For this transnational Step Across the Border meeting and skill sharing exchange, the setting was in the Belle de Mai area of Marseille centered around the culture center lEmbobineuse. The visiting project participants: Caro Smart, Rasheeqa Ahmad, Raggi Kotek and Lucy Van de Wiel from the organisation True North Health in London and Yt Winterthaler, Stine Brinklov, Tanja Ehmann , Renate Rey, Angelika Wenzel, Minnie Griffith, John Moulden a.k.a."Coost" and Beat Gipp , representing the Berlin associaton Unter Druck - Kultur von der Strasse e.V.
Elsa Gobert, project coordinator at lEmbobineuse, organised a comprehensive and dynamic programme of educative and creative activiities and exchanges,which included discussions, demonstrations, workshops, communal cooking, radio cinema, live music and theater . The daily activities were mainly at locations in the local area, which is a traditionally poorer part of the city, with a majority of African French citizens and migrants. A large social issue here, is the push of gentrification at the expense and exclusion of the existing vibrant and diverse culture and community. As we found out, there are many innovative socio cultural initiatives in Marseille and, thanks to our wonderfull hosts, we were very priveliged and gratefull to have the chance to look, listen and learn by submerging into this unique community allbeit for five short days......
Arrival, checking in, meeting, eating and greeting at lEmbobineuse with an early evening visit to Radio Galère in the culture complex Frische de la Belle Mai, for a live broadcast on Dataplex radio hosted by long standing Marseille cultural operator Damien Morel, whereby we talked on air about the Marseille SATB mission and the various planned activities.
meeting and greeting at lembobineuse ----------- yt from czentrifuga checks the artwork at le dernier cri ------------- propaganda -------------- stine and yt at the compagnie peanuts film premiere
locker system at la baggagerie ------ Jardin du Couvent Levas -------- life on mars
Morning visit to Le Derner Cri cult, art print factory at Frische de la Belle Mai with introduction by Dernier Cri master printer, local social-cultural activist and lEmbobineuse sponsor, Pakito Bolino. At midday we met and ate together with representatives from Compagnie Peanuts at lEmbobineuse. This theater company of circa 30 people are residents from the neighbourhood, now in their third year of working and co-producing together with Magdi Rejichi, Philippe Zunino, Jérôme Fino and Mohammed Ali. The majority of the ensemble have migrated to Marseille from the Comoros islands on the east African coast , north of Madagascar. The age range is from 25 to 70 and approximately two thirds are women. As an ex French colony , Comoreans are allowed to come to France, however, there are imposed limitations to this, which means its important for the organisers to try and help company members integrate into society and find work in order to improve their chances of remaining . In this sense, the theater group is a means by which its possible to help people with fundamental migration issues as well as the more obvious social and creative benefits.
Representing Compagnie Peanuts
La Cabane Métamentale
That same afternoon the SATB group took part in the Company Peanuts workshop, which centered around La Cabane Métamentale "a heterotopic space where time is suspended". Within this enlosed, dark space and, through the use of psycho social and emancipatory interviews, single participants are invited into this safe yet mysterious isolation chamber, allowing them to connect with their subconsciousness which can help participants to release intimate, often hidden, words and sounds that "need to come out". The purpose is to tap into the positivity within people by being welcoming and respondent.
For the puposes of the SATB workshop, the cabin was installed on the lEmbobineuse stage. People in the room were invited to sit or lie around the cabin and listen in on headphones to the conversations within. Meanwhile, there were 4 other stations, spread around the venue, and participants were escorted from one station to the next by theater members dressed as medical staff. These "doctors and nurses" dressed in surgical gowns and masks, talk in Comorian, Arabic, French, English (often all mixed together). The "Patients" (participants) are first received at the bar area, where they are are given their "Meta Mental" documents, before being escorted from one station/scenario to the next. Each scenario has a different twist on classical doctor - patient interview situations: lying down, sitting, or being observed remotely through a glass window (in this case, the actors improvise using the venues cloakroom window) . Participants are asked how they feel? , what do they like? or are simply lulled into a relaxed state through via the use of abstract words and sounds.
One scenario requires that the participant squeeze between two actresses into the backseat of a very small car (theres an actual car in the venue); whereupon these two "doctors" whisper and sing trance-like into the participants ears. These actions are designed to gently encourage the participants to relax and step out of their normal mind set, to open their minds and prepare them for the final ultimate cabin experience. The hut experiment is also part of an ongoing project, which is to record excerpts from the exchanges within and also in the immediate area around the hut. The recordings are supervised and edited by invited S.A.T.B. guest Philippe Zumino. In this video teaser "La Cabane", we see how the Company are very much pro active in promoting themselves within the neighbourhood . We also see how La Cabane Métamentale is constructed, as well as showing Philippe Zumino making interviews inside the Cabin.
