the Port-au-Prince Centre for the Arts. The Wake is an aesthetic proposition that shies away from classical forms. We live in a chaos, everything is intertwined. It is also a work that dialogues with Mélovivi ou Le Piège. It adapts and adapts to the current nasty world situation. Almost everywhere, people are demonstrating against the highly positioned who are not in their position. The Wake puts our anguish, our pain into the chapter. For it is the machine of the industrialised world that directs us with its discourse. Globalisation does not unite us, it creates borders of preference. With The Wake, we deconstruct in order to better recreate our own world, overhauled, egalitarian.


The Wake… The vigil…
Yon bagay ki makonnen nou… A space that binds us, that brings us together…
Yon espas ki makonnen isit lan ak tout kote alawonnbadè…
A space that brings together the here and the elsewhere…
The Wake… The vigil…
Sa vle di nou makonnen kit or isit kit or lòtbò dlo…
Meaning that we are together no matter where you are, here or elsewhere…
Paske nou sanble… Paske n ap viv menm katchaboumbe a…
Because we look alike… Because we live in the same chaos…
Paske nan zòrèy nou se menm rél la, rél latè k ap depafini…
Because we hear the same rumour, that of the crumbling earth…
In the beginning was chaos
Now chaos reigns
On this island where we speak to you
In the midst of this chaos…
There is poetry…
There is a poet who inspires
This poet who relates the madness of this island, the madness of this ground that is slipping away…
In the midst of this chaos
There are poets
There is us
There is our story
This story that we would like to tell you
And you?
What is your story?


The Wake is a journey towards understanding, towards sensitivity. It is a space caught between a past, a present and a future, entangled in a spiral carried both towards the real and the imaginary. It is a means of denunciation, an opportunity to say no to the disguised dictatorship, to say no to a neocolonialism sprinkled with airs of technology which only reinforce pre-established borders. It is a space of sharing, the sharing of sorrows and struggles. It is a battle towards an inclusive world. It is a story of women and men told and retold with and by them. It is an intercultural meeting where the difference completes us. It is, for us, an opportunity to say what we are, who we are, without half measures, and without pretense…


The Wake takes the form of a new era. By working on experiences, daily life and the future, it is the story of each and every person that’s being told. It is a collective battle, one voice that attempts to take the place of the other, the sayings and the non-words, the cacophonous songs, the bodies that blend together in all their definitions. Visibly. The news of what is happening in Haiti, as in Clichy-Montfermeil, constitutes the heart of The Wake. Social and racial inequalities, police abuse, injustice. Where did PetroCaribe’s money go? “A question that is timidly extinguished.” A neglected youth during a time when the world is becoming a chaos, where rage manifests itself. A struggle that requires resistance, sharing, interaction with one another, communication, understanding, and, above all, attention. The planet catches fire…


The Wake is an infinite piece, unfinished, never finished and always pretending to end for the better, to expand differently, elsewhere, into a new secret. Here, it is the word that makes the place, a habitable but precarious place that welcomes the fire of the world, a place that moves. Speak up to demand justice, at the risk of still being dispossessed of the last thing you have: a breath, a voice. So, here, to speak is also a ruse and a protection, a way of speaking in order not to speak, of de-speaking. Thus the paradox of The Wake, the vigil – like the riot – is that it cannot quite be a theatrical performance, only a lived moment. And that’s why everything constantly runs away, into the shadows of the backstage, into the mixture of languages, characters and memories, literature and slogans, into a joyful cacophony that is also a way of being in the world.


  • In order of appearance: Léo Jean-Baptiste, Zakh Turin, Dieuvela Chéréstal, James Désiris, Louis Henderson, Mackenson Bijou, Sophonie Maignan, Cynthia Maignan, Rossi Jacques Casimir, Olivier Marboeuf

Presentation: Kunstenfestivaldesarts-Zinnema

Directors: Louis Henderson, Olivier Marboeuf | Performers: Rossi Jacques Casimir, Dieuvela Cherestal, Sophonie Maignan, Cynthia Maignan, James Desiris, James Peter Etienne, Mackenson Bijou, Leonard Jean Baptiste, Olivier Marboeuf, Louis Henderson | Coproduction: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Spectre Productions, Le théâtre de l’Usine, Les Ateliers Médicis, Z33, Savvy Contemporary

→ see also: Stream of Thoughts


  • 20:30
  • Zinnema
  • €16 / €13
  • cancelled


  • 20:30
  • Zinnema
  • €16 / €13
  • cancelled


  • 18:00
  • Zinnema
  • €16 / €13
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  • 15:00
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