ANIMATAZINE

BADRISSA SORO

WATER

Badrissa Soro begins in Gagnoa, capital of the Gôh region, located in the central west of the Ivory Coast, his hometown, where is took is first steps on the stage as a student actor with the John Carlos Artistic Ensemble between 1997 and 1999.

He later trained at the Ki Yi M'Bock village of Werewere Liking in Abidjan, where, encouraged by the Grande Dame de la Marionnette, he learned how to make and animate puppets..

During 7 years, he will learn all the facets of this art, participating in many puppet and animation training courses.
 
In 2008 he founded the Ivoire Marionnette Company, becoming its artistic director.

In 2015 he created the training center
 Académie Ivoire Marionnette, to pass on is knowledge to young people to help the development of puppetry in Africa.

He is President of the Unima Africa Commission and President of Unima Côte d'Ivoire.

In this interview Badrissa Soro introduces us to the African landscape of the puppet, in full ferment and vigor. 

Thanks to the propulsive energy of the Companies and the many artists present in the area, united by a renewed federating spirit:

" Africa will be flooded everywhere by puppets and puppeteers! "

HOW IS UNIMA (INTERNATIONAL PUPPET UNION) CONSIDERED IN AFRICA?

Badrissa Soro
00:00 / 03:37

UNIMA has allowed African puppeteers to awaken and also to structure themselves.

I remember that when we were not yet members of UNIMA, when we learned of the existence of UNIMA, we said to ourselves: "Here is an organization that can highlight us!".

At the time the puppet in the Ivory Coast was not developed enough, we weren't in contact with many puppeteers.
 
We wanted to participate in festivals, but we couldn't because we weren't known; so we said to ourselves that we had to do everything to join UNIMA: "We must show originality and so when we go to present our work, the doors of UNIMA will be open to us !".

This gave us the motivation; we had our first show, Tambour de l'Union ; it was a show that spoke of peace, social cohesion and reconciliations; at the time there was a competition that UNIMA had launched in collaboration with UNESCO which was called The puppets are committed to peace ; Jacques Trudeau was the general secretary at the time.

We applied for the competition and got a prize, to receive in Charleville-Mézières!
 
It was the knowledge of UNIMA that allowed us to get to work, we immediately contacted the president of the UNIMA Côte d'Ivoire Center, at the time it was Honoré Abouah, and we gave him the award, and that's how we joined UNIMA .

This is to tell you that UNIMA is very important, it encourages African puppeteers to work, because they tell themselves that if they are inside UNIMA, they are not alone, they can set up collaborations, they can participate in festivals, they have people to show their work, and this is very important.

It is an association that I think has yet to grow, has yet to open up, widely, to all puppeteers.

With the work of the new Africa Commission, puppeteers want to join UNIMA every day: today we are at four new UNIMA Centers that have been created in Africa, and there are still requests!

In Congo, Skonde Conteur contacted me, he wanted to have a UNIMA Center in Congo, because he is doing a good job there, he is following the young people: he was appointed UNIMA representative and he opened a National Center in Congo.

In Uganda we have appointed a representative.

In Zambia there is a new representative and today, very recently, in Ghana, and there is also Guinea, so you see ...
 
There are already five new representatives, because there is an enthusiasm today and all the young people, all those who practice the puppet, today want to integrate UNIMA. 

And we are proud of this, because in this way it is the art of the puppet that gains ground, which also gains in collaboration and fraternity, because making the profession also means feeling alone; so we have a community, people in other countries who are also engaged: when we integrate an organization, we are friends with it all. 
 
This is very important.

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Il sito della scuola di formazione alle arti della marionetta de l'Académie Ivoire Marionnette, Compagnia Ivoire Marionnette - Abdjan, Costa d'Avorio

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CAN YOU DESCRIBE IN BROAD LINES WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PUPPET THEATER IN THE DIFFERENT GEOGRAPHICAL PARTS OF THE CONTINENT?

Badrissa Soro
00:00 / 03:50

In Africa, cultures are very different.

On the Mali side, for example, the way of practicing the puppet is very different from that of North Africa.

