– Lipanda Manifesto – An Open Letter from 343 people of colour

On 25 March 2019, in the framework of the festival Les Dionysies at the Sorbonne University,  anti-racist activists prevented a play called Les Suppliantes, directed by Philippe Brunetfrom occurring because of the use of a blackface. On stage, white actresses were interpreting the Danaides with black make-up and copper masks on to perform the role Egyptian choir. It would come as a surprise that in 2019, we still have to remind, negotiate with, call for a boycott of, protest against and physically interrupt such a practice. And yet… on 11 April, on the Théâtre du soleil’s initiative was released an open letter defending this play in the name of freedom of creation. Among signatories are a lot of live performance big names.

Lately, media perfectly distinguished themselves as the herald of white bourgeois and reactionaries whiny messages; the latter persisting to turn a deaf ear to and to go against feminist and anti-racist demands while earning money from the systems of privileges in question. We do remember the open letter from the 100 women defending “the right for men to pester on women”. But this time, freedom of creation is abjectly conjured up in the open letter that supports Eschyle.

Nobody is free when someone else is unfree. That is what The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism (1981)[i]delivered by Audre Lorde is about. Freedom to pester, freedom to create, freedom of speech: devil may-care generation, doing what they want, when they want, how they want without anybody contradicting them. Their freedom builds upon those who do not have any but, where does it come from? It is so redundant that it may sound as a practical joke, and yet…

And yet today, the art world and French culture are despising people of colour demands.

Today, we are outraged but most importantly, we are tired.

We lack the energy to remind you that censorship is an instrument used by states, not by some activists who are using their freedom to protest and rebel against anti-black and racist plays.

We are tired to say that the attempt to switch responsibilities that consists in turning activists legitimate action into “a serious aggression” is a well-proven tactic used by authorities of power.

In case we forget, activist Munroe Bergdorf states that “drawing attention to a social divide is not the same thing as creating one. Activists are often considered to be divisive or troublemakers by those who have become accustomed to the privileges that social divides provide them”.

Today, we are growing weary of always proving your hypocrisy : for us, people of colour, theatre is NOT a “place of metamorphosis” when we are constantly prevented from creating by the discriminatory and eliminatory mechanisms in place.

Yes, we are cloistered away in our identities when our bodies become exotic objects on stage. No, we do not have freedom to create when neutrality is taken away from us. Instead, we are continuously and fiercely brought back to our race by the system. Yes, theatre is a “shelter for identities”: in majority, French stages are dominated by white men directors, with white men, for white men to watch it, criticise it and hail it. We can clearly name it communitarism. This community is unaware of its existence but still, it monopolises our stages, our stories and it is locking the gateway of its world for those who do not fit in.

Today, we are exhausted to observe that French theatre belongs to the privileged, where aping the “other” is a hobby. Meanwhile, the “other” is deprived from its legitimate right, or even its duty, to rise up against its identity being mocked on stage. This is the same French theatre that declares itself “intellectual, humanist and Hellenist” and that has the nerve to believe and to have everyone believe that white bourgeois culture is universal. That it reaches the very similarities in every human being. How can you be blind and not see that your stages are devoid of diversity? How come you cannot seriously perceive the resemblance between your plays and the public interested in it? The same public that is represented and that can identify? Which citizens are you serving?

Today, we are fatigued to state the following: any freedom that builds upon the permanent need to silence us, dominate us and erase us is no freedom. Any freedom to create that builds upon the domination of others is a perverted, guilty, insincere and irresponsible freedom that is fooling no one except its accomplices.

Today, your absolute desire not to be challenged and your impunity are unbearable to us.

And finally, today, we will not keep explaining why blackface is and always will be eminently racist: it has already been done and you have chosen to disregard it.

However, we have to do something.

Because you,
who are preaching a popular theatre,
desperately trying to bring «diversity» in your funded theatres,
slumped in mortified positions due to too much power and talk,
and still believing that you can write our stories with impunity,
you leave us no choice.

But we,
the outraged,
the offended,
the terrorists,
the sex-starved,
the hysterics,
the obsessed,
the resistants,
the “fascistic”,
the little names,
the powerless,
the students,
the deviants,
the distrustful,
the wretched of the earth,
the people of colour, standing up with our allies.

Today, on Sunday 28 April 2019, we refuse to be walked all over. We claim our freedom and  independent thinking and creation and hereby declare the death of your racist and colonial world.

