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« Les Oiseaux Rares »: an open invitation to journey

“Once upon a time, in a park in the heart of the city, at the edge of a forest, somewhere under the branches of a tree between day and night, people gathered to celebrate Jawad’s birthday.”

« Les Oiseaux Rares » was the first out of the 10 granted projects from the first Mindchangers’ call for proposals to come to end, in April 2022. The project culminated into a performance which took the form of a “cadavre exquis”, whose first layer was created during workshops with a group of Brussels teenagers, including unaccompanied foreign minors. From these encounters emerged a kaleidoscopic story, a play, a party with the appearance of a documentary fiction. The show was directed and accompanied by actors and musicians Anne Festraets, Michel Massot, Benoit Randaxhe, Judith Léonardon and Léa Le Fell.

“Les Oiseaux Rares” was born out of workshops organised with Brussels teenagers, including unaccompanied foreign minors, at Les Ateliers de Wolubilis (with the participation of Wolu-Jeunes). For a year, the group met every Wednesday afternoon to share their daily lives, their aspirations, their strengths and contradictions. To bet on the creation of a “We” between artists, musicians, actors and teenagers with different origins, statuses and realities. To track down what drives us and constrains us, to draw our common points, to flush out our anger and our wonder, to confront our fantasies and our realities, to get rid of our good intentions and of many of what we thought were good ideas. Dealing with reality, writing with the unexpected, moving forward with the absent.

Out of this year of meetings with twenty young people emerged a birthday party for Jawad, who is no longer allowed to be here, with Us. Among the young people who participated in the workshops, six stayed until the end of the process and shared the stage with the professional team. During the April school break, rehearsals took place. Then, the premiere took place on 16 April, offering a 360° open-air show in which the public was invited to take turns playing the various characters and roles that have marked the project throughout its development. The show was presented a total of 6 times in different settings and places in Brussels and beyond.

The main challenge of the project was to keep the young people motivated and involved throughout the various workshops and meetings. At the beginning, the young people came, curious about the artistic disciplines involved (music, theatre, song and dance) but did not directly realise the underlying subject of the project – the reception of unaccompanied foreing minors in Belgium and the encounter between their world and their lives. Some teenagers only realised the situation of those unaccompanied youths as they took part in the workshop during the writing phase of the show.

The project opened a door to continue the adventure by placing this porosity with reality at the centre of the stage. Telling Jawad’s story encourages all of us to question what adolescence is, how to write of the passing of time, what lies behind our need to celebrate, our buried traditions or those to be invented, the definition of age, territory and borders… So many questions, both intimate and collective, to be constantly shared, especially with those youths who often fall off the radar.