Katt Lissard

MEMORY OR A DROWNING LANDSCAPE

Roma and Malealea, Lesotho
  • Photograph by Jessica Meyer
  • Photograph by J.M. Lenka, International Rivers
  • Photograph by Jessica Meyer
  • Photograph by Jessica Meyer
  • Photo by Bokang Ntloko
  • Photograph by Eric Feinblatt for The Winter/Summer Institute
  • Photograph by Nigel Watson for the Winter/Summer Institute
  • Photograph by Rik Walton for The Winter/Summer Institute
  • Photograph by Katt Lissard for The Winter/Summer Institute
  • Photograph by Rik Walton for The Winter/Summer Institute
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Since April 2016, Katt Lissard has been involved in a four-phased experiment to perform the resonance of place in Lesotho, southern Africa.  The project, Memory of a Drowning Landscape, builds on her earlier work on the destructive impacts of dam construction, Split the Village, expanding that project’s focus on the global threat of climate change by looking at local loss. 

 

In collaboration with students and colleagues from the National University of Lesotho’s Theatre Unit, shebegan to explore the intangible cultural heritage lost to communities visually, acoustically and orally along the flooded Phuthiatšana River Valley in rural Lesotho – the result of the construction of the Metolong Dam.  Subsequent phases of Memory of a Drowning Landscapeexperimented with performance ideas around giving and receiving directions to places dependent on disappearing landmarks and flexible concepts of time. 

 

The piece Lissard and her collaborators created, Where Will I Find Our Water? (Moo Ke tla Fumano Metsi a Rona?), is a tragi-comedy about altered landscapes and the ways we move through them, the continued power of folklore and stories, and the corruption inherent in the unending battle over water.  It was performed as part of Lesotho’s National Heritage Day celebration.

The early phases of Memory of a Drowning Landscapegave vivid, encouraging evidence that there are ways to approach performing a vanishing world.  The challenge, as the work moves forward into the fourth phase, Transition, will be to continue to discover ways to perform what remains and what resonates while also resisting easy illustration.  In ongoing collaboration with students and by reaching out to members of upended communities, the project will pursue deeper, universally resonant metaphors of what might no longer be. A central focus will be to expand efforts at gathering directions to altered places using markers and signposts that are recast or converted, all reliant on collective memory and narrative context – annotating the universal phenomenon of climate change, redrawing and transforming the maps of our known world.

 

In 2019, as part of phase 4, Transition, Lissard and her collaborators will also making preliminary preparations for an Environmental Arts Lab in the Malealea Valley. The Lab will be a partnership with the community-led Malealea Development Trust (MDT), which includes the participation and support of the Malealea Lodge, and with MAP. The Trust has a history of successful community leadership and village involvement across a spectrum of social issues, from HIV to orphan support to environmental initiatives like the reclamation of dongas (deep chasms from drought-induced erosion) and youth-driven recycling campaigns. Since 2006, Malealea (the Trust, the surrounding villages, and the Lodge) has also been one of the main sites for The Winter/Summer Institute’s (WSI’s) work in Lesotho.  Katt Lissard is the Artistic Director of WSI, a collaborative, international applied theatre project (www.wsimaketheatre.org). 

 

* Intangible cultural heritageincludes: stories, songs and dances; sites of ritual or spiritual power; local knowledge of plants and herbs; and the community’s “landscape map,” which was irrevocably transformed once the flooding began and the mnemonic devices people relied on to “place” themselves vanished.