Dear signatories of Eschyleopen letter, good day to you all. In your world in despair, we would not exist. Therefore, you would have to ape us, put black make-up on and imitate us. Good day to you all! WE DO EXIST in your world and we stand here to say NO.

We won’t keep quiet. It is time YOU keep quiet. It is time for us to talk.
We are not your house niggers. We won’t assimilate.
We won’t hear our story from others again and you won’t lay down your law.
We will take back the history you made for us. It is our turn to write it.
We will resist, write, think, play, direct, paint and, as Léon Gontran-Damas says:

“nous les peu
nous les gueux
nous les riens
nous les chiens
nous les maigres
nous les nègres

qu’attendons-nous ?

pour jouer aux fous
pisser un coup
tout à l’envi
contre la vie
stupide et bête
qui nous est faite ?”[ii]

We won’t wait anymore. We are now standing up and we will then highlight, applaud, celebrate, criticise, deconstruct, reconstruct. Because we are no children to you. We are here for the genuine deconstruction and transformation of this classist, racist, sexist and ableist system. And this is an act of creation.

Considering the contempt of those spitting on us without scruples, we call on for the signatures of our friends of colour and allies to the anti-racist cause.
This open letter is a response to:


[i] “No woman is free while any woman is unfree.”, in her speech The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism, delivered in 1981 at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference, Storrs, Connecticut.
[ii]Léon Gontran-Damas, Black-Label, Ed. Gallimard, 1956. 


You can sign the letter here :


Fatem-Zahra Abid, student in international relationships, decolonial and feminist activist
Aminata Abdoulaye Hama, actress
Gia Abrassart, decolonial journalist, Café Congo
Priscilla Adade, actress, producer, feminist
Fabien Aïssa-Busetta, actor and stage director
Adèle Aïssi-Guyon, student in postcolonial literature, École Normale Supérieure (ENS) of Lyon
Alex Allaire, cooker
Jason Allen-Paisant, doctoral student, University of Leeds, UK
Jean-Malik Amara, student, Conservatoire de Lyon
Juliette Armantier, film student, Sorbonne nouvelle Paris 3
Martha AsunciónAlonso,poet, Doctor in francophone literature, translator, feminist activist
Louis Autin, PHD student in classical litterature, Université Grenobles Alpes

Ari De B, activist dancer
Loubna B, podcast maker
Sidi B, performer artist, graphic designer and anti-racist activist
Maïna Ba, student, National institute of oriental languages and civilizations (Inalco)
Marine Bachelot-Nguyen, author, stage director
Paola Bacchetta, professor, University of California, Berkeley
Marouane Bakhti, design student
Marie Barriol, dancer
Naïan Baron, architecture student and co-president of Association Marsha
Estelle Baudou, researcher in theater studies, dramaturg, teacher at CRR de Paris
Gabin Bastard, student, Conservatoire de Lyon
Chloé Bégou, stage director, actress
Charly Bellanger, student, costume-conceiving section at Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Art et Techniques du Théâtre (ENSATT)
Renda Belmallem, student at EHESS, member of Fracas·se, decolonial ecofeminist activist
Ruth Noemi Bendel, student in journalism, afro-feminist activist
Doum Belarbi
Mara Berg, feminist activist, sociology student
Mélissa Bertrand, PHD student in theater studies, young authoress and stage director 
Adèle Beuchot-Costet, student, Master’s degree in theater, Nanterre
Béatrice Bienville, authoress
Oana Bonnaud-Cartillierstudent, Master’s degree, Ecole du Louvre
Pascale Bongiovanni, lighting engineer, general director
Marion Bonniface, producer
Lila Boses, student, performing arts, feminist activist
Amine Boudelaa, actor student, Théâtre National de Strasbourg
Élodie Boutitie, student, Sciences Po Lille
Sonia Boutitie, student, Sciences Po Bordeaux
O. Boulanouar,activist, person affected by many discriminations
Lisa Bouvy, student in performing arts at Université Paris 8, feminist activist
Alice Braye, cultural manager
Marouane Bakhti,design student
Fanny Brûlé-Kopp, student, Conservatoire Royal de Mons
Lili Buvat,dancer, performer, student in dance studies Master at Paris 8

