MINISTRO: Sit down, Mr. Secretary. I’m going to have you prepare me a trip to …. let’s see… hmmm… (picks up map and looks at the countries). What’s the weather like in Lachinchina?
SECRETARIO GENERAL: Well, Your Excellency, I don’t know.
MINISTRO: How about in the Islands of the Great Lizards?
SECRETARIO GENERAL: I’m not sure about there either, Your Excellency.
MINISTRO: Well, look it up online then. I’ve always wanted to visit these two countries. To start with, I think we could go to Lachinchina and visit with the authorities, maybe work out the beginnings of an agreement – get an economic cooperation plan signed to solve our inflation problems. You know, the reason why inflation here isn’t being kept under control is probably because we aren’t properly cooperating with our fellow countries, who could probably help us in this respect.
SECRETARIO GENERAL: Exactly, Your Excellency. I would with utmost gladness give you a full briefing on these countries, but unfortunately I have not had internet connection since last week.
MINISTRO: And why not? What happened to those fiber-optic cables that you spent so much money on? Don’t they work still?
(Excerpt from Commerce and Prices by Maximiliano Nkogo, translated from its original Spanish by Ran Bole)
This dialogue comes from the first scene of the play Comercio y Precios, (Commerce and Prices in Spanish) by Maximiliano Nkogo, a theatrical piece that offers a humorous but sharp criticism of the corruption that proliferates in many realms of Equatorial Guinean society, from governmental offices to businesses. Elisa Rizo (Associate Professor of Spanish) was among the audience watching the performance of this play during her recent visit to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. She also had the opportunity to see several other plays, all shown at a theater festival organized by the French Cultural Center. Besides attending that event, during her visit Rizo also delivered three presentations: one at the Equato-Guinean Cultural Center, where she spoke about Classical Receptions in the literature of African Diaspora in Latin America; a second one at the Spanish Cultural Center, where she spoke about Afro-Hispanic theater and the idea of a global citizenship; and a third one at the Drexel University Bioko Environmental house, where she presented a cultural overview of Equatorial Guinea. Yet giving these talks and attending the theatre festival were not the only objectives of Rizo’s visit to Equatorial Guinea:
“On this trip, my main goal was to deepen my knowledge about Equatorial Guinean theatre in order to fine-tune the conceptual framework for a book manuscript I am working on. I interviewed playwrights, actors, and other important players on the Equato-Guinean cultural scene, learning more about the context in which theatre is developed there. Having been there twice before, and having already established good relationships with key players of the theatrical activity in Equatorial Guinea, greatly facilitated the logistics of my visit.” Rizo said.
During her trip, Professor Rizo witnessed the admirable achievements of these grassroots theatre companies, as well as the many challenges they face. She took the opportunity to spend time with members of the most active theater company in Equatorial Guinea, Bocamandja (based in Malabo) and interviewed its director, Recaredo Silebo Boturu, and several actors. Thanks to her relationship with Bocamandja, Rizo was invited to accompany the group to several functions, including a workshop held at the building of the United Nations in Malabo and to several rehearsals. She was able to appreciate the different aspects that go into play in successful theatre company, such as Bocamandja: seeking funds, looking for projects that may attract the interest of international organizations, all while guarding their own vision as an independent company.
Rizo also interviewed the directors of another two theater companies: the Malabo-based AMEA’s director Hermelindo de Leon Laurel, and Actores del milenio’s director Pastor Nsue, based in the city of Bata. Likewise, she met with other theater directors and actors, whom she had interviewed before, Marcelo Ndong, Gorsy Edu, and Pastor Tobashi. This trip also gave Rizo the opportunity to visit the American Embassy, where she spoke to the officials in charge of public and cultural affairs and to dialogue with the personnel of the Spanish Cultural Center in Malabo.
“Traveling to Equatorial Guinea really widens my understanding of the Hispanophone world. There is so much to learn and so many connections to make with Latin America, Spain and other regions with a Spanish colonial past, such as the Philippines and the Maghreb. Beyond that connection, there are a series of cultural effects of the African Diaspora worldwide, and of course, the impact of global economic trade and political alliances. I am committed to continue infusing global perspectives into my research and my teaching practice,” Rizo expressed.
Elisa Rizo, Associate Professor of Spanish, has studied the literature of Equatorial Guinea for several years. She is currently working on a book manuscript about the theatre of Equatorial Guinea within the scope of Afro-Hispanic theatre in Latin America. She has produced numerous articles and book chapters and has edited three literary anthologies. She is also the coeditor of two special volumes, Guinea Ecuatorial como pregunta abierta: hacia el diálogo entre nuestras otredades(with Dolores Aponte, 2014) and On the other side of Atlantis (with Madeleine Henry, forthcoming in 2015). Her most recent publication is a book chapter entitled “Realism in Afro-Hispanic Contemporary Theatre” in Black Writing, Culture, and the State in Latin America (U of Vanderbilt P.).