Op Hoop van Zegen (1900) is a typical Dutch story about the harsh conditions of the fishermen and their families who were only instruments in the hands of rich bosses from the top layer of society. There are many parallels with the situation of the fishermen in Senegal.
Fish is still paid dearly in Senegal. With the production of a Dutch-Senegalese version of Heijermans’ theatre classic Op Hoop van Zegen, Theatre Embassy and the Center Culturel Abdel Kader Fall aim to raise the poor working conditions of fishermen on so-called mother ships. The premiere took place in 2007 on the beach of the fishing town of Saint-Louis, Senegal.
For more than twenty-five years, Senegalese fishermen have been boarding international mother ships with their own wooden pirogues to fish outside territorial waters. The fishermen spend three months at sea with more than two hundred men. They work under appalling conditions: more than 16 hours a day, seven days a week with one day of rest in three months. The fishermen are not given enough food and drink and have no access to sanitary facilities. Every year young men die onboard these bateaux de ramassage.
With the original version of Op Hoop van Zegen as a starting point and with input from fishermen, Senegalese and Dutch theatre-makers created a new piece in Saint-Louis, relevant to the zeitgeist and situation in Senegal. A socially critical message was given in a subtle, yet clear manner. Senegal itself has a tradition of folk theatre in which it is customary to work around a social theme. Fisheries organizations have repeatedly unsuccessfully raised the alarm about the situation onboard the mother ships. Better working and living conditions onboard the mother ships are feasible; only a debate and (political) will to actually tackle this is lacking. The aim of the production Op Hoop van Zegen is to put the fishing problem on the agenda.
Op Hoop van Zegen was a co-production on the cutting edge of culture and development of Theatre Embassy (Amsterdam) and the Center Culturel Abdel Kader Fall (Saint-Louis), supported substantially by the unions Union Démocratique des Travailleurs Sénégalais (UDTS) and CNV International. In addition to the series of performances, a seminar was organized in early January 2008 with everyone involved.
The director was Pape Samba Sow (SN) and Anna Rottier (NL). Jean-Pierre Leurs (SN, director Opera du Sahel) and Leoni Jansen (NL) are involved as artistic advisors.
Partner organisation: Centre Culturel Abdel Kader Fall
Director: Anna Rotier
Local artists: 15
Target group: Fishermen
Participating Organizations: Quai des Arts, UDTS and CNV International.
Finances: Dutch Embassy in Dakar, CNV Internationaal, FAPK, Brian & Lavinia Snyder Foundation, Kunstenaars & CO.
Theme: Labour rights of fishermen.
Extra: Visitors’ program with national Unions for fisherman and the Dutch Union.
Photo exposition in the Hague Het Gemak by Rachel Corner.