Project Description

Jean-Louis N’Tadi


Playwright Jean-Louis N’Tadi was born in 1964 in Congo-Brazzaville. His works include the play Le Chef de l’Etat, a parable highly critical of the presidency of Sassou-Nguesso which has been performed in various venues in Brazzaville, the plays Vendu, Verve d’une Creature and Monsieur le Maire which were destroyed by the Brazzaville security services, and L’Acte de Naissance, two volumes written during his detention at Campsfield. N’Tadi’s new play Cries of the Cricket was performed on the London Eye on 21 June 2005 as part of a celebration of African culture in advance of the G8 summit in Scotland in July.
A political activist with the main opposition party and a Red Cross humanitarian worker, he was dubiously charged by the government with “trafficking information” and defamation in connection with the disappearance of 400 refugees in 1999 during the civil war in Congo Brazzaville. After his imprisonment, during which he was tortured, he went into hiding until he obtained a visa for the UK in December 2003. However, upon his arrival at Heathrow Airport in February 2004, he was refused asylum in the UK and sent to Oakington detention centre. Since then he has passed through five detention centres and seven different lawyers, and endured countless interviews and humiliation. He was detained at Campsfield House immigration detention centre until his release on bail last year.
(Information provided by English PEN)

The glass of water
Translated by Irene Wyndham
It cleanses the soul, or the spirit of man,
The conjunctivitis which blocks the vision of the blind man;
And, like an eraser, it washes away the black blood, anointing an exposed forehead
Then elevates the sacred beauty of the fingers above that of the fingernails.

It buffers the shock of grieving and overheated hearts
It eases the digestion of food consumed on the run
Exhorts the throat to assuage its thirst
Dampens the hair so it can be moulded into a pretty style.

It holds the key to life
And sprays man with its perfume
Until the final days of his life
When he transforms into a dolphin.

With its limpid flavour
It facilitates rapid benedictions through its nourishing pores
Oh water! It’s the source of all life
And its gentle aroma makes us forever long for more.

Saint Francis House, Oxford, 3rd August, 2006