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Magic Clay, Magic Hands

09/07/2021|Nohad ElHajj

Origin of a Tale is a performance by Collectif Kahraba that took place during the Terdad 2021 Festival. Based in Hammana, the Collectif came down to Beirut and brought with it clay, stories, and music. During the one-hour performance and on a summer evening, Aurélien Zouki and Eric Deniaud were searching for the origin of the many fables from the fables of la Fontaine to Kalila wa Dimna. They shared the stage with clay - watered down clay as a whiteboard and hard clay for modelling. 


It was nice to find a seat among a diverse and bubbly audience of adults and kids. Once seated, a strong projector light shone at the audience, making it impossible to see the stage. This added mystery was perhaps a way to keep us, the audience, from unravelling the secrets of this curious performance.


As the play started, the hidden elements gradually revealed themselves. The set[1] was made out of ropes, movable lamps and poles. The stage itself was made from clay, and the background a vertical clay board. The props seemed in sharp contrast with the simplicity and humility of the performance’s central element that is clay. 


Yet, smoothly and playfully, the two pairs of hands took over. They started to make shadows, to shape, to knead, and to draw. Clay animals were brought to life as well as cities, roads, and trees. The stage was moving in different directions as the story went on accompanied by music, sounds and languages. 


Hands, clay animals, music and languages all blended into what it felt like a giant ball of clay that was being shaped and reshaped in front of our eyes. It made us giggle and left us curious and enchanted. We were transported together, the performers included, to faraway lands and to a different world where there are no borders and no languages. 


It felt like magic. A magic that was accentuated by a level of intimacy and togetherness that can be only brought by a summer evening.


Origin of a Tale is a play of light and shadow, of shaping and reshaping with nothing more than two pairs of hands and some clay. It made me wonder about origins and whether anyone could find the origin of stories, or whether they were even worth finding. Perhaps the story is actually in this process of shaping and reshaping, for only through it can we create our own future magic.


[1]Technical director is Tamara Badreddine



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