Rite of darkness

By DEBRA CASH  |  July 3, 2008

In portraying mass violence, Maalem tends to overemphasize his literal references. During one of the interludes, two silhouetted men raise their arms and power them down. Are they portraying traditional African drummers? Soldiers assaulting a victim? Or are they are abstractions of some industrial motion? The ambiguity is probably deliberate, but in a work so didactic it’s unsatisfying. Maalem’s focus on the response of a horrified individual comes too late, though the solo by Dramane Diarra, twitching and helpless to cope with what he has seen, has the punch of hip-hop master Rennie Harris’s famous butoh-soaked solo in Facing Mekka. Metabolized by human bodies, this violent rite stains human conscience.

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