In West Africa we have many structures that practice puppet theater, even in South Africa it is very developed, but in a different way: there it is contemporary, there is a lot of innovation and research.
 
There is also contemporary work in North Africa.
 
In Mali, however, it is traditional.

Mali on the other hand is our source of inspiration, it is our puppet capital in West Africa.
 
Here, in West Africa, we are not numerous to be in the contemporary world of the puppet.
 
On the Togo side the puppet is based on tradition. Even in Benin.
 
The Ivory Coast does not have a tradition as such, we rather have a tradition of masks, so we develop the contemporary side of the puppet much more: we do research, we are inspired by tradition to propose new things.

In the beginning, when we practiced the puppet, here they called us fetishists, because it is said that human beings do not have to create figurines to represent, as if we were putting ourselves in the place of God.
 
So people were not interested in the beginning, people abandoned what we had as a tradition, which instead remained in the villages; tradition was not exploited, it remained for rites, for ceremonies, when we have ritual ceremonies in our villages  the masks come out.
 
In the big city, with Islam and religions, people have distanced themselves, and when we got to the puppet, we had many difficulties, we were very opposed.

Now that the puppet is taking off, that we see that it is an art that can enhance our country, things open up, and it is time that we can develop this path. 

In my region in the north, for example, there are many sculptors.

It is a very developed area, full of culture, there are many artisans who carve.

There are museums where you can find Senoufo masks, such as the  Calao, which is a symbol for us.

These are things that now, we can develop to show the world, to say that we have a culture, it was not obvious at the beginning, now we see that the puppeteers are taking their place and are no longer rejected, they are no longer seen as fetishists, as people who defy God.

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Calao, the symbolic bird of the Ivory Coast


Now we can take advantage of what we have here, in our tradition.

Central Africa is also waking up, and this is really good for us, the continent is about to be inundated with puppets and puppet companies!

It's really good for us, because it wasn't like that ten years ago!
 

CIE IVOIRE MARIONNETTE - ACADEMIE IVOIRE MARIONNETTE  -
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Tutti gli artisti della Compagnia Ivoire Marionnette

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Attività di laboratorio presso la scuola di formazione alle arti di marionette

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Attività di laboratorio presso la scuola di formazione alle arti di marionette

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WHAT RELATIONS OR CONTAMINATIONS EXIST BETWEEN TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY PUPPET THEATRE COMPANIES IN AFRICA?

Badrissa Soro
00:00 / 02:49

According to the work we do at Ivoire Marionnette, I think there is a continuity.

Before there was a separation, everything that used to be traditional puppet was considered as a ritual thing, when you saw a puppeteer, you immediately thought he was a fetishist and churchmens, mosques, religions are against this, but today, with the work that is done, we see that we have managed to break a myth, we have managed to scratch something, the way the puppeteer was seen before, is no longer the case.
 
Today we begin to see the puppeteer in a different way, we begin to give importance to the art of the puppet, because through the puppet we are able to educate, to raise awareness.

When there is a pandemic we can raise awareness through the puppet, when there is a marionettes can make people happy, in schools marionettes are now able to educate children, so puppeteers are very much in demand in schools, for workshops.
 
Today there is a new gaze on the continent, which is why I tell myself that today there is a continuity, there is no separation at the moment. 

To  Ivoire Marionnette, all my creations are inspired by the Malian tradition; I told you earlier that Mali is the puppet capital of Africa.
 
We very often watch the videos of traditional Malian puppeteers; and it is this work that we take and adapt to today's world, we are inspired by this tradition, we modernize it.
 
We work in the contemporary world, we are contemporary puppeteers, we adapt to the reality of now, to the modernity of today, so that everyone can find themselves, because often, what is typically traditional, is dedicated to a certain audience; before it was like this, everything traditional had its audience, everything contemporary had its audience ...

But today everything is coming together becoming a continuity that makes us stay together everywhere.
 

