Gbé miton ('our voices' in the Fon language of Benin) is a choreographic narrative in which choreographer Carmelita Siwa invites three other dancers to evoke the situation of performers in Benin and in Africa in general. Although many of them have completed a course of study, sometimes leading to a diploma, they are still often considered to be, at best, illiterate, at worst vagrants, delinquents, or even, in the case of women, who are rare in the profession, whores, easy to pick up, pieces of meat to be picked at. Gbé miton denounces this situation by giving voice and sight to Beninese dancers, who are rarely recognised as artists in their own right, unlike musicians. Using their own words and gestures, each performer tells the story of his or her own unique journey, struggles and dreams, far removed from the codes of social success from the Beninese point of view. But the play also reveals the petty rivalries, unfair manoeuvres, backstabbing and leg-biting that permeate the dance scene in this part of Africa, where in the absence of an institutional structure, made all the more glaring by the crisis linked to the Covid pandemic, everyone is working for their own survival, quick to dismiss their rivals, even though we would hope for more solidarity and mutual support. The figure of the political decision-maker is not spared: in a suit, hidden away in an office, an ignoramus with connections who lines his own pockets in the process, while the dance artists break their bones and hopes on the rough cement of a dilapidated stage.
Premiere on 16 October 2020, Institut Français du Bénin, Cotonou.
Filmed on 28 November 2020, Institut Français du Bénin, Parakou.
Selected to represent Benin in the cultural section of the Games of La Francophonie, in August 2023, in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Gbé Miton won the bronze medal in creative dance. It is scheduled for December 2023 at the Festival Dialogues de Corps, at the CDC La Termitière in Ouagadougou.
Sources: Arts Ca'Danser dance company document, Interview with Carmelita Siwa, by Anne Décoret-Ahiha, 4 October 2023. "Au Bénin, la danse contemporaine demande autant d'engagement que d'abnégation", Le Monde, 7 August 2019.
Carmelita Siwa started dancing as she was very young. At the age of 17, she joined the group Dance or Die (DOD) for two years and collaborated with the groups K-Letas and Bloodmighty. While continuing her studies in management, she participated in competitions and danced in music videos. In the early 2010s, she discovered contemporary dance thanks to the Ivorian dancers of the Jasp company, exiled in Benin. She followed the teaching of Beninese Awoulath Alougbin, Koffi Kôkô, Richard Adossou, and of Frenchman Pierre Doussaint, who regularly gave workshops in Cotonou. As she wanted to become a professionnal dancer, she left in 2015 to the Ecole des Sables, in Senegal, from which she graduated in 2017. She also validated a training in "Art of Teaching" completed at the Termitière, Choreographic Centre of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). In the meantime, she is a performer in Issewo, by Richard Adossou, presented during the festival "Dansons Maintenant!", in Cotonou, in 2012. She also participated in Souvenirs de la rue Princesse, a choreographic project in the public space led by Salia Sanou, which brought together some fifty dancers in a square in Cotonou.
In 2017, Carmelita Siwa created her first solo, Entre être et ne pas être, which was performed at the French Institute in Cotonou, at the Rencontres Chorégraphiques d'Abidjan, and with which she will be selected in 2019 for the "Africa Simply the Best" competition, organised by Serge Aimé Coulibaly, in Bobo Dioulasso. The same year, she joined the group of 32 African dancers who performed Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring (Pina Bausch Foundation, Ecole des Sables, Sadlers' well). The premiere in March 2020 was cancelled due to government restrictions because of the Covid epidemic, but the show will tour worldwide from 2021.
In 2020, Carmelita Siwa, who created and directs the company Arts Ca'Danser, created Gbemiton ("our voice" in Fon), a piece for four performers, including herself, in which she evokes the difficulty of being a dancer in Africa, particularly for women. Winner with Kadidja Tiémanta of the Gninini programme, an artistic research residency at the Don Sen Folo-Lab 2021, she co-choreographed (In)Secure, presented in November 2021 at the French Institute in Cotonou. At the end of 2021, the duo will be part of Salia Sanou's play, Demoiselles d'Afrique, which will tour in France until 2022. Selected to represent Benin at the Games of La Francophonie in August 2023 in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), the piece Gbe miton won the bronze medal in the cultural competition, creative dance section.
Sources: Programme of the show, Interviews by Anne Décoret-Ahiha, 7 January and 11 June 2021, in Cotonou.
Jean-Pierre Amoussou is a Beninese dancer who regularly helps out as a cameraman when filming shows.
Choreography : Carmelita Siwa
Interpretation : Ezéchiel Adandé, Nourou-Deen Eniola, Rodolpho Sagbo, Carmelita Siwa
Stage direction : Chakirou Salami
Additionnal music : Lisa Gerard & Pieter Bourk, Karsh Kal, Franck Bretschneider
Lights : Carlos Dosseh
Other collaborations : Richard Adossou, Sahadath Ami-Touré, Ousmane Aledji, Céline Coyac
Production / Coproduction of the choreographic work : Arts Ca'Danser avec le soutien de l'Institut Français, de l'Association Rich'Culture et de Urban Dance Center
Production / Coproduction of the video work : Arts Ca'Danser
Duration : 50 mn
This video was registered thanks to the support of the Institut Français, the Metropole de Lyon and the City of Lyon as part of the 2023 - 2024 project "Development of a digital resource on African choreographic creation and a tool for artistic training, art criticism and cultural mediation in Benin and Togo" led by Dr Anne Décoret-Ahiha.