With Marion Desmaret, PAM went to the heart of the Afropollination program, a first-of-its-kind music and cultural exchange that facilitates the creative encounters between artists, genres, disciplines, identities, ideas, cultures, technologies, and communities from various regions of Africa and Germany. For the 2022/2023 program, Afropollination collaborated with Ugandan collective Nyege Nyege and the Berlin CTM Festival for a merging of talent that led to the creation of this PAM Meets featuring Astan Ka and directed by Marion Desmaret on the Motorship Stubnitz in Hamburg; an 80m long historic fishing vessel transformed into a cultural venue.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the forgotten heroes of history, the pioneers of all kinds who refused to bend to the rules,” Marion Desmaret says of her work as a journalist and director. Formerly a staff writer for French electronic media Tracks and Franco-German television Arté, Marion has since moved to Berlin as an independent filmmaker capturing stories on the edge of culture. Through this work, Marion found multi-disciplinary artist Astan Ka, star of this latest PAM Meets, in an artist villa somewhere in Kampala Uganda.
“Last September, I was in Uganda for the Nyege Nyege festival to shoot several reports for Tracks, including a documentary on the festival and a report on the first phase of the Afropollination residency, a collaborative project between Africa and Germany, initiated by Nyege Nyege and Piranha Arts, which took place before the festival in Kampala,” Marion explains. “This first phase of the residency brought together about twenty African and German artists, all working together in the Nyege Nyege villa. It was there that I met Astan KA and Binghi, who were experimenting together for the first time.” This first interaction in the electric air of the Nyege villa made its mark. “The chemistry between Astan, French-Malian, and Binghi, Rwandan, was obvious, and the sound they began to develop together was magnetic.”
Fast forward four months and Marion finds the artist once again, but this time on the other side of the world, in the city of Hamburg where the second portion of the Afropollination residency was to take place, on a historic fishing vessel turned cultural venue. “When you get on this boat, it’s as if you accept to leave all concepts of time on earth to enter another reality,” Marion says of the MS Stubnitz. “It’s a microclimate, a time capsule in which you can stay for weeks without ever leaving. The numerous cabins allow the artists who perform there to sleep on site after the concerts.” It is in this alternate reality that the PAM Meets takes place; in and out of the boat’s corridors, circling around a metallic makeshift stage and amidst the colorful lights of old control rooms. “On the MS Stubnitz, everyone worked at their own pace, the artists visited each other in their respective studios, there was singing, dancing and improvising on all sides.”
Here, we see Astan Ka preparing her work with Kigali artist Binghi (a spectacular DJ, artist, and performer) collaborating with the many artists and creatives, and exploring with her and Exoce’s (Astan Ka’s partner, dancer, and fellow creative) adorable daughter, Kimia. “What struck me about Astan is her elegant power. She touches all mediums, music, performance, cinema, and reappropriates their codes,” says Marion. “The day we finished our shoot with some images on the boat’s pontoon, the sun eclipsed the rain: it was a sweet gift.”
Watch the video to get a full sense of the magic of Astan Ka’s music, the in-between moments of the residency, and the result of the long-term collaboration. And keep your eyes open for the soon-to-be-released video “DENG DENG” directed by Sami Grill as well as the premier of the play “Brown Labels”, directed by Mirah Laline, which illustrates the condition of mixed-race people through the eyes of three different performers this April 20-22 at Oyoun Neu Denken in Berlin.