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The Theater Event of André Heller's AFRIKA!AFRIKA!, coming in Oktober 2013!
Europe's most successful circus show is back in Europe.
André Heller is one of the world's most successful multimedia artists. His fascinating circus extravaganza Afrika!Afrika! is undeniably one of the biggest international show business successes of the last 20 years. More than 3.5 million visitors have been swept off their feet by the event that should be "prescribed by your physician" in order to spread happiness among people all over the world (FAZ). Heller and his team of choreographers, outfitters, visual artists and master performers have finally created an ideal, opulent and stunning Afrika!Afrika! version for the stage. It combines the artistic peaks of Afrika! 1 and Afrika! 2 with eccentric and breathtaking new attractions, developed on various places of the magic continent in the course of two years. The theater event's world premiere is at Baden-Baden's Festspielhaus in Germany.
André Heller was born in Vienna in 1947. He is one of the world's most influential and popular multimedia artists. His works include garden artwork, "cabinets of wonders," prose publications and processions as well as new versions of circus and vaudeville shows. He sold millions of records as a chansonnier, created big floating sculptures, the vanguard amusement park Luna Luna, movies, fire spectacles and labyrinths as well as plays and shows that have inspired audiences all over the world, from the Broadway to Vienna's Burgtheater, from India to China, from South America to Africa.
Press commentary about AFRIKA!AFRIKA!
"The pace is breathtaking, the flexibility of the black bodies incredible, the virtuosity and precision of artists and jugglers one-of-a-kind: André Heller's latest stroke of genius, "AFRIKA! AFRIKA!," was a thunderous success at Vienna's dark and novembery Prater." Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland)
"You leave the tent happier, lighter, maybe more content than you entered it. Visits to AFRIKA! AFRIKA! should be available on prescription from your physician." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany)
"The working temperature hits fever. André Heller's AFRIKA! AFRIKA! and its artists will amaze and astonish you."
Die Presse (Austria)
"A kingdom of jugglers and paradise of joie de vivre."
Der Spiegel (Germany)
Interview with André Heller at the start of pre-sales
Mister Heller, with "Afrika!Afrika!," you have created a magical circus event. How did you get the idea?
I am always looking for high energies, because I think we are living in a culture of mutual discouragement. I call it the cult of bad mood. 40 years ago, I already knew that I didn't want to be surrounded by Vienna's sniveling, melancholic complacency. Therefore, I went on lots of journeys - that gives you a chance to encounter things you don't find at home. In 1972, I attended an unforgettable festival at a market square on the edge of the Sahara. Dancers, musicians, jugglers and acrobats from all over Africa showed each other their skills. Not for a paying audience, but in order to encourage each other. It was an encounter with a different, more loving reality, and I felt I should entrust myself to it. Then, I waited for a long time for someone to bring inspiration to the West. Strangely, this didn't happen. At some point, I was at the end of my tether, and in 2006, I did it myself.
How did you decide it was time for another "Afrika!Afrika!" project?
This happiness project was already completed, and I had given it a honorary spot among my memories. I've been designing gardens for many years, and at the moment, most of my energy goes into big, sensual park projects, for example in Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. After the successful Afrika!Afrika! circus tours in Europe were over, I kept receiving messages from African artists, asking me to create another platform for their great skills. In the beginning of 2011, my friend Georges Momboye wrote. He had proven his talents as chief choreographer and, after I dropped out in 2008, as artistic director. Basically, what he said was, "Please do something. Apart from a steady income, the wonderful artists really need the kind of recognition they used to receive every day when they performed in the high quality Afrika!Afrika! show. I travelled in West Africa and discovered many new and impressive talents in almost all of the countries. They will surprise and astonish the audience, and the best of our stars from Afrika!Afrika! 1 and Afrika!Afrika! 2 also want to inspire the audience again, in the frame of the successful concept we've created."
How did you react?
I listened to my mind and my gut feeling, talked to Robert Hofferer, the director of ARTEVENT, my company for planning and realizing art projects, and I met several times with Georges Momboye. Then it was clear: we didn't want to do another big top and a year-long circus tour. The circus town with bag and baggage requires a gigantic transportation effort and up to ten days to set up. That means we'd have to stay at one place for at least a month.
