While touring, the Zon-mai has become the ambassador of its commissioner, the Cité nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration, which invited Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Gilles Delmas to create the work. By doing so, the young cultural institution has opened its doors to artists.

Opening a space to artistic expression

As the Cité nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration created its artistic programming department in May 2006, it was decided to invite artists whose work was emblematic of a reflection on immigration. The issue was understood in a larger sense, including questions of memories, histories, identities and integration, as well as those of exclusion, distance from the Other, or the difficulty of access to culture for all. 

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Gilles Delmas came to discover the Palais de la porte dorée, where the Cité is located. They took into account the goals aimed of the new institution but also its constraints: housed in a beautiful historical building, it is totally inappropriate to stage arts. Furthermore, it was going to be under construction for three years. The desire to collaborate in the construction of the Cité urged them to think of a solution that would enable them to overcome the physical obstacles imposed by the building. The Zon-mai was the answer to these constraints: a n inside-out house designed in the shape of a multi-media installation.

The piece

Through the choreographic sequences and their cyclic composition, the Zon-mai tries to stress different elements linked to immigration (the construction of identity, the notion of a private sphere, sharing with others, the discovery of a new realm), as well as the obstacles to integration (the risk of isolation and confinement, lack of understanding, suspicion from both sides). With this creation at the crossroads of movement, visual arts, and architecture, the Cité pushes forward its ambition to stress less on the distances between people than the collective history made of distinct trajectories that tie them together.

A nomadic ambassador

As the project evolved, the makers realized that for some time life at the construction site could be a metaphor for the migrant experience: the place for which it had been conceived could not house it for a while. The Zon-mai’s destiny thus changed: it became by a joint decision the Cité’s ambassador. Traveling from city to city, it will have a nomadic and independent life until it finally finds the room dedicated to it at the Cité.
 

Serge Aimé Coulibaly filmed in one of the rooms of the Palais

La Condition Publique © Awatef Chengal

Serge Aimé Coulibaly filmed in one of the rooms of the Palais

La Condition Publique © Awatef Chengal