Boule Bleu Compagnie Ivoire Marionnette
Boule Bleu Compagnie Ivoire Marionnette
Boule Bleu Compagnie Ivoire Marionnette
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La Boule Bleu show, Ivoire Marionnette Company.
In our show La Boule Bleu , we created a human head that moves in space; while it wanders, in the form of a bubble, the hair comes out and becomes a character, the ears develop by going out and creating dialogues, the mouth also comes out and develops autonomously. This shape seems like a new thing, but it is actually deeply inspired by a traditional Malian theater.

AT A POLITICAL LEVEL, WHAT ATTENTION IS THERE TO THE MARIONET THEATER IN AFRICA?

Badrissa Soro
00:00 / 03:31

On a political level, everything related to art in Africa always takes a back seat.

Today, our politicians, our governments, do not invest much in culture, even when there is a budget, it is very often diverted.
 
The case is that, especially on the Malian side, the art of the puppet is a great tradition that must be protected, and there they have an interest in giving us some attention and at least protecting the base, what we have precious, because from this art many other arts are born. 

In Mali, with the current crisis, puppets have contributed a lot to the flowering of the population, there was the Rendez-vous chez nous à Bamako festival which was hugely successful this year: politicians were interested and supported it this year.
 
Through this crisis, I think the politicians have understood, in Mali there has been appreciable support for the puppet arts, even the state has delegated the army, with its band, to orchestrate a parade during the opening of the festival, they were dressed in uniforms, they came, I think it was the Republican Guard, they played the band: it had never happened!

Thus, we have heard that importance is starting to be given and that politicians today understand that art can contribute, art can help develop people, art can also support them.
 
This is a struggle that is being waged in every African country and I think we are on the right track, Mali has succeeded and is happening in other countries as well.
 
We have been successful in the Ivory Coast, because we have won laurels, we for example, Ivoire Marionnette, have been medalized twice in the Francophonie Games, Giant Puppet category; when this is the case, your country's national anthem is sung and the country's flag is raised in front of your Minister of Culture.
 
And we did it twice, in 2013 in France, in Nice, and it was the only gold medal for Culture.

It is from that moment that our authorities began to give us importance, we were received by the Minister, by the President of the Republic, so today we have small subsidies from our Ministry, from our politicians.
 
We are trying to change things, it is not easy in Africa, because first of all the Ministry of Culture in Africa is the poorest Ministry, it is the Ministry that never has a budget, so you have to be deserving for them to accompany you, for them to listen to you. 

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WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFICULTIES YOUNG PEOPLE ENCOUNTER IN CREATING THEIR COMPANY?

Badrissa Soro
00:00 / 03:06

I take the example of the Ivoire Marionnette Academy, we train young people, we recruit them and they live on site, they are there with us, they are trained on our site for 3 years.
 
The idea is that every young person can create their own Company.
 
So far we have formed a first promotion and now we are at the second, and the difficulty we had with the first group, there were ten at the beginning, is that only two guys have succeeded and are creating their structure, for the rest, some have gone away to do other things, because they didn't have the means to start, and five of them stayed in place here with us, we integrated them into the Company.

This is due to one thing: lack of means, there are no subsidies and when there is no subsidy to accompany young people it is difficult.

The first promotion we formed, we were accompanied by the OIF, the International Organization of the Francophonie which has supported us for eight years.

When you are the winner of the Games of the Francophonie - the games are organized by the OIF - you are asked to propose a project; the project we proposed was the Academy project, a three-year training project in the art of puppet.
 
At the following games, we were again rewarded, and accompanied for another four years, plus we had support from the Swiss embassy in Côte d'Ivoire, which provided us with infrastructure on the site: they built a canteen, a stage and a courtyard. 

In addition to these grants, it is the Compagnia's funds that contribute to training; because these young people live here, they sleep here, if a young person has a problem in case of illness, it is the Company that intervenes immediately.
 
Very often it is about young people whose parents are not very interested in culture, they are not supported, it is only when the young person is formed and begins to be hired in the creations and to receive compensation, he begins to intervene in the family, then immediately, the family sees the importance of the work being done, and it is at that point that the parents accept that their child can be an artist, otherwise, at first, it is not easy at all.

For this we have created a project here, we want to have the approval of our State that certifies that it is a school recognized by the State.

