The Arts

April 3, 2023

Breaking stereotypes with Dear Beloved Friend

Breaking stereotypes with Dear Beloved Friend

By Prisca Sam-Duru

An experimental live film performance with title, ‘Dear Beloved Friend’, which was screened recently at a Dutch theatre, was also performed in Nigeria to the admiration of an excited audience.
The live film performance with mass exodus of Africans to Europe as theme, held courtesy of Studios Dries Verhoeven and Kininso Koncepts productions.
The production runs till June across various theatres and festivals in Europe including SPRING Performing Arts Festival, Utrecht and Oerol Festival, Terschelling.
The show as described by the play director, Dries Verhoeven is “Basically the Nigerian reaching out to the Dutch right there on their theatre seats.”
It seeks to break the existing stereotype that sees Africans as posing dangers to Europe as well as encourage positive conversations about the two continents.
‘Dear Beloved Friend’ as the title of the play, is quite subtle, and to that, Verhoeven says, “Some people thought that the title is too friendly which is quite ironic. We should have open hands, look each other in eyes and have conversations without stereotypes and prejudice.”
During an interaction with the press on digital space, Verhoeven explained what inspired the theme of the performance noting that he had always nursed the idea of a creative venture on the subject of migration from a totally novel viewpoint.
His visit to Nigeria confirmed his position on the subject matter as he experienced the daily struggles of the people regarded as the happiest people on earth. “About a few years ago, I was reading some articles that were describing this exodus to Europe from Africa. In Europe, we talk about it in an apocalyptic way- like something we should be fearful of. I read about how migration is connected to climate change and that is a lot written about the explosion of population which explains why many people want to go to Europe. That is what I came to Nigeria- to dive into the material. Not to look from the sides. I like to surround myself with the topic that I would like to research,’’ Verhoeven, explained.
In the course of his research, he discovered that many people without sound knowledge about migration are the ones talking about it. “Many times, people don’t tell us about what it is or how it is to live in a country”, he stated, adding, “My visit to Nigeria is a very open visit. I was very happy to be introduced to Kininso Koncepts and meet the people who are so full of creative ideas, so professional about curating events and setting up theatre productions here and internationally.”
At the end of his research, the Dutch theatre producer had two major questions on his mind. “I ask two questions: have we reached the place where Africans are going massively to the Europe and should we be afraid of that? I found myself talking about myself by talking about Europe. I think in the end it is more of what we can call the European mid-life crisis. The fact that Europe is looking back instead of forward. It is nostalgic yet I was awfully depressed.
“From this perspective, the 75-minute live film ‘Dear Beloved Friend’ was produced to stir emotions and a rounded reasoning on the issue of migration. Screened in Netherlands and other European cities, the performers were domiciled at Seaside Cottage, in the heart of a Lagos suburb on the mainland.”

“We are looking at the potential or the possibility that they would be on stage one day. And that future presence is being converted to fear by the Dutch. Those 75 minutes we try to scrutinise the feelings of nervousness of the Dutch. Instead of being behind our walls, thinking about others without opening the doors to have a conversation on issues such as climate change. This is what the piece does,” he added.
Excited about Nigerian theatre production being screened in European theatres, the producer of ‘Dear Beloved Friend’ and Founder, Kininso Koncepts, Joshua Alabi said that the most exciting aspect of the project is the infusion of technology into theatrical production in order to reach a global audience. That he noted, has been the dream of most African theatre producers over the years.