The talk, on the evening of 7 October 2022, revolved around the need for Burundian theatre to become professional and the struggle to ensure that it can provide good living conditions for its professionals.
From small steps as an actor in1986 to the director of a company that manages 17 theatre festivals around the world, to advising governments and international agencies on cultural policy, to director and storyteller, Hassane Kouyaté knows everything about the art of theatre.
Hassane Kouyaté, son of the famous Burkinabe actor Sotigui Kouyaté, who has worked with the world’s greatest theatre artists such as the immensely famous Peter Brook, is nevertheless surprisingly humble. “I’m not here to give advice, I share what little I have. What I have come to understand about this art and about things in this world in general is that everyone plays their part. There is no one bigger than the other. If I run all these festivals, it’s not that my role is more important than that of the others who work in the shadow. In the end, I am simply a team leader. Everyone is in their place,” he prefers to say to the crowd of actors, directors and other theatre-lovers, amused, who have come to fetch from his wisdom.
To young theatre-makers and other aspiring theatre-makers, Hassane Kouyaté says: “Don’t let anything scare you, friends. In the theatre, there is a place for everyone, but there is no place for the lazy. And what I know is that if you’ve done the right thing, no matter what corner of any country in the world you’re in, people will find you there. The proof is that I’m here, from Paris. You guys have got to believe in your dreams. The important thing is not to underestimate yourself, you have to know three things: what you can do, what you ought to do and what you needs to be done.”
For this veteran, Burundian theatre is on an upward curve, but there are still some challenges: “Those who work in the field are terribly lacking in training and information. There must be many initiatives in this direction. We also need to organize festive events, facilitating the mobility of professionals in the sector to go out of the country to learn from others and organizing festivals here. It is well known, it is universal, the cultural sector is nourished and enriched by encounters.”
The “political will” factor
But to develop the sector, says Hassane Kouyaté, it also takes a lot of political will, otherwise the efforts of professionals in the sector would be in vain: “It’s crazy what I’m going to tell you: I participated in many sessions of deliberations on the budgets to be deployed in the cultural sector. I’ll give you an example from the European Parliament when we vote on the budget for subsidies for the cultural sector, there are heads of state who call to ask for large sums of money and sometimes they get their way. There must be this political will.”
Son of evolved, themselves theatre actors, nurtured and raised in this art at the Franco-Voltaic Institute of Ouagadougou has not bathed in the theatre from an early age to be disqualified as a teacher of young people who start at zero? To the question, Hassane Kouyaté answers: “Maybe yes, I grew up in the theatre that it seems strange to say that it is my job. I haven’t had any difficulties in the theatre so far. It is the fact of never wanting to give up that guides me and to do my work properly that made me arrive at this level,” says the one who says he chose to do theatre the day his childhood friend who could not get the ticket to attend his show died, following a sudden fall from a tree where he tried to see him perform.
This everning took place after a training held for 15 theatre actors within the project of PASACC-Burundi supported by the European Union in Burundi.
Who is Hassane Kouyaté
Hassane Kouyate is a storyteller, director and actor from Burkina Faso. Born in 1964 into a family of griots, he was immersed in the artistic world from an early age. From storytelling to comedy, through directing and music, it is both in Africa and in France that he perfects the different arts he loves.
In November 2014, he was appointed director of the public establishment for cultural cooperation (EPCC) bringing together the Martinique centre for cultural action and the departmental cultural centre “Atrium “. This structure, renamed “Tropiques Atrium”, received the Scène nationale label in 2014.
Since 2019, he is the director of the Festival des Francophonies en Limousin, and is one of the members of the jury that will designate the first French Capital of Culture for 2022.
An artist, trainer and creator of cultural events, Hassane Kassi Kouyaté initiated the Yeleen international storytelling festival in Burkina Faso in 1996.
This article originally appeared in French on bujasanstabou.com