In this way we will have an operating budget every year and this budget will allow us to follow young people, at the end of the training we will be able to accompany each of them to settle down, we will be able to help them start their creations, and also weave a bond with the Charleville-Mézières school.

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Badrissa Soro
00:00 / 03:22

Young people are unable to create their Company immediately, because it is a financing problem, a problem of means.
 
If you have to make a creation, you need material.  
 
But the artist doesn't get paid at the end of each month, so we have this problem.
 
This means that there are a lot of young people who say they are puppeteers or artists in general, but they are not full time artists or puppeteers; when someone tells you he is a puppeteer, tomorrow maybe you will see him selling aubergines in the market, or he becomes a shopkeeper somewhere selling T-shirts; and the puppet becomes a secondary job.

At Ivoire Marionnette, we have the habit of saying: we sleep marionette, we eat marionette, we comb our marionette and we live marionette .

A young person, if selected at the Academy, must sleep here on the site; on the weekend we free him up so that he goes to visit family, if there is no weekend work - this makes you into the thing, the full time element.

It hurts me, it often happens, the artist, when things are not going too well, maybe he will have to sell the eggplant, maybe he will have to become a mechanic, it can happen, but honestly, this is not the goal for us.

This is how we built ourselves here in the Ivory Coast: today we have a site, a space bought by the company that bears the name of the company; today we have all the infrastructure on the site, they are not family dorms, no, no, it is the Center, for which we invested, because we were full time in the job, we were full time in our element, because it is a job.

The puppeteer sews: we have the sewing workshop; with sewing the puppets are dressed; you can also make mascots, today they are paid well in Africa, many companies ask us for a package of mascots, and it is the work of the puppet that taught us all this.
 
The puppeteer can paint, the puppeteer can write, the puppeteer can dance: we have a choreographer, we have a stylist, we have a designer.  

When you are really well trained, you are in the element, when you decide to commit yourself, to launch yourself, you will find all the means to set up your business.
 
And this is our struggle, here in Ivoire Marionnette, this is our commitment.
 
It is necessary to do it, in order to become numerous to practice this art in the Ivory Coast, it is necessary to support this youth, because the art of the puppet is a profession in itself, it is a complete profession that nourishes its man.

Here at Ivoire Marionnette, no one does another thing, we are puppeteers, we live on this, you will never see us go to do other jobs, we live on this because we are truly puppeteers, we are deeply in the art of puppet, and this is how we want to accompany our young people.
 
That is why this year we have to get this certificate from the state.

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WHAT ARE THE TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES IN THE ARTS OF PUPPET IN AFRICA?

Badrissa Soro
00:00 / 01:33

In Mali, there is Yacouba Magassouba, who initiates training sessions: he organized a workshop for women, a very important project.
 
There is Yaya Coulibaly, our Master, who does a big job, he is also the one who formed Yacouba: he spins a lot and writes a lot, he is very solicited, he has many activities at the moment, he is really our pride, he is our Elder, is the tradition of the puppet, the only guardian of the tradition of our puppets.

Patricia Gomis from Senegal does a wonderful job.

On the Congo side, there is Sconde, who also does training, who fights a lot.

In South Africa, there is Janni Younge who does a lot.

In Kenya, there is the Kenyan Puppet Institute  (KIPT), run by Phylemon Okoth, they have an agreement that is even better structured, the state accompanies them.

On the North African side, there is Tunisia with Habiba Jendoubi, she is also training.

 WHAT WAS YOUR TRAINING PATH?

Badrissa Soro
00:00 / 01:33
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I started in the Ki Yi MBock village of Werewere Liking, who is a great African puppeteer, currently she has decided to convert to writing and poetry, she is one of the three pioneers of the African puppet, our deans who are models for us: Yaya Coulibaly , Werewere Liking (who in turn was formed by Yaya) and Danaye Kanlanfeï.

They are our three pioneers in black Africa.

Werewere formed me; when I came to its center, at first I didn't know I was going to be a puppeteer ...

I didn't go for the puppet art, I went to sing at first ...

I had to pass a test to be admitted to her center, when I sang she said to me: "No, it's not a singer that we need, and then the songs you make are not songs that will take us very far ... Here we need an actor, so if you can do a scene of someone who is happy and a scene of someone who is sad, desperate ... ".

