I meet Brigitte Kaquet, the director of the Belgian Voix de Femmes (Women’s Voices) Festival in the lobby of Hotel Ora. The festival, now in its 25th year, highlights the artistic work of women across diverse cultures. I’m interested to hear what she has to say about the Western world’s hierarchy of stories and how the narratives of non-Western women are often sidelined or ignored.
In her masterclass for the Femart Festival, Kaquet will be offering a brief history of how the Voix de Femmes festival was built on the idea of representing women artists in all their diversity. “It [the festival] started with the cultural diversity of women artists – with women artists of the world – and the idea of [presenting] cultures and women nobody knew,” Kaquet says.
The festival initially began within the context of the Magdalena Project, an international network of women in theater co-founded by Kaquet. As the festival began to grow, Kaquet was determined to not have the festival grow through marketing. “You lose strength with marketing-based big festivals,” she says. “I wanted to stay in the art – it [the festival] is a place produced and realized by women, women of different cultures.”
This purity of vision led the festival to collaboration with surprising partners, such as the mothers of the missing and disappeared across the world, in places such as Argentina. I ask Kaquet about the position the festival occupies as an event situated in the West, providing a space for women of the non-Western world, and all of the questions of privilege and ownership that go along with occupying such a space. Kaquet is matter of fact in describing what she calls “the limit of the power of an artistic event against a really political and human problem.”
“You will never be able to change the world,” she says, adding “very often it was the little things between people [that are transformative].” She describes a moment from one of the past editions of the festival, in which, very naturally, a group of musicians from Iran, Morocco, Egypt, the Tuaregs community and Madagascar started improvising – melding their songs into one piece of music.
I ask Kacquet why festivals like Voix de Femme matter – a question that is indirectly posed to Femart every year. Kaquet describes what she experienced when she began her career in the arts. “I was completely surprised that it was men, men, men, and men…at this point with the Magdalena Project I thought we need to make something and to tell everyone that women can create and can transmit culture.” In the context of women’s global struggle for equality, occupying a cultural space means having a voice – a fact as true in Belgium as in any other part of the world, as Kaquet points out.
Kaquet’s masterclass on women and cultural diversity will be held at the Faculty of Art’s gallery in Prishtina at 11:00.