Atelier Okan Akin
Soul Famine is an absurdist, tragicomic performance art solo. Zahira's first one woman show. She uses her theatrical talent, connection to the audience, movement, silence, and vocals to create an intimate and comical landscape and to explore the inside of a dark mind suffering from an existential crisis. Welcome to the funeral of mental health.
Text from Zahira:
“In Soul Famine I take people on a journey so they can travel inward. It’s an invitation to look at our own minds, our mental health. The other pandemic. The mental health crisis. I feel an urgency personally, and on a societal level, to tackle this in an engaging way, in a very inviting way. With humor. Because I think right now we all crave laughter, but also more self-awareness and context.”
We are gathered here today in memory of our beloved
When we heard they were no more, we were shocked and saddened
We are now deprived of them
They were oh so loved by many
While we mourn this loss, we pay tribute to what once was
They were committed to peace, harmony, and spreading joy
Our beloved didn’t choose to depart on their own
They were forced into death
INSPIRATION: My keywords to create this performance are absurdity, humor, silence ,and intelligence. My style of creating a performance is a collage. I present different scenes that do not create a story, but a common thread around the theme. For this project, I was inspired by Samuel Beckett’s classic, Waiting for Godot. The content of this piece has always inspired me because it touches on the meaninglessness of life itself, but Beckett does it in such a way that there is still a glimmer of hope. This is something I want to achieve with my work. By this I mean, I am a maker who likes to address social themes. In the past I’ve created work around sexual trauma such as Reclaiming the Goddess, and I’m currently working on mental health. Even though these are serious themes, I like to do it in a way that is so surreal and so strange that it becomes recognizable. I’m super interested in the absurdity of things. I am a big fan of existential philosophy. Why do things exist? Why does my mind exist? Why does depression exist? Does it actually exist or is it a figment of my own imagination? Those are the kinds of questions I ask myself.
This brings me to one of my other sources of inspiration, Marina Abramovic, and in particular the experiment she did in 2010 at the MoMA in New York, The Artist is Present. I am fascinated by long silences. It somehow makes people uncomfortable. I feel that silence is confrontational without trying to be confrontational. It can create a deeper engagement of both the artist and the audience. No, I won’t sit in front of another person for eight hours a day, for three months, but I really enjoy the integrity and intensity of silence as opposed to the chaos of the world and the monkey mind where thoughts travel 100 kilometers. per hour through the mind. And I like old-fashioned slapstick like Charlie Chaplin. I’m super impressed with The Kid from 100 years ago. He was a master of silent film and tragicomedy. Quiet. And yet so expressive. Tragic. Yet so funny.
MOTIVATION: I like to use dark humor to work with serious social and personal themes. To approach the tragedy of life in that way. I started using the term “soul hunger” as a way of describing depression. It is related to the desire to live a reality other than the darkness I can experience in my mind. It is the feeling of having a greater purpose and not feeling well aligned with your current reality, which can cause depression. With Soul Famine I want to express this soul hunger, to make the absurdity of depression visible, audible and tangible. And even: laughable.
Zahira Mous is a dance theater maker, performer, coach and writer in the performing arts. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Oklahoma (US). With Zahira’s dance theater company Project Zahira showed her works in the United States, the Netherlands, Brazil, India, and Greece. She led a dance education outreach program for at-risk girls and young women called Changing Lives Through Dance, and is the founder of NGO the Healing Arts Foundation.
Zahira developed her own method, Art in Motion – a healing practice of movement & creativity, which she facilitates worldwide, most recently for freed women prisoners in Palestine. In February 2022, she was an invited artist-in-residence at the Spanish Joya-AIR.
She makes works that seamlessly melt dance and theater. Umbrella themes of (looking for, peeling off) identity move through all of Zahira’s professional works – with an emphasis on social awareness. In 2019, she made Reclaiming the Goddess about women empowerment and healing after sexual trauma, in the #metoo realm. And now about mental health with Soul Famine (2022).
During Soul Famine, Zahira will also exhibit her art works at Atelier Okan Akin, which she creates specifically for this performance, with depression as its theme. Zahira started painting as an extension of her dance -and meditation work. She calls it Energy Art; these are paintings that Zahira creates by meditating and tuning in with the energetic field, for example her client’s aura.
For more info, visit: www.zahiramous.com and IG @zahiramous
Concept / creation / performance: Zahira Mous
Production: Project Zahira
Costume design: Inez van der Meer
Scenography: Zahira Mous
Decor build: Kees Mous
Artistic assistance: Daniel Liddiard
Thanks to Atelier Okan Akin and special thanks to Anneke & Kees Mous.