A Talk With Benno Steinegger & Jovial Mbenga
The origin of the project was an idea of Benno’s. But it was after our meeting that the show was born. A meeting between two artists, from different worlds, one of whom is black and the other white. One Congolese and the other Italian, both living in Brussels. With a desire to work together and face our differences
What inspires you?
BENNO: The world around me, especially the political side of the world around me. I investigate identity and power structures. Also the invisible, the immaterial world and sometimes spiritual practices get me to work on political issues.
JOVIAL: My source of inspiration is in everything around me. Everything I see, hear. Through the journeys of my life, my story and that of others. But also through the media, social networks, everyday life.
What has your artistic journey been like so far?
BENNO: In Italy I got my first paid jobs in theatre in high school and later I combined it with a study in politics. In London during a master’s degree my university & theatre career came together. Back in Italy, I’ve built up my first big projects with my collective, worked with interesting theatre groups and toured internationally to China, Canada, Argentina… but it was not enough to live from. This made us take on other work and meant the end of our collective. I always admired Belgium – and Brussels in particular – for its contemporary theatre, festivals, institutions and art forms and decided to move there. In the beginning I felt like a migrant, a really privileged white European male migrant but still with all the difficulties of migration. And now, I feel much more at home. With this project, I have really arrived here.
JOVIAL: My artistic journey so far has never been smooth sailing. There have always been a lot of waves. Maybe because I’m black? And maybe as a black person, you have to fight not to be typecast in a black role? I consider this job as a profession of faith. And with faith, I hope to move mountains
What was the impulse to create THE CHANCE TO FIND YOURSELF?
BENNO: Travelling to the Amazon Forest – for some plant diets and Ayahuasca ceremonies – was a healing experience but it also inspired me for my next show. During a ceremony I had a vision of myself standing on a stage with a black guy, one next to the other. First I had no clue because, although I was interested in themes such as racism, discrimination, white power structures … it was not my urgency right then. However, this image gave me fate. Back in Brussels I started – doing what all white people should do – to dig deeper into power structures and things white people take for granted. And I discovered so much about me and about these structures. I started to change while I developed the project. And even more while I was working with Jovial. The constant discussions and exchange with him were challenging, enriching and deeply transformative. I’ve learned so much through this process, not only about Jovial’s life as a black person, but also about me and my approach to black people.
JOVIAL: The origin of the project was an idea of Benno’s. But it was after our meeting that the show was born. A meeting between two artists, from different worlds, one of whom is black and the other white. One Congolese and the other Italian, both living in Brussels. With a desire to work together and face our differences
How do you distinguish yourself from other artists?
BENNO: I don’t know if I’m more special than other artists. I try to build a team for which I create a frame as a common ground and where I involve all of us on a horizontal basis. There is no hierarchy, only exchange of different skills and responsibilities. Jovial was deeply involved in the entire process, from financial matters to artistic decisions. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any coherence between what my art tries to communicate and the process, the way I do things. Although I know that perfect coherence is only an ideal, I try to get as close to this ideal as possible.
JOVIAL: I work a lot. And when I’m not working, I watch other people play. And all of this nourishes me. It helps me to be comfortable in front of an audience, but above all to be real. I’m always looking for the real thing on stage. And I think you can see the difference between someone who plays football every Sunday and someone who makes it a profession.
What is your favourite part of the performance?
It’s difficult to choose one, so I’d say my top two favourite parts are high energy sections and interactivity. As a body percussionist and dancer there’s no greater feeling than sharing the stage with the other performers where we push each other, motivate each other, and show our connectedness through movement. In addition, Interactivity breaks the 4th wall, makes an instant connection with the audience, and really brings the audience into the work on a deeper level.
If the sky’s the limit, who would be part of your dream team?
BENNO: The plants’ spirits. I’m starting a new project about plants. For me plants are more powerful or skilled than us human beings. We can only learn from them.
JOVIAL: Limits, that’s not Congolese. In my dream team, I see Pitchen, Masta, Rocky boy. It’s normal that no one knows them. We only see famous people. I like the people you don’t see, I like the invisible ones.
Benno Steinegger & Jovial Mbenga PLAY THE CHANCE TO FIND YOURSELF 01.12.2022 at Campo Victoria, info & tickets – click HERE
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