Casey, rapper
Sibylle Cabello, lighting engineer
Marcos Caramés-Blanco, student, writer-dramatist section, ENSATT
Clémentine Carlion, student, Sciences Po Grenoble
Amandine Cartaud, stagecraft student, Université Vincennes-Saint Denis-Paris 8
Leïla Cassar, student, writer-dramatist section, ENSATT
Léa Castera, student, Sciences Po Bordeaux
Léonie Casthel, playwright
Fély Catan, student
Astrid Chabrat-Kajdan, student doctoral in theater studies, Université Lyon 2
Sylvie Chalaye, anthropologist of colonial representations, living arts historian, director of “Scènes francophones et écritures de l’altérité” laboratory, Sorbonne Nouvelle
Marie-Julie Chalu, actress and authoress
Camille Charrière, actor
Cécile Cayrel
Ronan Chéneau, author 
Sophie Claret, student in acting, ERACM
Julie Clugéry
Guillaume Cingal, university lecturer in anglophone literatures and translation / Africa & postcoloniality, Université de Tours
Solène Cizeron, actress
Matthias Claeys, author and stage director
Bérénice Cloteaux-Foucault, assistant editor of Manifesto
Elise Cochet, student, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC)
Annabelle Colas, cultural administrator specialized in living arts
Mia Collins, student, Cinéfabrique, Lyon
Arthur Colombet, actor 
Maud Cosset-Chéneau, actress
Nathalie Coutelet, Université Paris 8
Antonio Cuenca Ruiz, dramaturg

Jérémy Da Costa, queer freelance translator
Marilou Craft, authoress and dramatist, Montréal
Guillemette Crémèse, student
Gerty Dambury, authoress and stage director, Guadeloupe
Sorour Darabi, choreographer, dancer
Alexia Dedieu, PHD student in classical litterature, université Grenoble Alpes
Marthe Degaille, student, Conservatoire Royal de Liège (ESACT) and authoress
Emilie Denaud, philosophy student
Lucie Demange, student, Cinéfabrique school of Lyon
Lisa Derlin, student, science of education, université Toulouse Jean Jaurès
Rhodnie Désir,choreographer, artistic director of RD Créations (Canada), executive producer of BOW’TTRAIL (numerical project that visibilizes resistance movements in Afrodescendant communities in the Americas)
Marie Devroux, actress, stage director 
Nino Djerbir, actor
Paul Didge,student in theater research, ethnology researcher
Salomé Dienis Meulien, actress, former student at the CNSAD
Flora Diguet, actress and stage director
Penda Diouf, authoress, co-founder of Jeunes textes en liberté
Idris Ditto
Dhouda Djerbi, student,  American University of Paris
Guillaume Douat, student, Conservatoire de Lyon
Eva Doumbia, stage director and authoress
Rodolphe Doublet
Raphaëlle Doyon, university lecturer, theater department, Université Paris 8
Annia Drawing, afro-feminist painter
Thomas Ducurdoy, actor 
Justine Dumazert, literature student
Juliette Duval, student 
Léa Duval, student

Gilla Ebelle
Betthy Ebengou, nurse
Vinciane Ebengou, student, Conservatory of dramatic art of Lyon, authoress, afro-feminist activist
Sacha El, political studies student
Jaonasy Eloicka, construction industry student
Véronique Essaka-De Kerpel, authoress, stage director, actress

Ilonah Fagotin, theater studies student, stage director and musician 
Mélodie Faury, researcher in science-society, information and communication sciences, Université Strasbourg
Lucas Faulong, student, Manufacture de Lausanne
Eddy Firmin,plastic artist

Cecilia Galléa, actress
Héloïse Gaubert, student, Conservatory of dramatic arts, Lyon
Amandine Gay, film director
Léna Génin, actress
Olivia “Ubika” Gerstman Hardy, activist, poet and musician
Nangaline Gomis, dancer
Aly Gouchène, producer, sound director, queer decolonial activist
Inès Gouchène, violonist
Audrey Gourjon, innovation advisor employee
Annette Gravier, student, Sciences Po Bordeaux
Mikaël Gravier, student at École supérieure d’art dramatique de Paris (ESAD)
Clara Greth, theater student 
Lucie Grunstein, actress
Line Guellati, actress, stage director (BE)
Mohamed Guellati, actor, stage director, author
Nacira Guénif, Indigenous descendant, professor at the Université Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint-Denis, vice-president of l’Institut des Cultures d’Islam
Jessica Guilloud, student, Conservatoire Royal de Mons

