Pierre Puvis de ChavannesYoung Black Boy with a Sword© Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
"The Young Black Boy with a Sword
is the title of a painting by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes that moved me when I saw the exhibition’s works. As I wanted to write a long poem—in my own way—on identity in an age of globalisation, blending Baudelaire’s poetic language with Glissant’s philosophy, this painting was a revelation to me.
Among the other paintings by nineteenth-century master artists before my eyes—emblems of how a perspective is made, how the other is formed and how a collective unconscious is racialised—Young Black Boy with a Sword
told me a tale via emotions, through its striking uniqueness in symbolism and depiction of the black figure, a story set in a world of poverty and concrete buildings that I’ve experienced all my life. In my writing, it was therefore natural that this young black boy—thrown into the present day, just out of prison, in his social-housing ghetto—began expressing himself.
The story of this young black boy is punctuated with other features and broken up. It’s a rebellion with rhythm, rapped and rendered in a poetry-slam style, sung to music that’s black, white, mixed-race, old and new, and made up of melodic fragments and diverse musical extracts. When these different aspects collide accidentally and unexpectedly, new and harmonious features emerge. It’s an allegory of the journey taken by the story’s young black boy and of those new generations that I belong to, born in Europe but with roots in the ancestral African continent.”
Abd Al Malik
Creation and performance: Abd Al Malik
Choreography: Salia Sanou
Co-production: Musée d'Orsay, Décibels Production and Théâtre de la Ville
Talk with Abd Al Malik, Salia Sanou and the artistic team
following the performance on Sunday 7 April