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mardi 21 juillet 2015

Policies, Churches and censorship

Scents of Silence

The play of Jean-Marc Pambrun was to be created in 2003 at Hiva Oa, Marquesas, to commemorate the centenary of the death of the painter Paul Gauguin (May 8, 1903 at Atuona). So, Jean-Marc and I both, we have done everything possible to stage the show. That was not the case, alas...

It must be remembered that at the time, Polynesia was living the end of Gaston Flosse's reign and any financial or logistical support was dependent upon him. Remember also, that neither Jean-Marc Pambrun nor I were in the odor of sanctity from him. Myself for my opposition journalist activities, Jean-Marc for all his work and his life. For this reason the first edition of the text of the play was therefore signed with the pseudonym Etienne Ahuroa. The same nickname was used in all the steps to put on the show, until the fall of Flosse and his replacement by Oscar Temaru (independentist leader) President of the Country.

Birth of the project
My hope, according to the design and the project launched by the Company "To'u fenua e motu" (My homeland is an isle), was that the eight actors are all Marquesan. We must get the support and partnership of a mayor of the archipelago. Much to my surprise one of the historical pillars of the Tahoera'a (Flosse's party), the Mayor of Ua Pou, Kohumoetini René, was the first to provide us his support. Thanks to him, the foundations of the draft were laid on this wonderful island of Ua Pou. Indeed, the elected officials from Atuona (the isle of Hiva Oa where Gauguin died) were clearly and firmly opposed the project. Alas! Despite his support and a creation on a shoestring this administration never give us any fund to produce the show.

The cover of the original edition of "Scents of Silence"
The situation completely changes with the reversal of Flosse and the coming to power of Oscar Temaru in June 2004. In the following weeks, the new Minister of culture, Tauhiti Nena, allots us a grant of 1 million Pacific francs (about € 8,400). This is clearly insufficient: there is still an artistic team of 11 people to pay for 4 months, not to mention all the technical costs. No problem: we decide to get it going.

Therefore, all expenses will be on personal funds until the grant comes me to pay back. These travel and accommodation expenses put a severe strain on the project budget. Indeed they were encrypted at the time to xpf 500,000 (about € 4,200).

So I went first to Ua Pou to start the cast. Then back to Tahiti to launch the technical aspects of the project, including the design and manufacture of stage sets entrusted to Makno, an artist. Finally, I moved to Ua Pou and begins rehearsals of the show.

I point out that none of the selected players has never set foot on a stage, never even seen a single theater performance. This explains why the rehearsals were planned on two sessions of two months each.

When the Church sticks its nose in things
Everything was wonderful until the bishop of the Marquesas put a dent in the plans.

Before proceeding, two or three essential clarifications.

In such a remote island as Ua Pou, where the population is almost 100% Catholic, the Church's power is absolute and nothing can be done without his consent. In all my efforts there, so I had been careful to involve the island priest and everything turned out right. Me, a convinced unbeliever, I subjected myself to attend Mass for I didn't want to offend anyone.

Jean-Marc Pambrun, as such
Jean-Marc Pambrun was, before being a talented artist, an historian and anthropologist. And so, when writing of "Scents of Silence", all related facts were verified scientifically by a scientist. This is mainly because of two proven and indisputable historical facts recounted in the play that the Catholic Church, through the Bishop of the Marquesas, will violently oppose the project until the annulment. These two facts are:
-          it's common knowledge, the bishop of the time (the épicopo in the text of the play) has had several natural children with a very young vahine;
-          by order of the same bishop, Gauguin's body  was taken under the nose of Protestants and indigenous by Catholics  in order to be buried according to the rites of the Church and no other.

Therefore, pressure was exerted by the priest on the Ua Pou players to give up their participation in the project. It was also asked the faithful to stand as much as possible away from the community. The situation became untenable and above, it became impossible to continue the work; four players had left the canoe and it seemed impossible to replace them... So I went back to Tahiti to try to find other solutions.

One of the alternatives was to stage the show in Tahiti, but always with Marquesan actors. Contacts were then made with "Te Fare Nui Tauhiti", the house of culture of Papeete, the only performance hall equipped in Polynesia. There, the blocking was not religious but political...

Indeed the director of the structure, now Minister of Culture of Government Fritch, was appointed to the post by Gaston Flosse himself for services rendered. His position was clearly exposed to Jean-Marc Pambrun "I wish that one goes up your play "home (in my business) ", but on condition that Julien Gué is not in the project!" Jean-Marc flatly refused this proposal, while seeking a way to change the mind of his interlocutor. In vain until now.

The end of a dream?
On 22 October 2004, the Temaru Government was overthrown for the first time thanks to the political manipulation of Gaston Flosse. In January 2005, the Company "To'u e Motu Fenua" received from the Ministry of Culture, an injunction to repay the grant received for the show "Scents of silence" on the grounds that it had not been used in lead times! I specify here that the money had been paid into the account of the association during November 2004...

The death knell of the project had tolled. At least with regard to its realization in a strictly Polynesian setting.

Julien Gué, unvarnished and without wreath of flowers
Since, I continue to seek a solution that would produce the show without asking a cent to Polynesia and without suffering any pressure or any censorship. Some tracks have been found. But for now, none of them makes possible to bring the project to completion in good conditions.

The ideal solution would be: a co-production between a metropolitan structure and the Cultural Center Tjibaou at Noumea with no other connection with the French Polynesia except the cast and the first rehearsals.

The question is: shall I find one day the partner who will allow me to finally pay this tribute to the talent of the late Jean-Marc Pambrun?

An article of Julien Gué
Translated from French by Monak

Copyright Julien Gué. Ask for the author’s agreement before any reproduction of the text or the images on Internet or traditional press.

Read also here:
-Our Article on the play by Jean-Marc Pambrun "Les parfums du Silence"
-On "L'Écriturien", blog of Jean-Marc Pambrun, still active: http://teraituatini.blogspot.com/2014/12/les-parfums-du-silence-piece-de-theatre.html
-Article Chloe Angué: http://revel.unice.fr/loxias/?id=6817

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