Flávia Hiroki, actress, translator, student in theater studies – Université Paris 8
Marco Hollinger, student stage-manager at the Théâtre National de Strasbourg
Alistair Houdayer, actor, author

Hélène Jacquel, authoress, student at l’ENSATT
Katell Jan,student actress at ENSATT
Yaël Jestin, feminist trans guy, queer activist 
Clara Jolfre, actress, stage director 
Elisa Joualland, student en Arts du Spectacle, Université Lyon 2
Jean Joudé, actor and stage director
Pablo Jupin, actor

Lola Kinks, student, video maker performer
Afi Kodjobi Tchoukpa, painter, illustrator
Prescillia Kouame Amany, actress
Sacha Kratz, model agent
Koffi Kwahulé, writer

Chloé Laabab, student-actress, École de la Comédie de Saint-Etienne
Zoé Labarrère, student, Sciences Po Bordeaux
Aminata Labor, artist and performer
Guillaume Lambert, writer-stage director
Mélissa Laveaux, authoress-composer-performer, guitarist, story-teller
Sophie Marie Larrouy, actress
Jalil Leclaire, actor, stage director, Décoloniser les arts association member
Lucie Leclerc, actress, stage director
Kaen Lee, student in engineering and sound production, decolonial activist 
Tamara Lipszyc, student-actress, ERACM
Marlène Lokosha, afrofeminist activist
Po B. K. Lomami, cultural worker, artist and activist in Montréal (CA) and Mons (BE)

Olivia Mabounga,student-actress, ESAD
François Makanga, actor
Fabien Magry, actor 
Arnaud Maïsetti, author, dramatist, university lecturer in performing arts, Aix-Marseille Université
Noémie Makota, actress
Marie-Dolores Malpel, councilor in theater at CRD Pantin and “Classe prépa’93 égalité des chances”
Anaïs Malvezin, student in art school  
Romain Mas, actor
Arnaud Mathey, actor
Martine Maximin, actress
Hicham Mazouz, invited Professor, Emory university (USA)
Ira Menin, musician, composer, studio technician
Coline Merlo-Blanc, critic 
Hugo Michel, musician
Nathyfa Michel, photographer
Marina Monmirel, actress and decolonial activist 
Ulrica Mons
Mara Montanaro, associate researcher LEGS/CNRS/UMR 8238 – Université Paris 8 (Gender studies department), philosophy Professor, Université Paris 8 and Université Paris Descartes 
Yves Mintoogue, PHD student in political science, université Paris 1

Galla Naccache-Gauthier, student, Conservatory of Dramatic Art, Lyon
Charbel Nader
Estel N’Khaly, student in literature and sociology at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, feminist and ecologist 
Jade Norindr, art history student, Université Paris-Nanterre 
Romain Nicolas, playwright

Gaïa Oliarj-Inès, student at Conservatory of dramatic art, Lyon

Sophie Paladines, actress
Blandine Pélissier, stage director, translator 
Romane Périssé, history student, Paris 1
Sophie Peroy-Gay, sociology and gender studies student, EHESS
Eve Marie Perrin, medical student, Lausanne
Anaïs Pinay, student in theatral research, actress, afro-feminist activist
Lucas Plisson
Maroussia Pourpoint, actress and stage director 
Cerise Praxy, production administrator
Estelle Prudent, QPOC artist 

Lorie-Joy Ramanaïdou, student at ESACT, actress, decolonial activist 
Pauline Raineri, choreographer and dancer
Anna Raisson, actress, stage director and activist
Julien Ribeiro, curator and Gemini’s Tears director, Corps & Médias Laboratory
Anna Rinzo, student and costume designer
Quentin Rioual, PHD student in theater studies, Paris Nanterre
Joyce Rivière, writer
Raoul Riva, contemporary dancer
Marina Rollman, humorist
Mrs Roots, blogger and afro-feminist authoress 
Adeline Rosenstein, stage director
Julie Rossello Rochet, playwrighter, PHD student
Corentin Rostollan-Sinet, dramaturg, PHD student in theatre studies
Pauline Rousseau, PHD student at Université Lyon 2, co-stage director of Waninga compagny and Inverso-Collectif
Fyrial Rousselbin, contemporary dancer and POC
Laurie Rousseville, doctoral student in drama studies, Université Lyon 2
Inyange Rurangwa, actress in the making from Rwanda, stuck in Belgium 
Louise Rustan, student, stage lights-creator department, ENSATT

