The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
Excerpt from Perhaps the World Ends Here by Joy Harjo
From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky © 1994 Joy Harjo 
Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

"The world begins at a kitchen table." With this phrase, the poet Joy Harjo describes that moment of togetherness as genesis. And the kitchen table is much more than a place to eat. It is where we can gather and engage in heated discussions about the present reality, the desires and violence that traverse it, and the possible forms of resistance and solidarity. It is a place where a festival starts.

This edition begins with the new creation from Back to Back Theatre, a portrayal of coming together during team building that alludes to a question: if we had to remake the world, what would we build? What is this magical moment when we come together without knowing what will happen? This vibration opens the festival and will reverberate through the weeks that follow, in the imaginative dance of Mozambican choreographer Idio Chichava and in Respublika, a six-hour show during which you can experience a new society inspired by anarchist communities of the 19th century and late 90s rave culture. 

Every gathering around a table is an act of negotiation: we take our seats and adjust to the openings left by others, the unwritten choreography of being together. Toshiki Okada returns to the festival with a poetic performance about the dynamics of a group confined in a spaceship. Faye Driscoll delivers a powerful performance, creating a queer landscape where the bodies of the performers form a breathing sculpture in constant motion. Nacera Belaza tackles a circular setting for the first time, the dancers using gestures to renegotiate a tension between individual and collective rhythm as we sit surrounding them.

Between one bite and another, the kitchen table becomes a place of storytelling. After last year's success, MEXA returns to the festival with The Last Supper, a performance in banquet form that reclaims space for the story and legacy of those who may be leaving us. Autobiographical storytelling is at the heart of the site-specific work by Carolina Bianchi and Carolina Mendonça, a poetic performance on Chantal Akerman presented in an abandoned cinema; and of a piece by Gurshad Shaheman and Dany Boudreault, in which they investigate and share each other’s life story, and the memories left with others.

The politics of memory are another central aspect of this edition. The complexity of this topic is at the core of a new creation from Marcus Lindeen and Marianne Ségol, Memory of Mankind, a reflection between queer archaeology and mnemonic dysfunction. Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige are at the festival for the first time with La vertigineuse histoire d’Orthosia, the dizzying tale of a Palestinian refugee camp and its hidden underground world. Hsu Che-Yu’s exhibition uses the 3D reconstruction techniques of the Taiwanese police to tell three stories of loss and attempts to restore memory. With his new creation, Jaha Koo takes us to a pojangmacha (a Korean late-night snack bar) to investigate the relationship between food, culture and the memory of beings, both human and more-than-human.

While we remember, we find ourselves surrounded by other memories. And while we move, we are surrounded by movements of varying scale. In the monumental space of the Institut des Arts et Métiers, Kwame Boafo works on the memories of second-hand cars that travel from Brussels to Accra, with a choreography addressing globalisation and the environment. The new work by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Radouan Mriziga investigates these intertwined motions, taking the movements of Vivaldi's Four Seasons as a reflection on our evolving and endangered world. Danh Vo collaborates with an auto mechanic school in Brussels to transform a hearse into a mobile flower shop that will circulate through the city presenting bouquets of mechanical and floral elements.

Dance flourishes in this edition in a multiplicity of forms: from Mamela Nyamza's hypnotic choreography at the festival’s opening to the virtuoso steps of Jeremy Nedd and Impilo Mapantsula; from the transformative queer universe of Clara Furey to the highly anticipated encounter between Marlene Monteiro Freitas and Israel Galván. Balancing dance and sculpture, Maria Hassabi delivers one of her most radical and personal works; Eduardo Fukushima and Beatriz Sano co-author an ode to instability with a choreography that features the sculptures of Tomie Ohtake in her first exhibition in Brussels.

The kitchen is a place in motion, a place of experimentation. This idea resonates well with the festival's ambition to go beyond the known. This year, the Free School is dedicated to the kitchen as a space for transmitting knowledge. It comprises a course of meetings around food, conceived by Samah Hijawi; a workshop that investigates the politics of care and domestic work; a series of discursive meetings; a lecture by Sara Ahmed; and a School of Conviviality. What kind of atmosphere does gathering around the kitchen table create? Can pleasure be a political strategy?

This question is also at the heart of a parade from Lia Rodrigues that integrates with the biennial Zinneke Parade. She merges dancers and different citizens to question how we can maintain a specific struggle and solidarity of purpose while investigating new strategies for coming together in public space. The intimate play by Chagaldak Zamirbekov highlights the political reality in Kyrgyzstan, reflecting on how we truly live together or merely inhabit the same space. Zuleikha Chaudhari stages a text about fictional upcoming political elections in India and who is made invisible by them. This theme resonates in a new work from Bouchra Khalili, which closes the festival just a few days before the real-life elections. 

The festival can be a gathering around a table, bringing artists and audiences together. It can be a place to discuss the world we contend with and the world we desire, a table we can use in a different way. One project from this edition is found directly in the festival brochure: a series of new poetic interventions and drawings by artist and poet Otobong Nkanga. To her, the kitchen table is not only for cooking and gathering but often – for artists – where one writes, dreams, draws and imagines the future.

In Joy Harjo's poem, the end of the world may find us at the kitchen table as we laugh, cry and savour our last sweet bite. Until then, let’s enjoy the kitchen table to its fullest potential – as a space where we find ourselves and others, a place for imagining what is still to come. 


Dries Douibi & Daniel Blanga Gubbay

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