The Alchemy of Words is touring Southern Africa in September and October

After the premiere at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, The Alchemy of Words is touring Southern Africa - Durban, Maseru, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Maputo and Sasolburg!


French-South African collaboration with artists Naomi van Niekerk, Arnaud van Vliet and Yoann Pencolé.

This multi-media performance about the life and work of French poet Arthur Rimbaud combines sand animation, live animation, music and puppetry.

I am now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I am working at turning myself into a seer... The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. It involves enormous suffering but one must be strong and be born a poet... – Arthur Rimbaud, 1871.

Arthur Rimbaud (1854 -1894) the ’enfant terrible’ of French poetry published his first immortal poem at the age of 16 only to completely abandon writing poetry at the age of 21. During this short period he managed to create a body of work that has had a profound impact on the poetry of his own time and on that of the 20th Century. André Breton, Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Jim Morrison are some of the artists and musicians that have been influenced by his writing.

Who is this literary pioneer and creative genius who continues to receive letters from fans all over the world even 123 years after his death?

In The Alchemy of Words, three artists, one French and two from South Africa - a puppeteer, a filmmaker and a musician search to capture the enigma of Arthur Rimbaud and what it means to be a pioneer.

Expect an immersive experience that combines sand animation, puppetry and live music inspired by the diverse imagery from his poems – smoke filled battlefields, the lush countryside of the French Ardennes, colourful vowels, grey cityscapes, crimson seas... The performance will be followed by a projection of a collection of Naomi van Niekerk’s animated short films. Master classes on shadow theatre, sound and puppet manipulation will also be offered to different audiences throughout the tour.

"Naomi van Niekerk’s ethereal production The Alchemy of Words can best be described as a symphony of pure creativity. The performance traverses a spontaneous, surreal landscape through a plethora of mediums, immersing the audience in a powerful tribute to seminal French poet Arthur Rimbaud." Yasthiel Devraj, Cue Media - Click here to read the article.

Dates of the tour

DURBAN: 21 - 22 September (Seabrooke’s Theatre)

MASERU: 25 September (Machabeng College, reserved for schools only)

JOHANNESBURG: 28 September - 1 October (Market Theatre Laboratory) - Click here to book your ticket

CAPE TOWN: 5 - 6 October (Theatre Arts Admin Collective) - Click here to book your ticket

MAPUTO: 11 October (CCFM) - Click here to book your ticket

SASOLBURG: 14 - 15 October (Etienne Rousseau Theatre) - Click here to book your ticket


- VIDEO & SCENOGRAPHY Naomi van Niekerk
- MUSIC & SOUND DESIGN Arnaud van Vliet
- PUPPET DESIGN Yoann Pencolé, Arnaud van Vliet, Naomi van Niekerk

From 2008 to 2011, Naomi van Niekerk (Sand-animations / Puppeteer, RSA), Yoann Pencolé (Puppeteer, FR) and Arnaud van Vliet (Musician, RSA) studied Puppetry together at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts de la Marionnette in Charleville - Mézières, the birth town of poet Arthur Rimbaud. Today, five years since the completion of their Puppetry Diplomas, they come together to collaborate on the creation of a new performance piece. Combining their skills and shared experience in Charleville, they present a multi-disciplinary work for an all-ages audience.

Presented with the Alliance Française in Southern Africa.

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Source: French Institute in South Africa

publie le 19/09/2017

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