Eva Doumbia's Autophagies (Self-eaters) comes to New York
Autophagies, Eva Doumbia, 2020 © Thomas Cartron
Autophagies (Self-Eaters) is a show halfway between theatre and group tasting session. New Orleans native Karen-Kaia Livers plays the role of a master of ceremonies who invites the audience to a "documentary eucharist," orchestrated by the chef Alexandre Bella Ola. Over an hour and a half, the preparation of mafé is accompanied by stories about its ingredients. According to the director and founder of the Compagnie La Part du Pauvre, Eva Doumbia, this journey through a dish consists of "starting with a small thing and unfolding it to tell a story." Behind every food item is the story of a migration, a colonial conquest, or different forms of exploitation of people or the environment.
Eva Doumbia confides that she was marked as a child by her father's restaurant, the first in Le Havre, France, to serve mafé. A few years ago, however, she discovered that mafé is not a traditional dish, but a very recent recipe, as peanuts were introduced into West Africa after the Second World War. She then started reading more and more about the history of food and its link with historical and geopolitical phenomena. This gave rise to the idea of recounting the origins of food by cooking, and by linking them, through words and anecdotes, to personal experience. The avowed aim is to become aware of what we have on our plate.
As a founding member of the Décoloniser les arts collective, Eva Doumbia pays particular attention to social dynamics and their influence on culture. If Autophagies puts food centre stage, it is in order to readdress it through a number of paradoxes. Rice is the most consumed food in Africa? Yet it does not grow there, and must be imported from Asia, where mangoes and bananas also come from. As for sugar, which is useless to our bodies, it will be called into question for the crucial role it played in the Transatlantic slave trade. Without ever resorting to moralising, Autophagies simply proposes to "eat consciously": To take our daily habits and our prejudices as a starting point for a broader reflection.
The Invisible Dog Art Center, NY (co-presented with NYU Skirball)
February 23-26, 2023
After New York, Autophagies will travel to New Orleans at Ashé Cultural Center.
The project Autophagies by Eva Doumbia benefited from the support of FACE Contemporary Theater, a program of Villa Albertine and FACE Foundation with support of the Ford Foundation, Institut Français, Ministry of Culture and private donors, and Contxto Network, a program of ARTCENA.
In the theater field, Villa Albertine aims to highlight the work of French playwrights–both in French and English translation–for a broad American audience. In recent years, greater attention has been devoted to developing productions of French plays translated to English staged with an American cast. Dough is part of this momentum.