Groninger Forum hosts Alkonza&Toloza’s striking documentary-theatre pieces.

Sobre nuestro paso por el Noorderzon Festival de Groningen, Países Bajos.

Escrito y fotografiado por Sandra Mako-Sanchez y publicado por Northern Times.


With Noorderzon officially coming to an end this Sunday, the performances of Alkonza&Toloza call for continued reflection.

This year, the Groningen Forum hosted two performances by the artistic duo, Laida Azkona Goñi and Txalo Toloza-Fernández, known collectively as Azkona&Toloza. Azkona was a tall, gliding Spaniard who had dedicated the majority of her past life to becoming a professional ballerina before turning to performance art; Toloza was a short, grounded Chilean who moved to Europe, establishing himself as an artistic audiovisual producer.

Tierras del Sud (‘Southern Lands’) and Teatro Amazonas (‘Amazonian Theater’) are the second and third shows of their theater-documentary trilogy Pacifico. A theme of neocolonialism ties Pacifico together. Each explores the subject in a different area of South America.

Immersive Landscapes

We are transported to the Atacama desert, the Patagonia mountains, and the Amazon rainforest through the beautiful sets created. The scenery is created piece by piece throughout the performances. Throughout the multi-media performance, there are moments where the audience is presented with images, text, and video projected above where the artists add more and more to the worlds they take us to.

Photos by Sandra Mako Sanchez

“While people read we construct the landscape of the place… In spite of the barbarity that those places have suffered, in spite of the quantity of blood spilt, these are places that are beautiful, places that are going to keep overcoming what comes. Now we talk about the extinction of the planet; but no, the ones that are going to be extinguished are the humans, the planet will adapt, become a different thing, and continue on,” Toloza said in an exclusive interview with the Northern Times.

Indeed, the duo must have great respect for the areas they traversed, after spending a year on average in each area, gathering the stories of the people there.

Amplifying Indigenous Voices

“We always told the people that we aren’t journalists, we aren’t historians, we aren’t someone with a clear motive or method. The first thing we did was get a car and start talking to people. One person would lead you to another person and then they to another person. What we basically did was talk, and record with our phones.”

The reciting of these interviews with indigenous people was a key feature in the performances. Azkona and Toloza wore large headsets which played back their recordings. They would repeat what they heard in a neutral voice.

“We are not Mapuches,” Toloza stated after Tierras del Sud. “We are loudspeakers, not representatives… More than us explaining what was happening to them, it needed to be them who were telling their story. We are just repeating what they say.”

Tierras del Sud

The Mapuches were the indigenous people at the center of Tierras del Sud. The other key figure in the story was the United Colors of Benetton. They exposed the role the well-regarded clothing chain played in the neocolonialist exploitation of the Mapuches. To do this, they contextualized their audience by taking them through the history of abuse suffered by these people in the name of god, glory, and gold.

Spanish conquistadors forced the Mapuche from their lands, slaughtering thousands in continuous wars. The Mapuche fled, creating strongholds in Chile and Argentina. In the late 19th century, a resurgence of this, unrecognized, genocide was enacted by Argentinian President Julio Roca. Roca led bloody military campaigns to take their lands in what was called the “Conquest of the Desert”.

Throughout this time, and after, the Mapuche were othered and demonized in order to justify these and subsequent injustices. Azkona and Toloza show the power that the colonizers had over the image of the Mapuche. They do so by recreating photographs taken of the Mapuche by government agents sent to document their lives. By using first person narrative, they emphasize how awkward and unnatural the process was, resulting in false depictions. Mapuche were dressed in clothes which were not theirs, told to position themselves in strange manners, and even made to stand naked in front of the camera.

As we approach the present, and the United Colors of Benetton, we see how Argentina’s capitalist goals continue to outweigh their concerns over the Mapuche. Their reservations continue to be designated “fiscal lands” and thus are continuously used for mining, luber, oil and gas developments. Despite the Argentine constitution laying out that the Mapuche have rights to the land of Patagonia, without legal titles this land has been considered in the hands of the government. The government of Argentina sold approximately 900,000 hectares to the Benetton family, where almost 100,000 sheep are farmed. Claiming their right to the land, Mapuche families have moved into unused parts of the territory. Since then, they have been harassed by Benetton representatives and, eventually, forced out. A leader of the Mapuche resistance, Santiago Maldonado, was soon after drowned, with all fingers pointing to Argentine officials.