Marie-Claude Saint-Laurent, actress, authoress et codirectrice du Théâtre de l’Affamée, Montréal
Alpha Saliou Diallo, editor
Joëlle Sambi Nzeba, authoress, poetress, slammer 
Lucas Samouth, lighter
Emma Scherrer, comédienne danseuse, chorégraphe
Maria Scherf, spectator
Mathilde Segonds, student, writer and dramatist department, ENSATT
Camille Seitz, student-actress, ENSATT
Frederico Semedo, actor
Emmanuelle Sirois, Research Affiliate, New York University
Jan Siutkowski, student, Conservatoire Royal de Liège
Olivia Stainier,actress, student, ESACT 
Cynthia Saint-Fleur, actress, scenarist, film director, stage director, activist, referent to the diversity commission of French Associate Actress and Actors (Actrices et Acteurs de France Associés, AAFA) 
Laura de Salas, general practitioner, co-president of Marsha Association
Marlène Sambugaro,cultural manager, Rennes
Dinaïg Stall, professor, graduate school of theater (Quebec University, Montreal)
Ayden Savarimouttou, writer, trans POC artist
Délima Sogny,student, performing arts Université Paris 8 live
Maboula Soumahoro, university lecturer, president of Black History Month
Souleymane Sylla, actor

Tony Tan, QPOC artist
Aristide Tarnagda, author, playwright, actor
Mahaut Taudière, student at Paris 8, performing arts section 
Stella Tiendrebeogo, psychologist
Louis-Georges Tin, honorary President of the Representative Council of Black Associations (Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires, CRAN)
Hugo Titem-Delaveau, student, Conservatory of dramatic art of Lyon
Anna Tjé, artiste, PHD student in theater studies, activist
Emma Tomek, student at École des Beaux-Arts of Valence

Garance Valet, student at L’ESACT and stage director
Doris Varichon, student researcher at Lyon 2 University, history of women and gender
Ghyslain Vedeux, President of the CRAN
Françoise Vergès, political scientist, author, antiracist feminist activist
Malou Vigier, stage director and actress
Chloé Vos, costume designer

Sylvain Wavrant, artist
Waka, founder of Baham Arts
Mélissa Windal
Lorraine Wiss, doctoral student in theater studies at Université Lyon 2
Pé-Seng Yang, artist, student at Beaux Arts de Paris
Yolande Yanganju, dancer

Norah Zrika, student at Conservatoire Royal de Mons

Atayé, platform, literary and artistic magazine et artistique running countercurrent
Collectif Afro-Swiss of Geneva
Amnghi, Queer French-Moroccan solidarity collective
Association des student·e·s afro-descendant·e·s de l’unil-epfl, Switzerland
Collectif l’AntiAutruche, feminist collective, ENSATT Lyon
Bon Chic Bon Genre, feminist and LGBT+ association, Sciences Po Lille
CAD, Asian Decolonial Collective 
Collectif Le Chalet, Queer and decolonial collective 
CRAAP, Collectif de Réflexions, Analyses et Actions Postcoloniales
Association Décoloniser les Arts
Collectif Des Raciné·e·s, feminist, queer and decolonial collective
Fracas·se, feminist collective, EHESS
Collectif Hippoqueer, LGBTI+ collective, Sciences Po Lyon
Projets Hybris, Creative queer and feminist collective, Montréal
Collectif Khamsa, North-African feminist collective 
Association Makeda Saba, Association for the promotion of the African Woman and Child
Rédaction de Manifesto XXI
NDATE collective, decolonial afro-feminist collective, Paris 8
La Nouvelle Voie Anticoloniale, decolonial and antiracist collective
Collectif Pamplemousse, feminist collective of Sciences Po Lyon
Personæ of Color, AfroQueer and decolonial collective 
La Permanence, actions against discrimination ang power abuse in the dance community 
La Poudre, podcast from the Nouvelles Écoutes
Les Sales Races, decolonial, feminist and antiracist collective 
Les Salopettes, feminist collective, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon
Sawtche – afrofeminist collective
Support Your Local Girl Gang, non-binary feminine, queer, pluri & transdisciplinary collective

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