I thought the best solution was a first-class, innovative, overwhelming stage show for theaters or small halls that makes use of today's modern technical and staging possibilities and doesn't stay at one place for more than a week. I also asked Robert Hofferer to organize the event himself. That is to say, Robert Hofferer, who has been my "ally" for many, many years, will take care of artist contracts, hotel bookings, traveling and the artistic budget.
This way, I wanted to avoid all kinds of ego conflicts and power games that, unfortunately, tend to appear when it comes to successful ideas with many different contributors. That was my basic condition. Financiers, tour organizers and all other contributors agreed. There will also be a five-months break after 7 months of performances, so all artists and the engineering and technical staff can catch their breath, relax and return to their families. I think this will prevent cabin fever. You need a special kind of talent and certain structures and psychological tools to deal with triumphant success, which is, after all, not an everyday experience. In this way, everyone should get happiness rather than hardship out of it.
What fascinates you about Africa?
I live in a network of worlds that is nurtured by my desire to get involved with so-called foreignness. Africa has been my favorite place of study for many years. After all, I have been living in Morocco for a big part of the year.
Africa is more a state of mind than a country. How would you describe this state of mind?
I think there is a different approach to life than in many European countries. I've had many discussions with artists who got involved in the Afrika!Afrika! shows. There are different basic concepts, for example the "here and now". I was raised to furnish my present with desperations of the past and fears about the future. In Africa, the present means: we want to live sensually - now. There is no guarantee that three years, weeks or minutes from now, I'll still be alive. Therefore, I'm well advised to use the "here and now" for a sparkling life. That is even more impressive for Africans, who live this wise attitude in the middle of difficult circumstances.
What kind of Africa image do you bring to the stage with "Afrika!Afrika!"?
The image of wonderful people with a clear, loving attitude: "The energy you send out is exactly the energy you will get back." That saying comes true in every performance. The second basic principle is, "Don't miss the present moment because you are scared of the future or sad about the past."
The artists come from many different parts of the continent. How did you find them?
I sent colleagues to Africa to look for exceptional master artists. In Africa, artistry is deeply rooted in everyday life. On the village square - the arena -, the villagers celebrate a wedding or a birth, and the artistic shows that go with it are all part of the spiritual ceremonies - the most beautiful, sensual folk art. Together with my master choreographer Georges Momboye, I watched the videos resulting from these research journeys, and invited the most talented artists to dare crazy and surprising things.
For many people, what first comes to mind when they think about Africa are hunger crises and civil wars. How do you work with the (seeming) contradiction between sparkling joie de vivre and extreme poverty?
Africa is a fascinating conglomerate of problems and solutions, tantalizing and disturbing realities. It makes a deep impression on all sensitive beings who get in touch with it. However, it is barely known that there are wonderful people expressing high artistic qualities amidst the hardships of everyday life. Afrika! Afrika! gives some of these artists a platform to show their radiance and their profundity.
The show has already had about 4 million visitors, and now, it is going on tour again. How do you explain the big success of "Afrika! Afrika!"?
The show succeeds in giving the audience a light heart. And that's exactly what we wished for. In my view, the entire project developed into a gift after it premiered in 2006. With its own means, it doubled its size in the first years due to the extraordinary interest of the audience, and two circuses traveled through Europe. Afrika! Afrika! shows a different attitude than you usually get with Western cultural shows. The ambition of each African master is to include everyone. Their goal is the biggest possible impact, the most possible magic for old and young, for intellectuals and workers, foreigners and natives.
In the last years, more and more Africa shows wanted their share of the market. How do you deal with this competition?
It's normal that others also try their luck in the wake of Afrika! Afrika!'s success, and I am happy about each high-quality work opportunity for African artists.
What distinguishes Afrika! Afrika! from these other shows?
Our production - and I say this without blushing - is top-class: the amount of the contributors, the state of the art, the complexity of costumes and stage design ... Our visual and audio engineering meets the standards of an international rock show, and our artists prepare for months and create their acts especially for our imagination of fantasy and our standards of surprise. Furthermore, from the very beginning, I included diaspora artists, the descendants of slaves in the Caribbean, in South America, and African Americans. Their roots make them part of African world culture. Western experts agree. The most popular and probably most successful African singer, composer, writer and producer, Youssou Ndour, granted us his patronage. He is also the minister for tourism and leisure of the Republic of Senegal.
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André Heller's sensual discovery of Africa fascinates with its pace, energy, and the expression of sparkling joie de vivre. Africa shows its artistic side with an abundance of cultural traditions and creativity.