“It is time to become aware that the rights of the entire Argentine people are being violated. Because the Mapuche people are used as an example: if we complain, they can shoot us, prosecute us, or banish our rukas.” Reads the quote from a Mapuche activist projected as Akona and Toloza spray mock insecticide.

“The images I saw of the United Colors of Benetton’s ads in the 80s of human rights and social justice was a reference point for me. I studied audiovisuals and in a big way, they were a source of inspiration. So suddenly, when I see the reports coming out of their treatment of the Mapuche, I was like wow. I felt implicated. It was like, what did we understand? From there, we decided to cross over to Argentina [from Chile]. We investigated there for a year and a half.”

Teatros Amazonas

This conflict of image, resulting from the revelation of neocolonial truths, is also present in Teatro Amazonas. The show is named after an opera house built in Manaus, Brazil, during the 19th century. While beautiful and ornate, it was not meant for the people from the area, but for the incoming European colonialists.

Of course, Americans too played their part. In the early 20th century, Henry Ford built an industrial town centered around the production of rubber, for tires and other parts of cars. It was named Fordlândia. Through animated videos and historical reels, Azkona&Toloza show how Ford brought in indigenous people to populate houses, run a fire station, and work at the rubber manufacturing plant. The industrial town soon collapsed as the people began to die from disease and the harsh treatment and poor diet imposed upon them. This disaster highlight’s the carelessness with which the people of the Amazon are treated.

In the mid-20th century and onwards, Evangelical missionaries were sent en masse to the Amazon. There they surveilled the peoples, forcing them to attend masses where they were told that they were demons and needed to reject their cultures and, fundamentally, themselves. Azkona&Toloza recite interviews and show videos in which young people, even today, communicate how they have come to internalize this message that they are ugly and “wrong”.

“they also translate scriptures into the native languages ​​in order to publish their own bibles.” Toloza kneels overs a city as we read about the expanding, oppressive presence of the Christian church in the Amazon.

Brazil’s government’s long history of taking indigenous lands and lives continues today. Top officials use derogatory rhetoric to encourage the current crisis taking place in the Amazon Rainforest. Loggers and cattle ranchers have been expanding their territory, killing the tribes that stand in their way.

Not only is this devastating for the peoples, but it is visible on a planetary scale, as the “lungs of the earth” lose their power to protect our planet from rising CO2 emissions. Azkona&Toloza projected one of the many photographs of the devastating 2020 Amazon Fire. It had peppered the news at the beginning of the year, just in time for it to be overshadowed by the Covid-19 outbreak. The same outbreak that sent Azkona&Toloza back to Europe earlier than expected.

What can we do about neocolonialism?

At the end of one of Teatros Amazonas, an older dutch woman approached the artists, asking what can be done to help. Later, during our interview, Toloza said this is the wrong question.

“We have to re-examine Europe’s relationship to these peoples. They have a paternalistic outlook of how can we help, what can we do, when ultimately, what these people want is for others to go away and leave them in peace. It needs to be understood that these are powerful and organized tribes that deserve respect, not savages.”

The audiences left these performances having heard a clear message from across the ocean about the persistence of injustice, and the price paid when this message is ignored.

Nieuwe blik op genocide in Patagonië

Sobre el estreno de Tierras del Sud en neerlandés, en el festival Noorderzon de Groningen. Escrito por Luuk Verpaalen y publicado en Theaterkrant.

Gezien op 14 augustus 2021, Noorderzon Festival, Forum, Groningen

Hoe stel je als theatermaker volkerenmoord aan de orde zonder te vervallen in een vlammende aanklacht die de toeschouwer verontwaardigd, maar tegelijk machteloos achterlaat? In ieder geval niet door keihard in your face de gruwelen te laten zien of met een geheven vingertje te getuigen. Dat heeft het Spaanse gezelschap Azkona&Toloza goed begrepen.

