With a very simple approach consisting of understanding how the word “colonization” is said in Arabic, Salim Djaferi delivers a powerful reflection on the long French presence in Algeria and its consequences on these Algerians who live in France.
Presented for the first time in North America at the Théâtre Prospero, the play Koulounization which he wrote and directed stood out in Europe.
Alone on stage during almost the entire show, this son of Algerian parents who immigrated to France mixes in a playful and intimate way parts of his family history as well as his research to get to the etymological source of the word “colonization” in Arabic.
His findings are fascinating. The most common version in Arabic is borrowed from French and bears the name of the play. But he learns that there are four other words to describe this phenomenon, terms which each offer a very different point of view on this conquest into which the European powers launched themselves in all directions in the 19e and 20e century.
In a rather slow manner and using humor as well as several anecdotes, Salim Djaferi addresses the public by narrating how each of these interpretations reveals characteristics of the colonial adventure. Through his investigations, he realizes the importance of words.
A history lesson
This etymological lesson shows in different ways how Algerians became foreigners at home from the capture of Algiers in 1930 by the French until the declaration of independence in 1962. In addition to raising public awareness of the effects of colonization , he uses some shocking scenic elements to expose the violence of this conquest.
The participation of a member of the room to support his point gives a half-baked result. This contribution does not do much to grasp the issues, but it offers moments of relaxation which serve as a counterbalance to the drama that is being told. This short piece without artifice therefore succeeds in showing the complexity of this issue, while underlining the weight that vocabulary occupies in our understanding of the world.
As the playwright says, “the important thing is that words do not hide reality”. This is a message of relevance that applies very well to our times.
► Koulounization is presented at the Prospero Theater until October 7.
- A piece by Salim Djaferi