Illegal dumping in Ivory Coast (2006) is the title of a vivid and provoking play in the Netherlands. At the time, the Probo Koala (a cargo ship carrying toxic waste) had intoxicated thousands of Ivoirians. “We’ve become insensitive” to this human tragedy, says Dutch play director, Eric de Vroedt.
This week at the Frascati theatre, in Amsterdam’s city centre, de Vroedt and his theatre company, Mighty Society, are performing L’amour au temps des affaires toxiques. A play de Vroedt produced because he is “outraged by the case”.
In July 2006, the Probo Koala docked in the port of Amsterdam, where its cargo was to be processed. However, the operation was cancelled because the cargo was more toxic than anticipated. The following month, the Probo Koala dumped its cargo of toxic waste on various sites in Abidjan.
“Five years on and we still don’t know what really happened or who is responsible”, de Vroedt bursts out. “Five years on and the guilty party, multinational company Trafigura, is yet to face trial”.
The show comprises three main parts. It starts with a satirical depiction of the media. De Vroedt: “How is such a disaster presented in the media? How is Africa presented? On stage, a camera crew searches for the victims of the Probo Koala in Abidjan. The facts are then manipulated to suit the European audience”.
“Then, through a press conference by Trafigura officials, we establish political and economic responsibilities in the case. This is inspired by the legend of Medea, in Greek mythology. The play ends with a monologue and a dance, for a physical illustration of the ongoing struggle between the West and Africa”.
Through his work, the play director seeks to fight indifference amongst people. “Here in the Netherlands, we read newspapers and watch news broadcasts. But it doesn’t move us anymore. We’ve become insensitive”.
A foolish mistake
Among the guests at the Amsterdam theatre is Malian musician, Fatoumata Diawara. She was born in Ivory Coast, where she lived until the age of ten.
“I was moved by the play”, Diawara says. She adds: “I thought people had already forgotten about this case, like they usually forget events about Africa. There is a lot going on, but all is quickly forgotten because it’s Africa. But Africa is enduring, she is strong”.
“Many families were affected and the numbers keep growing. I hope this play goes around the world so that our leaders realise their foolish mistake. We are silenced by our poverty but Africans are aware of the gravity of that event”, Diawara concludes.