In hun documentaire-theater-trilogie Pacifico vermijden de makers Laida Azkona Goñi en Txalo Toloza-Fernández, in ieder geval in dit tweede deel Southern Lands/Tierras del Sud, die valkuil door de verschrikkingen zorgvuldig te doseren. En belangrijker nog: zodanig te presenteren dat de verbeelding ermee aan de slag kan. We zien de gruwelen niet, ze worden zodanig verbeeld dat we ons er zelf een voorstelling van moeten maken. Waardoor ze nog meer onder de huid kruipen.

De genocide die Azkona&Toloza aan de orde stellen is die op de Mapuche-indianen in Patagonië, het zuidelijk deel van Argentinië. Een ver-van-mijn-bed-show? Allerminst. En niet alleen omdat Willem-Alexander en Máxima in dat gebied een ranch bezitten met 1500 hectare grond. Zij zijn slechts een van de velen die geprofiteerd hebben van het tot wingewest maken van Patagonië. De Spanjaarden maken in hun voorstelling aannemelijk hoe het neokolonialisme nog volop werkzaam is in dit uitgestrekte gebied.
De genocide vond plaats aan het eind van de 19e eeuw toen de toenmalige Argentijnse regering het leger inzette om duizenden Mapuches, de oorspronkelijke bewoners van het gebied, te vermoorden en duizenden anderen tot slaaf te maken. Maar toen er in de jaren negentig van de vorige eeuw een neoliberale wind door Argentinië ging waaien, werd Patagonië pas echt in de uitverkoop gegooid. Mensen als Joseph Lewis, een van de rijkste mannen van Groot-Brittannië, en CCN-oprichter Ted Turner schaften zich voor een habbekrats enorme landgoederen aan.

Maar de gebeten hond in de voorstelling is het Italiaanse kledingbedrijf Benetton, dat bijna een miljoen hectares kocht om er schapen te laten grazen. Het United Colours-concern, bekend van zijn schokkende reclames, vormt een rood draadje wol in de voorstelling. De beroemde foto’s van fotograaf Oliviero Toscani worden gekoppeld aan beelden van de gepleegde misdaden in het gebied. Telkens met de witte letters op de groene achtergrond erbij: United Colors of Benetton.

Azkona en Toloza formuleren hun aanklacht gedoseerd, bijna luchtig. De toeschouwer moet zelf maar zijn conclusies trekken. De bij aanvang lege speelvloer wordt gaandeweg gevuld met objecten die nog het meest doen denken aan peuterspeelgoed. Constructies van stokken, zorgvuldig in een rij gezette kegels of gestapelde blokken.
Daarbij veroorloven ze zich ook nog ‘grapjes’ als een animatiefilmpje Kapitalisme voor dummies.

Des te harder komt de scène aan waarin Laida Azkona foto’s beschrijft die gemaakt zijn van tot slaaf gemaakte Mapuches. Die foto’s krijgen we pas te zien nadat ze heeft geprobeerd het gevoel te omschrijven dat de geportretteerden ervaren moeten hebben voordat ze gefotografeerd werden. Want die foto’s zijn natuurlijk geënsceneerd, bedoeld om de gruwelen te verdoezelen. Die scène dwingt je om met andere ogen te kijken naar
beelden die je anders met een soort antropologische blik bekeken zou hebben.

Het is een aangrijpend hoogtepunt uit de voorstelling die veel meer doet dan het tonen van een zwart hoofdstuk uit de geschiedenis. Azkona en Toloza laten ook zien dat er een nieuw zelfbewustzijn ontstaan is onder de Mapuches. De geschiedenis van dit gebied is nog lang niet voorbij.

Foto: Xanne Vera

1 de enero de 1994

Intervenció de Txalo Toloza-Fernández al 19è Fòrum Indigestió.

