From balcony to centre stage: shifting vantage points through researching Igue festival in Benin City, Nigeria
Georgiana Gore (University of Clermont Auvergne)
Paper short abstract:
This presentation reflects upon long-term research on post-colonial Benin City's Igue festival in order to explore the balcony as a device for negotiating distance and positionality in the appreciation and enactment of the performative by ethnographer, audience and participants alike.
Paper long abstract:
In the performing arts the picture frame or proscenium stage remains an implicit or explicit architectural and relational reference. It has configured performer audience interaction since the Italian Renaissance into a perspectival relationality, thus individualising spectatorship and generating theatrical enchantment. In this configuration, the balcony (including its boxes) is the privileged position from which to view and to be viewed, reflected, for example, in the fact that seats in the Royal Opera House Covent Garden's Donald Gordon Grand Tier (London) are the most expensive. With fixed seating, shifting viewing positions are not possible unless audience members are specifically called up onstage. What happens, however, in performance situations where no view from above is permitted - not due to architectural limitation but to cultural prohibition? How are distance (both spatial and relational) and positioning negotiated? This autobiographically inspired presentation is based on my ethnographic trajectory from balcony to centre stage as I researched over a ten-year period in Benin City, Nigeria, the annual Igue festival which occurs each Christmas to honour divine kingship (Bradbury 1957 & 1973; Nevadomsky 1993; Wierre-Gore 1998). The aim of my description will be twofold: to interrogate degrees of "balconyship" and the ways in which vantage points confer different possibilities of knowledge construction with their advantages and disadvantages; and to demonstrate how perspectival relationality and the geometry of performer audience relations in postcolonial Benin City played out privilege and politics.