Unholy Magdalenas

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Intersectional feminists, queer activists, and theatre performers. Magdalena Collectief (Musia Mwankumi, Maria Magdalena De Cort, Madonna Lenaert, Abigail Duckworth) met on the KASK campus back in 2021. Today, they’re starting a new chapter. We sat down with member Maria to discuss the collective’s past, present, and future.

How was Magdelena Collectief formed?

I think we found each other artistically because we have shared values and a common interest in mythology, but also shared aspirations. In the artistic field, you see terms like ‘feminism’ and ‘care’ gaining popularity, but these have to be things that we actually live by and manifest for ourselves. So yes, we call ourselves an intersectional feminist collective, which is something we keep working towards.

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We started working together in 2021 on a play called ZOUT. It wasn’t the greatest thing we’ve done, but it allowed us to create a shared language. During that time, we also had a project in which we asked men to send us their pubic hair to create an art piece. It made it to the papers and we got all sorts of reactions ‘Who are these crazy people? Is this where funds are going?’ We don’t even receive grants! After that came our Master's project DO YOU LOVE HER, which is an absurdist play about desirability.

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You mentioned mythology. Where does this necessity to reinterpret myths come from?

We have a common interest in mythology, a need to retell stories, to queer them. We often keep it quirky, peppered with feminist theory. We have very intensive research periods where we read a lot of feminist texts. I think we try to understand how the world works and how we ended up in these systems of patriarchal and monogamous ideals, as well as racial prejudice, ableism, ageism, and other systems of oppression. When we try to understand the past, it's often through stories. It’s also something we find very fun. We love to tell each other stories. Some of us are very interested in the Bible as folklore and mythology. We have this dream of possibly doing a nativity play with Magdalena. It’s such a fantastical story, yet it still does something so real to people. Myths often perpetuate a rigid and traditional way of thinking, but revisiting them allows us to turn things over.

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Myths often perpetuate a rigid and traditional way of thinking, but revisiting them allows us to turn things over

How would you describe the reception of such feminist and queer themes in the local theatre scene?

I don’t think our projects are explicitly about feminism, but in them, they incorporate feminist ideas. I think everyone truly sees something different in it. I mean sure, I guess we all have our political identities on stage as well. I will say, however, there’s a commitment to diversify theatre and amplify different voices in the collective.

 

Speaking of diversity, I wanted to ask you about Ghent itself. Before I moved from Lebanon to Belgium two years ago, Ghent was presented to me as a progressive queer-friendly city. I want to know what you think about this ‘branding’ as a local activist.

I think there's something very dangerous in thinking that we are doing much better than different countries. All of us still experience harassment on the daily: verbally, physically, in the street, in school, and wherever.  When a queer couple walks hand in hand, they will still get looks on the streets. A lot of our friends who are not cisgender, or who are ethnic minorities, still face street violence and institutional discrimination. This progressive label puts the bar high, but we can’t take it for granted. A lot of our personal encounters are politically charged, but I think generalising a political experience can lead to ignorance. That’s where intersectionality comes in.

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You’ve all graduated from KASK. What’s next?

The Different Class event, of course! We’re still in the early stages, but we’re excited to co-curate it with Yalla Nightlife. As a collective, we care about inclusivity and creating a magical, queered energy. Especially for artists. We don’t want it to be just a game of who knows who. We'll also be continuing our project Let’s Talk about Masculinity, which we started in 2021. We create a space where men can take up space to talk about their own suffering under patriarchy.

I think generalising a political experience can lead to ignorance. That’s where intersectionality comes in

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One last question. What are you listening to these days?

I actually listen to a lot of audiobooks while biking during the summer. As a collective, we’ve also been listening to a lot of Caroline Polacheck recently. I also want to give a shoutout to Maurice Luijten aka Daniël Paul. He helped us with soundtracks for our projects and he always manages to do it perfectly.  He is a real musical warlock!

As a collective, we care about inclusivity, and creating a magical, queered energy. Especially for artists. We don’t want it to be just a game of who knows who

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @magdalenacollectief <br/> Due to multiple unforeseen reasons, we've had to cancel the Different Class feat. Magdalena Collectief x Yalla Nightlife event... It isn't in our habit to do so but trust we will be back soon with fun new projects! Take care 💗 <br/> Different Class and KASK & Conservatorium are teaming up for a series of artist portraits, featuring some of the interesting alumni and student profiles. </div></div>

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