An opera village in Burkina Faso

Christoph Schlingensief’s utopian vision for an opera village in Burkina Faso, where a stage, rehearsal space, school, hospital, hotel, church, and large communal kitchen, would be constructed for the community to produce work and live within was grand and commendable but as Kerstin Eckstein and Michael Schönhuth of [the German paper] Der Zeit see it, perhaps not fully planned through. The theoretical gesamtkunstwerk was initiated before the late Schlingensief’s death and has since been taken on by his wife, Aino Laberenz. Yet it is struggling to meet the late artist’s somewhat opaque vision. In March 2011, following FESPACO, the Goethe Institut organized a series of conversations in Ouagadougou about the project. Schönhuth and Eckstein point out that it may have been more beneficial to have representatives from neighboring villages or members of the local cultural scene rather than art experts and curators who knew Schlingensief. Furthermore, in a place with no tradition or concept of opera, but rather a tradition of suspicion towards bourgeois European cultural elites, it may be hard to find community support for the project. While Schlingensief was careful to avoid the clutches of neocolonialism through irony, self-accusation, and exaggeration, he also fell into the discourse of wanting to be healed and purified by what he called Africa’s “purity and originality.” Schönhuth and Eckstein acknowledge that this opera village has been conceived of in an entirely different way than Schlingensief’s earlier projects, and that in these beginning stages of its construction and development it must work with a large network of local initiators and actors to sustain itself. However, they seem to see that this process is underway with the help and moderation of the Goethe-Institut. Only time will tell.

Source and Photo Credit.



Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

  1. I visited the sight in June 2010 after seeing stuff on the architect Francis Kere online and in some design magazines. It is an amazing location and I think in principle it is a great idea, as it also includes a school, clinic and various training schools for various professions. Francis Kere has also build two schools in Burkina (he is a BUrkinabe trained in Germany) and they both have some really great solutions for heat and dust issues of African schools

    I have some photos of the sight and the building project and could put them up on flickr if anyone is interested

  2. Dear Fatou2002,
    I am very interested to see your pictures as I am currently researching the opera village project.
    Pls send me your flickr website!

    1. Hello Nora,
      I am also researching about the opera village project currently, more especific of the aspects of culture and development around it, but i am just in the beginnings. If you already collected some material, I would be very interested to get some actual informations apart from the official and very resembling texts about the projects. thanks in advance, Annette

      1. Hi Annette,
        in what context are you researching?
        I am writing my dissertation about the Opera Village Africa from an art critical point of view, examining it in the context of the genre of participatory art.
        I am German and am therefore using lots of sources from the German Media. I can understand that it’s more difficult using only English-speaking sources.
        These two articles are useful:

        Have you found any Burkinean voices/opinions?
        Maybe it’s best to email me:

        Best, Nora.

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