The Opera Village Africa

Christoph Schlingensief and His Social Sculpture

Authored by: Susanne Bauer

The Routledge Companion to Architecture and Social Engagement

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138889699
eBook ISBN: 9781315712697
Adobe ISBN:


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The Opera Village Africa allows for a different approach to social engagement that does not primarily touch on themes of architecture and politics but was rather conceived of as an idealistic concept of cultural engagement and social change. The project near the capital of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso was dreamed up by well-known German filmmaker, theater director and performance artist Christoph Schlingensief (1960–2010) in early 2008, after he had learned that he was suffering from cancer. As the initiator of this idealistic endeavor he used German sculptor Joseph Beuys’s concept of social sculpture as a framework for his participatory engagement in West Africa. Together with German-trained architect Francis Kéré, originally from Burkina Faso, who steered the project away from its idealistic to a more realistic path by first building a school, housing for teachers and artists in residence followed by a hospital, Schlingensief realized his idea of social change by providing health care and education for the local community. Yet, the achievement of a predominantly cultural project born out of ideas surrounding his theater and opera environment in Germany and relocated to a rural place in one of the poorest countries in the world, as shown in Figure 8.1, is still in question.

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