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Caya Makhélé

Caya Makhélé (born 1952, Pointe-Noire, Congo-Brazzaville), a playwright, publisher, prose writer, poet and journalist, who has studied at the Paris University and has been living in France since 1983, is currently writing a theatre play for the students of the Academic High School in Prague.

His work has been translated into English, Czech, German and Spanish.

He established Théâtre d'Art Africain (1980), Equateur magazine (1986), Acoria Theatre, Acoria Publishers (1997). He organized the Rencontre Afrique-Brésil Festival and organizes various tours with children's plays, creative writing and dramaturgy workshops in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Senegal, Congo…

In 2003, he visited Prague for the first time as a guest of the Creative Africa Festival or we are all Africans (Tvůrčí Afrika aneb Všichni jsme Afričani), and since then he has begun to deepen his relationship to Czech culture. The Czech audience had a chance to discover his successful play La Fable du Cloître des Cimetières in two performances. The first one made by the director Lída Engelová for Czech Radio and the other by the director Petr Hruška for the Prague Theatre Na Prádle. Caya Makhélé is an author of books for the children, he shares as well the published books with the children in Africa.

His texts were presented at the French Institute in Prague or at the Prague Book World Fair. The message of Caya Makhélé work passed through to the readers is not to forget the heritage of their nation and to the value of dignity and acquired freedom.

His latest novel Les Matins de Prague (2018, Acoria, Paris) was presented by Caya Makhélé last year. The idea of this novel was born after a visit to the Old Synagogue and the Kafka House, when Caya Makhélé began to learn more and more about Prague's history. He questioned himself how many people such as Kafka had lived in Africa and were murdered by dictatorships or during the genocide in Rwanda. The novel takes place in Prague, Paris and Rwanda, deals with genocides of the twentieth century from the personal stories point of view and their intermingling. An escape from justice and its searching, a novel full of twists and turns. Caya Makhélé wrote a large part of the novel in Prague, and as he adds, he was also accompanied by songs by the singer Radůza.

Recently, Murmures d'Afrique (2018, Acoria, Paris) has been published in the bilingual French-Czech edition. The translation of the poems in this collection is the result of the translation project of the organizers of the Creative Africa Festival with students of French at the grammar schools in Brno, Hradec Králové and Prague.

Caya Makhélé adds to the quality of translations of his poems by students: „My greatest joy is to see young people grasping poems that seemed difficult at first, without knowing the places I am writing about. I enjoyed happy moments with them. They were amazing, they read my texts in Czech to me, even though I did not understand. Thanks to poetry they have met Africa for the first time while discovering the joy of poetry.“

In 1988, Caya Makhélé wrote the first play with his friend and native Sony Lab'ou Tansi about the tragic events at the Congo University, Le Coup de Vieux.

From the other works of Caya Makhélé, let´s mention the novels L'Homme au Landau, Le Cercle des Vertiges, Ces jours qui dansent avec la nuit, awarded novels Travaux d'Ariane et 15 autres nouvelles. Together with other authors such as Michel Serres, Erik Orsena, William Boyd, etc., he participated in the book Nous Tintin.

Theatre plays include La Fable du Cloître des Cimetières, La Danse aux Amulettes, L'étrangère, Sortilèges.

The hero of La Fable du Cloître des Cimetières is a former sticker of stamps at the Ministry of Health of the unnamed country, nowadays a homeless Makiadi, who is slowly losing a sense of life. His fate changes unexpectedly: he received a letter from a woman who, allegedly in vain love for him, threw herself under the train. She calls Makiadi to follow her to the underworld. Makiadi feels unexpectedly a responsibility for the woman whom he does not even know… But he does not know how to get into the underground – the shortest path probably leads through the cemetery, and a coffin appears to be a suitable mean of transportation… So he goes to the morgue…

The theatre play Sortilèges was presented to the Czech audience under the name of Čarování.

„I often get inspired by ancient myths in an attempt to understand today's world. During my numerous visits to the Czech Republic, I had the opportunity to get to know the figure of Vodník. I perceived this legend of Vodník as an interpretation of the encounter of two worlds, two different cultures, and a similarity to what we live today. For me, every encounter is like a magic able to take us into a dramatic story or love. Every encounter raises our own concerns as well as our hopes. The figure of Rusalka is a metaphor that illustrates the ability to take our fate into own hands despite prohibitions and dangers of the unknown. A choice of a new world that we always think is better than the one we would leave. It is also a figure that embodies the ability to take risks of exile. In the play Sortilèges, I want to show a fear of others which comes from misunderstanding and indifference,“ said Caya Makhélé about the play Sortilèges.

He dedicates his work to children and youth as well, including Une vie d'éléphant. Bobo, an old elephant, tells two girls how he got from Africa to the zoo in Paris (2011, Hachette, Paris).

In 2018, on the occasion of the publication of his books Les Matins de Prague and Murmures d'Afrique, Caya Makhélé was invited to the World Book Festival in Prague. During his stay he led a writing workshop with students of the Academic Grammar School, for whom he currently plans to write a theatre play as part of his Prague residency.

The subject of this new play will not be an easy one at all, focusing on cancer and euthanasia. With a brain tumour in 2016, against which he is still struggling today, Caya Makhélé wants to explore the meaning of existence and the values that give him the strength to resist different situations, happy or unhappy. Under the title Les 7 métamorphoses de Mytho, the play tells how a man discovers that he has a brain tumour, and raises the question of the end of life and euthanasia. Despite a serious subject, the whole story unfolds between laughter and drama, with situations more absurd than the other. How can we know what part of the imagination and what part of reality is involved? The writer draws inspiration from his personal experience.

Take the opportunity and meet Caya Makhélé personally during his residency Prague City of Literature at the performance on 17th April or during March and April 2019.





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