Human Landscapes I
28.11 – 30.11.2019
Where is the world headed?
Where are people going?
To understand that,
we have to know where we’ve come from and where we are.
– NÂZIM HIKMET, Human Landscapes from My Country
If there is one poet who caused upheaval in Turkey in the 20th century, then it is Nâzım Hikmet (1902-1963). In the late 1920s, he introduced free verse to Turkish poetry, and he was thus the first modern Turkish poet. His Marxist convictions constantly brought him into conflict with the Turkish authorities. After a series of trials and many years in prison, he died in 1963 as an exile in Moscow. The political controversy surrounding his life and work continues to rage today.
Hikmet wrote the majority of Human Landscapes, his magnum opus, while in prison. Thousands of verses, some of which were literally written in blood, were smuggled out of his cell. The epic poem sketches a portrait of a turbulent Turkey in the period between 1908 and 1945. In the background, the unchanging and endless landscape of Anatolia gives voice to farmers, journeymen, labourers, and soldiers. The five hundred-page epic was only published posthumously, divided into five ‘books’.
Michiel Vandevelde staged Book I last year, commissioned by the Austrian festival steirischer herbst. Book II will follow in September 2019.
For Book I, which is set in a third-class train carriage, Vandevelde chose a dark, intimate setting. The five performers move slowly between the audience, which sits or lies on the floor. They make their way through a ‘human landscape’, propelled by Hikmet’s conviction that all people need to raise themselves out of the direst situations is their own willpower. Book II brings the wealthy people in the first-class carriage to the fore. Vandevelde juxtaposes their stories and thoughts about the impending war with workers’ songs that are sung live.
• Michiel Vandevelde is a dancer, choreographer, curator, and performance maker. From 2017 until 2021, he is artist-in-residence at Kaaitheater.
text Human Landscapes from My Country — book I, by Nâzım Hikmet | direction, choreography, set Michiel Vandevelde | performed by Bryana Fritz, Stine Sampers, Anna Franziska Jäger, Mitch Van Landeghem, Lois Brochez | dramaturgy Kristof van Baarle | costume Heide Vanderieck | financial management Klein Verzet vzw | commissioned by steirischer herbst (Graz) | production steirischer herbst, Disagree vzw | residencies Kaaitheater, Kunstenwerkplaats Pianofabriek | with the kind support of Flanders State of the Art