Tell us about this meeting with your maternal ancestors and how it is represented on stage.

Mémé is a tribute to my deceased grandmothers. It’s also a celebration of our lives that’s intimately connected to the earth from which we come. For most of their lives, the body of my grandmothers was devoted to the home and its upkeep: exploiting the land, taking care of the house, giving birth repeatedly. It was treated as functional and utilitarian, serving the household and the customs of the day. At the end of their life, the body simply collapsed with exhaustion, worn out. It was seldom used as a vehicle of pleasure, sensuality, joy, or relaxation.

The same goes for the soil of our native land. It’s an agricultural region that was ravaged by trench warfare. While my grandmothers may have worked and walked on that land every day of their lives, I don’t believe they really had the chance to experience the natural world that surrounded them. That’s true for their bodies as well. On stage, they’re represented as voices and bodies through my collaboration with puppeteer and object maker Toztli Abril de Dios and sound artist Ibelesse Guardia Ferragutti.

Within a positive, feminist environment, I invite them to join me so that I can share some of the joy and care I’ve learned to give myself. In doing that, I hope to give another meaning to the role and maternal focus that they each had to accept in their own way, within the constraints of their era.


In one of his works, the Belgian philosopher Vinciane Despret states that once brought back to life or in memory, “ghosts are no use as explanatory devices; they should simply be present. They should be honoured, but they cannot explain things […] instead, they should complicate them.” What do you think of this?

That quote really resonates with Mémé. This journey, in which I bring my ancestors back to life, complicates and complexifies certain questions that I still haven’t found answers to. Invoking ghosts makes it possible to identify what is absent and forgotten, to give words and presence to that which we don’t understand and all that hasn’t been said.

My mother’s mother, Mémé, was a strong, generous woman for whom a sense of community and sharing were very important. My father’s mother, meanwhile, suffered from depression her whole life. She didn’t have the mental strength to handle the expectations of her era. Each of them assumed the maternal role that was thrust upon them. One came out of it strong, the other very damaged. Their two different stories are universal in a way, but very complex.

With Mémé, I’m trying to understand the nature of this cross-generational suffering. Part of the play concerns the history of silences in my family, that I collected and stored, whose pain I inherited. These silences are also those of the landscape of my childhood in Flanders. It’s a flat landscape with very few elevations. The horizon of that landscape always seemed to me to be occupied by a painful silence and by wandering ghosts.


At the moment, the need to turn toward the past and ancestral knowledge is shared by many European communities, including some far-right parties who are reviving nationalist fantasies of making their countries more old-fashioned and conservative. How do you situate Mémé in relation to this issue?

Ten years ago, I witnessed the rise of the populist and nationalist right wing in West Flanders. It was a racist, anti-Belgian party with which I do not identify and which led me to take a step back and question the very concept of national identity.

One of the main motivations behind this play is to demand and reclaim my right to the past without the narrative filter imposed by nationalist right-wing groups. While this project is a personal excavation, for me it also represents an act of political resistance by refusing to cede my past and what I imagine about it to the right. To do that, I connected with what my work always involves: the hidden side of history, where voices are silent and have not been heard.