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Christoph Schlingensief’s legacy – the Operndorf Afrika

The Operndorf Afrika (Opera Village Africa) is currently being constructed in Burkina Faso, according to Christoph Schlingensief’s ideas. It is an art project which aims to remove the separation between art and life. Opera as an art form is to be revitalised and placed in the midst of life. In Burkina Faso, the fifth poorest country worldwide, something is to be discovered that has almost been lost in Europe: an unprejudiced approach to art.

In January 2010, the foundation stone for the Opera Village Africa was laid not far from Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou. Christoph Schlingensief, the project’s initiator, was already ravaged by his fight against cancer. And yet he chose this very moment to help other people. “I finally want to give away money without receiving anything in return. I want to learn from Africa. I don’t want to dictate anymore, I can’t dictate to them anyway”, Christoph Schlingensief wrote in June 2010, only three months before his death.

The legacy

But the opera village will continue to be developed even after his death, because Aino Laberenz, Schlingensief’s widow, has taken over the project management. The stages of the process were determined before Schlingensief’s death: the festival hall will only be built after a school and an infirmary have been installed. Afterwards, the initiators may cultivate cropland to guarantee self-sufficiency, and build a restaurant and workshops. Like a snail’s house, the village will continually grow around a central square. The form of a snail’s house here follows the structure of traditional African villages, where buildings are located in a circle around a central square. This central place will initially be a kind of market place. Only later, the festival hall will be erected here.

The opera village’s motto is „Learning from Africa“. Just as the village will grow from out of itself, African pupils will not be pressured to deal with foreign European culture. Apart from the usual lessons, there will be classes for film, art and music. Here the pupils will be able to give expression to their imagination without any constraints by guidelines about content.

The first day of school will be in October

Francis Kéré, an architect from Burkina Faso, is one of the most important contributors to the programme. Schlingensief himself called Kéré his biggest godsend. He is a native Burkinabé who contributes his own ideas to the opera village – an African who understands German thinking, a communicator between the cultures. Financed by a scholarship from the Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft (the predecessor organisation of InWEnt and GIZ), he came to Germany to study architecture. In 2004, Kéré was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the most highly remunerated architecture award in the world, for a climate-friendly school.

The opera village’s school building too will be built according to plans by Francis Kéré and the first class of children will start school there in October. Thanks to the particular construction, outside temperatures of up to 40 degrees in the shade will be lowered to around 25 degrees without any use of electricity! Apart from the development of climate-friendly buildings, Kéré is committed to the use of sustainable building materials and the integration of the local workforce. He also considers traditional building techniques in his plans. Thus, the buildings too will follow Schlingensief’s motto of “Learning from Africa”.


Members of the Alumni-Community from Burkina Faso can communicate in the following groups:

In “Deutschlehrer Burkina Faso” , you will find other German teachers in Burkina Faso.

Zur Community

In “CDG Alumni Burkina Faso” , former CDG-alumni from Burkina Faso can exchange ideas and experiences.

Zur Community



Christoph Schlingensief

Christoph Schlingensief, a famous German opera, movie and theatre director. He died 2010 at the age of 50.

May 2011

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