The Alchemy of Words

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Naomi van Niekerk
Arnaud van Vliet
Yoann Pencolé

VIDEO & SCENOGRAPHY Naomi van Niekerk
MUSIC & SOUND DESIGN Arnaud van Vliet
PUPPET DESIGN Yoann Pencolé, Arnaud van Vliet, Naomi van Niekerk

I am now making myself as scummy
as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I am
working at turning myself into a seer… The idea
is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the
senses. It involves enormous suffering but one
must be strong and be born a poet… – Arthur Rimbaud, 1871.


Arthur Rimbaud (1854 -1894) the ‘enfant terrible’ of French poetry published his first immortal poem at the age of 16 only to completely abandon writing poetry at the age of 21. During this short period he managed to create a body of work that has had a profound impact on the poetry of his own time and on that of the 20th Century. André Breton, Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Jim Morrison are some of the artists and musicians that have been influenced by his writing.


Who is this literary pioneer and creative genius who continues to receive letters from fans all over the world even 123 years after his death?  

In The Alchemy of Words, three artists – a puppeteer, a filmmaker and a musician search to capture the enigma of Arthur Rimbaud and what it means to be a pioneer. Expect an immersive experience that combines sand animation, puppetry and live music inspired by the diverse imagery from his poems – smoke filled battlefields, the lush countryside of the French Ardennes, colourful vowels, grey cityscapes, crimson seas…

This collaboration between South African and French artists was made possible by the generous support of the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS)




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