Show: Soro d'Afrique,  by Badrissa Soro

And those were the two scenes I did and when I finished, they cheered me, they saw the quality of an actor ...

And so, I was admitted to the Center, they put me in the module of the "articuleurs", and the "articuleurs" did theater and puppets.

While I was in this module, Werewere came often, one day she asked the whole class, not to use the puppets that were there, made by her, because we were not the ones who made them, we could not take them and make us our shows, she did not he wanted this.
 
She wanted everyone to retire, to go into the bush, to landfills, to go everywhere ...
 
She gave us two weeks, each had to come back with a puppet, and that's how the whole group dispersed.

In fifteen days, I went into nature, then into the trash can, I did some recovery, I recovered plastic bottles, with cardboard, I made characters, I took leaves, I cut leaves, I made puppets and at the end of the two weeks, when we returned, I was the person who had brought the most items.

She looked, looked, looked and that's how she said to me: "You! You will come with me because you will be a puppeteer, you have the talent of a puppeteer, now we have to develop this talent, that's why you will come with me ...!" .

That's how she got me out of the lot ...

 

The Ivoire Marionnette Company,  exists since 2007, specializing in the design, manufacture, creation of puppet shows, the training of young people in the art of marionette and the promotion of the marionette.
It is made up of 3 members: Soro Badrissa, Koro Souleymane, Goualy Gbahi Rachelle. 
It is directed by Badrissa Soro who is its founder and artistic director.
The Company has started a training project called Académie Ivoire Marionnette.

The Académie Ivoire Marionnettes is the puppet art training center of the Ivoire Marionnettes Company , created in 2015, located in the village Abatta in the municipality of Bingerville (Abidjan - Ivory Coast).
The Academy is about to become a true puppet art school through the recognition of the Ivory Coast State.
A space for training, residency, creation and cultural exchanges, the Academy recruits disadvantaged young people for training in the art of marionette over a 3-year cycle.
Students of the INSSAC ( National Institute of Arts and Cultural Action of the Ivory Coast) are welcomed at the Ivoire Marionnettes Academy every Friday for practical courses in the art of marionette.
The Academy's first promotion at the end of the 2017 cycle represented the Ivory Coast at the Francophonie Games and won the gold medal in the giant puppet category.
The Academy is also open to the school public every Wednesday for introductory courses in the art of the marionette.
The RIMA ( Rencontres Internationales de la Marionnette d'Abatta ) is the Academy's festival, it is annual and brings together different professionals of the arts around the marionette through conferences, training workshops and shows.

Partner of the Ivoire Marionnette Academy:
INSAAC ( National Higher Institute of Arts and Cultural Action )
OIF ( International Organization of the Francophonie )
The Swiss embassy in Ivory Coast
The French Institute of the Ivory Coast
Goethe Institute of Abidjan 
The Paris Education League
UNIMA International

Some awards:
National Award of Excellence 2019 of the President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, for the living arts of the State of Côte d'Ivoire.
Gold medal at the eighth edition of the Francophonie Games in the giant puppets category in Abidjan 2017 with the first class of students of the Academy.
2nd prize of excellence for the living arts of the state of Ivory Coast, October 2018.
Gold medal at the 7th Games of the Francophonie , giant puppet category in Nice, France, September 2013.
1st prize in the NGO / UNESCO competition The puppets are committed to peace  on the occasion of the international day of peace organized in Charleville-Mézières with the show Tambour de l'Union , September 2013
The Company received the 3rd Excellence Award for Living Arts from the state of Ivory Coast, October 2014.
3rd prize ASCAD ( Academy of Sciences, Arts, Cultures of Africa and African Diasporas ) for his contribution to the promotion of young people through the living arts, on 20 July 2015.


TO SUPPORT THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ACADEMIE IVOIRE MARIONNETTE THERE IS A CROWDFOUNDING, EVEN A LITTLE HELP IS A GREAT CONTRIBUTION:



 

ESSENTIAL LINKOGRAPHY OF BADRISSA SORO