Freeing the Beast (or Catharsis)

French choreographer Betty Tchomanga presented the show Mascarades at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, as part of the Alkantara Festival 2022, between November 18 and 20, after having shown it in several countries since 2019, with performances already scheduled for 2023.

The performance portrays Mami Wata, a stranded mermaid and water goddess, by many considered a monster, a mythological figure from Atlantic and Central Africa and in some parts of Brazil. She embodies the spirit of a white woman in the form of a post-colonial myth. A myth that emerges from the encounter between colonists and African ancestors.

Mami Wata is a figure with the power of sexuality, associated also with pain. She is an ambivalent being who attracts and generates repudiation and aversion, being admired and feared by the population. This is the ambivalence that fuels Mascarades.

This show is the scenic experience of desire, visible in the physical form, rhythmic, vibrant, visceral, where the performer uses the body and the sound to express the feelings that the character transmits to her.

These are moments of powerful and beautiful exaltation, where Tchomanga shows the audience her resources for entering the character. It takes a lot of concentration so that, once she gives birth, Mami Wata doesn’t leave the scene again. And Tchomanga holds it until the last second.

Mami Wata begins the narrative in her mermaid voice, intoning low and high-pitched sounds, creating a sound atmosphere conducive to the audience’s enthrallment.

Then she drags her undulating body along the floor, in a growing preparation (of the actress and the audience) for what happens next. Until the goddess stands up and releases her senses.

She vibrates, shivers, sweats, jumps rhythmically and constantly until she reaches the peak of her possession, where she unveils the desire to reach the other, to feel the other, to understand the other. But also the estrangement and the fear of the deception of this encounter, which turns into anger. But Mami Wata does not give up and pushes to the limit her courage to dive into the mysterious world of others.

The music plays a very important role in this show by the way it helps the performer to reach the character’s climax. The rhythms, between South African electronics and more minimalist resonances, are striking and Tchomanga expresses them physically.

In an intense babble, words from Casey J.’s powerful lyrics Libérez la Bête are chewed, while the movement of the body follows them. 75 minutes of dancing and declaiming simultaneously is not something everyone can do. Only a goddess can do it.

In Tchomanga’s performance, the visibility of a deeply present body is impressive, a body entirely alive from head to toe, in the expression of the inside in the outside and in the utter coherence of that connection. There is no failed deed, no search for perfection, everything is already there.

The gesture is purely ritual, the ancestral way of communication through time to make something happen on stage, to create. Tchomanga embodies and creates with a central throbbing, based on the vertical leap, a leap that evokes power. Mami Wata reveals that her power is generated from her vulnerability and in needing others to manifest herself. Therefore, in the “Farewell” to this catharsis, the goddess pronounces:

“Please be well

And all I true love

Is the light in my sister’s darling eyes”.



Creation and interpretation Betty Tchomanga

light design Eduardo Abdala sound design Stéphane Monteiro

external view Dalila Khatir

Emma Tricard

vocal consultancy

Dalila Khatir

production direction Aoza – Marion Cachan

special thanks to Marlene Monteiro Freitas, Gaël Sesboüé

Vincent Blouch

production Lola Gatt with the support

Endowment Fund of Quartz, national scene of Brest


Le Pacifique – CDCN of Grenoble, L’Atelier de Paris CDCN, La Gare – Fabrique des Arts en mouvement in Relecq- Kerhuon, Festival La Bécquée – Un soir à l’Ouest, le Cabaret Vauban – Brest sponsorship

SARL SICC Saint-André-de Cubzac

Original title Mascarades

Length 75 min.

Target audience from 12 years old


This project is supported by the City of Brest and the Brittany Ministry of Culture – DRAC.

The association Lola Gatt is supported by the Brittany Region.


TNDM II crew

stage direction Pedro Leite

light operation Pedro Alves

sound operation Rui Antunes, Rui Dâmaso

backstage Carla Torres

executive production Rita Forjaz

Jini Afonso completed her undergraduate education and Master's degree in Philosophy at NOVA University of Lisbon, has a post-graduate degree in Information Sciences from the Lusófona University of Humanities and Technologies, and a Master's degree in Curatorship and Art Criticism from the University of the Arts London, Chelsea College of Art & Design. She has been involved in projects as co-curator: Brilliant Sound at Late at Tate, Tate Britain and One Night Stands Projects (1,2,3) at Wimbledon College, London, and as assistant curator: Project Flags at Kunstfack School of Art and Design, Stockholm, Berlin Fair of Contemporary Jewellery and the project Impressions on Contemporary Jewellery in Nuremberg. She was director of the Documentation Centre at INETE, a trainer in Communication and Information Management at the same institute and a Philosophy and Psychology teacher in different Secondary Schools. In India, she trained in Yoga at the Yoga Vidya School, the Kundalini Course at the Agama Yoga School and did a specialization in Meditation with Dev Narayan; and in Switzerland she specialized in Yoga Therapy with Doug Keller. In Portugal, she did the Introductory Training to Somatic Experience by Somatic - School of Body Psychotherapies, the Diploma and Expert Courses of Clinical, Transpersonal and Regressive Hypnosis by Transpersonal International and the Training of dISPAr, ISPA's Theatre Group. Jini is a hypnotherapist, trainer in Clinical Hypnosis, Yoga and Meditation teacher and Art critic. She is particularly interested in the theories of Performing Arts (with emphasis on Physical Theatre and Improvisation), Psychodrama, travelling, poetry and photography.

Signup for our newsletter!

I accept the Privacy Policy

Subscribe Umbigo

4 issues > €34

(free shipping to Portugal)