Cartographie Meta Mentale (examples from SATB participants Minnie and Rasheeqa)
Compagnie Peanuts / S.A.T.B. - La Cabane Métamentale Radio Spot here
Following on from the successfull medicinal plant and flower identification workshop at the first S.A.T.B. meeting at the Bienenwerder farm on the outskirts of Berlin, we visited Jardin du Couvent Levas, together with herb and plant expert and True North Health representative, Rasheeqa Ahmad. This ex-convent for nuns in the Belle de Mai are, is now a space for artists in residence surrounded by a community gardening project. Here we were given a tour of the flora and fauna of the garden by Alice who also volunteers at Cantine du Midi which we were to visit the next day. This was a good opportunity for our London and local experts to trade infos and anecdotes and a great opportunity for the team and guests to learn and reflect more on urban gardening and plant and herb identification.
This full packed day was not yet over, with perhaps the most interesting and intense experience of the Marseille visit lying before us. Members of the visiting S.A.T.B. organisations were distributed and hosted amongst the respective homes of Zalahata, Khadja, Kader, Aziza, Mr Mfya and Afakra from Company Peanuts. This was a sublime continuation of the workshop at lEmbobineuse, whereby we were given a rare and priveliged opportunity to share the homes , eat, sleep and make exchange with some incredibly generous and warm hearted people, most of whom are from Islamic cultural backgrounds.
Early the next morning, we assembled at Cantine du Midi on rue Bernard in the Belle de Mai area and began preparing food , some of which (herbs, stinging nettles and other edible plants and flowers) we had collected from the previous days visit to le Couvant. The Cantine is organised by the En Chantier association whose aim is to create local solidarity and collective responsibility based on empowerment values "we pay attention to involving people using food to reach this goal" As well as the daily low priced, healthy food cantine, the organisation runs a food shop next door, as well as a mobile kitchen which is used to educate and sensitise children, teenagers and families about healthy food.
That evening the group visited "La Bagagerie" which is an initiative working together with homeless people in the centre of Marseille and, here we were given a tour of the space by volunteer Marie. Utilising an empty storefront property, the space has been fitted out with around 40 lockers, whereby homeless people can leave there belongings and valuables, which allows them the freedom to walk freely in the city without the fear of losing their possessions as well allowing them anonimity of being unrecognisable as being homeless. This is a model project which deals simply and concretely with an existential homeless issue, which other countries could learn from. Many thanks to the coordintion help from Sonja who was involved in the La Bagagerie set-up and who works for the Emmäus Homeless peoples organisation.
The SATB team met at lEmbobineuse, whereby Blandine and Cecile from the La Felure Theater Company, who had made a memorable peformance workshop at the Unter Druck Cafe in Berlin some few months before, gave an informal talk in English, which outlined the basic feminist perspective. There was around 25 people in attendance, including the technicians, musicians and operators from the venue, and the talk was aimed as much for the benefit of the assembled men in the room, as part of a sensitisation process. The notes from the talk are included as a PDF document within this article (below)
Squatting is very common in Marseille as there is a large amount of long standing empty houses and flats, which was previously the case in cities like London (now made largely illegal) and Berlin (where it has never been actually legal but was tolerated until recent hyper urban renewal. This means that socially engaged artisans, activists and the homeless have a greater chance to live in a safe space which encourages social cohesion and community spirit. In the evening we visited le Guepier, a community squat which was being evicted in the coming week. The programme for this particular evening was organised by LGBTQA+ artists , although the audience was mixed ,which made for a positive and familiar environment for the SATB team.
The day was spent preparing for the evenings public event at lEmbobineuse, the SATB team helped with cooking and cleaning as well as costume design using plastic trash found in the local neighbourhood. Before the event there was a film screening premiere from Company Peanuts "The Scapegoat Workshops" at the nearby le Gyptis cinema.
After the screening, the cinema audience walked the short distance to lEmbobineuse for food and drink , followed by a programmed evening of entertainmant. in an improvised initiative, Czentrifuga offered the chance to all S.A.T.B: participants to join in with an improvised costume performance. Fotos by Czentrifuga / Erasmus Plus exchange student Minnie Griffith can be seen here .
More images from this altogther remarkable Marseille visit can be seen here.
Finally , not to forget to mention Agnes, who has a small studio space at lEmbobineuse, and kindly invited us to visit her urban garden at "Jaudin de Gibraltar" , also in the local area. This garden contrasts the Covenant as it is built on waste ground and takes into consideration the polluted earth and how it is possible le to slowly clean the soil in order to grow edible vegetables and, of course merci beaucoup to our hosts and guides for their enthusiasm and kindness and an alltogther enlightening learning experience.
the author John Moulden a.k.a "Coost" Marselle 2018