El 1 de enero de 1994 y coincidiendo con la activación del Tratado de Libre Comercio entre Estados Unidos, Canadá y México, se lleva a cabo en la selva de Lacandona, en el estado mexicano de Chiapas, el levantamiento del Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, en compañía de decenas de pequeñas comunidades indígenas organizadas para darles apoyo. Y esto sucede luego de años y años de un trabajo valiente, arduo y sin pausa, llevado casi totalmente en silencio, desde la clandestinidad. Pasando desapercibido para la sociedad mexicana, su ejército y su gobierno.

5 años después de esto, en 1997 y sin ninguna relación con este hecho, yo dejo Santiago de Chile y vengo a vivir a Catalunya. Y automáticamente y casi sin darme cuenta, me transformo en un inmigrante. Mi primera parada fue el barrio de La Florida en L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, entre las estaciones de metro de Torrassa y Pubilla Cases. Un barrio que en esa época era sobre todo un barrio de familias andaluzas y extremeñas llegadas a Catalunya en los últimos años del franquismo.

Han pasado más de 20 años de ese momento y ahora, La Florida es un barrio que acoge a familias de inmigrantes peruanos, ecuatorianos o dominicanos, entre muchos otros países.

Han pasado 20 años de ese momento y yo sigo siendo un inmigrante. Un inmigrante que pese a pagar sus impuestos y su cuota de autónomos sigue sin derecho a voto. Un inmigrante que pese a llevar trabajando mas de diez años como técnico de teatro, no puede acceder a una plaza como técnico en ningún teatro público catalán, básicamente, porque no cumplo el requisito de ser un ciudadano europeo. Y no lo soy, entre otras cosas, porque me niego a ser súbdito de un rey.

Por otro lado, en los últimos dos o tres años, varios de los que seguimos las redes sociales, nos hemos encontrado con la reapertura de un debate, a ratos muy duro, sobre la importancia y es más, sobre la existencia de la cultura charnega en Catalunya. Un debate sobre la existencia de la cultura charnega en Catalunya. En el 2021.

Pienso, por ejemplo, en todo lo que se armó con el Festival de Cultura Txarnega comisariado por Brigitte Vasallo y Emboscada Col.lectiva para el Ateneu L’Harmonia, o en los encendidos comentarios a las respuestas que Juana Dolores dio a Andreu Gomila en una entrevista, coincidiendo con el premio Amadeu Oller y pocas semanas antes del estreno de su primera pieza escénica.

Y cuando recuerdo todo esto, pienso que si en 2021 el debate continúa siendo la existencia o no de la cultura charnega es que realmente vamos tarde. Muy, muy tarde. Y no solo tarde con la cultura charnega, sino también y sobre todo, con las decenas de otras culturas llegadas de la mano de la inmigración que resisten, gracias a un trabajo muy duro y valiente, en las calles y plazas de nuestros barrios. Siendo casi siempre silenciadas o ninguneadas o, lo que es aún peor, folclorizadas. Casi desde la clandestinidad.

Y cuando pienso en esto, me acuerdo, evidentemente, de la infinidad de otros escenarios posibles de los que hablaba Nando Cruz en su columna semanal de El Periódico. Bares o salas de concierto de nuestras ciudades donde se puede escuchar reggaetón duro, salsa brava, pop del punjab o música magrebí. Sitios donde incluso se puede escuchar música altiplánica, música que el maestro Raúl Zurita describe como la más bella del mundo.

Y cuando pienso en todo esto, no puedo dejar de pensar en la clase de P5A de la Escola Poblesec, la clase d’Els micos i les mones, la de mi hija Lur, hija de vasca y de chango. Una clase de un colegio público, donde más de 20 de los 25 niños y niñas que asisten son hijos e hijas, de esa bella inmigración.

Y cuando pienso en ellas y ellos, no lo hago ni con pena ni con tristeza, si con esperanza. Tal vez con una esperanza tonta, pero esperanza, al fin y al cabo. Porque si no somos nosotros serán ellos y ellas, nuestros hijos e hijas en compañía de sus compañeros y compañeras catalanas, las que más temprano que tarde acabarán marcando un nuevo 1 de enero de 1994 en el calendario. Y ese día el levantamiento no será en la selva de Lacandona. Sino que será La Florida, en Nou Barris o en Poble Sec, en las calles y en las plazas de nuestros barrios, en las periferias de nuestras grandes ciudades.

Y cuando eso pase, cuando por fin las culturas migrantes dejen de ser invisibilizadas y se transformen en agentes políticos reconocidos por la sociedad catalana, será el día en que, por fin, este país que estamos soñando entre todos se transformará en la casa de todas y todos. Porque al fin, ese país imaginado por todas será casa nostra.

Seguramente, esto que estoy contando no pasará nunca. Seguramente es pura literatura o poesía. Pero eso no importa. Porque a muchas de nosotras la poesía nos marcó el rumbo y nos salvó la vida.

Txalo Toloza al 19è Fòrum Indigestió. Foto: Carles Llàcer

Riflessioni sul medium che cambia

Extracto. De RENZO FRANCABANDERA para Paneacquaculture.

Arriviamo all’ultima proposta centrata sul tema del rapporto spettatore/tecnologia con Teatro Amazonas, docu-spettacolo centrato sulle nuove forme di colonialismo inflitte al territorio e ai popoli originari dell’America Latina. La compagnia Azkona&Toloza propone un excursus storico-artistico che si avventura, è proprio il caso di dire, in una narrazione che fra autobiografismo, cinema, storia, documentario, ritorna e cerca dei fili narrativi lungo gli ultimi cinque secoli della storia del territorio amazzonico brasiliano, quell’immenso territorio spesso descritto come disabitato e selvaggio, sebbene migliaia di indigeni vivano sulle sue rive e all’interno della fitta vegetazione.
Dentro questo luogo impenetrabile, esotico e rigoglioso, dentro il il suo caos suggestivo, la compagnia affronta prima un viaggio reale proprio durante il tempo della pandemia, e poi ne trae uno spettacolo che sulle orme di esploratori, conquistatori e avventurieri, porta la coppia di artisti a cercare un dialogo con lo spettatore su questo enorme affresco sempre vivo di antropologia visiva, con una videocreazione “lo-fi” in cui i due interpreti aumentano la realtà con la narrazione.

Teatro Amazonas ph Giulia Di Vitantonio

La compagnia di Barcellona, di origine basco/cilena, qui in prima italiana al Teatro delle Muse ci porta fra protagonisti, luoghi e racconti, per un amalgama che diventa l’ordito artistico del duo composto da Laida Azkona Goñi e Txalo Toloza–Fernández.
Il binario creativo composto da una documentata video proiezione a fondale, di cui i due interpreti sono la voce narrante, si sviluppa parallelo alla costruzione di una sorta di mindscape composto da un intricato lego di cartone in primo piano, con cui gli interpreti provano a mettere in piedi un ambiente immaginario capace di localizzare i pensieri dello spettatore. Il progetto, di cui Marche Teatro è co-produttore, è sicuramente interessante e suggestivo, porta dentro un viaggio che, pur con qualche ansa fluviale più lenta dovuta al continuo andirivieni dei flashback narrativi, ha un forte potere evocativo.
La versione italiana, come sempre in presenza di sovratitoli, porta lo spettatore a leggere la drammaturgia/sceneggiatura piuttosto che vivere del tutto l’interpretazione, e ci fornisce l’ultimo stimolo di questa interessante carrellata su come ancora il messaggio testuale e la barriera linguistica siano elemento impattante nella fruizione spettacolare. Lo spettatore, in una narrazione così ampia e di parola, ha sete di capire, e quindi per forza di cose cerca il potere del comprensibile.

Il futuro del teatro passa per questi interrogativi, per questi equilibri e barriere, approfondendo il come e il quando di un futuro esperanto sensoriale, e Inteatro ci porta su questa faglia, sul contemporaneo, facendoci ragionare su contraddizioni e opportunità. Un percorso più unico che raro, con Marche Teatro in prima linea a proporre, quando addirittura a produrre e co-produrre, esperienze di frontiera.