Rashif El Kaoui graduated as a Master of the Spoken Word at the Royal Conservatiore in Antwerp in 2014, and since then has been an actor, rapper, audio-maker and writer. In 2016 he won the El Hizjra Literature Prize in the prose category. His work has been published in Das Magazin and the 2018 Das Mag Sampler.
Together with the actor Lucas de Man and photographer Ahmet Polat, he is working on a project called De Man is Lam, about being a man in 2018. It’s possible to listen to the podcast with this title every month on the VPRO’s Nooit meer slapen.
He has performed in plays by 't Arsenaal, Het Paleis, fABULEUS, de Monty and KVS. He is a member of the renewed open ensemble at the KVS, where he has already performed in Malcolm X, Odysseus, een zwerver komt thuis, Drarrie in de nacht (KVS) and JR (FC Bergman/Toneelhuis/NTGent/KVS). He teaches oratory at the Academy in Mortsel and gives courses on 'pitching' and 'presentation techniques’ for Fortio/Syntra Bedrijfsopleidingen.
Who was your childhood hero?
As a child I felt a closer connection with the animal world than with that of people. In my childhood mind, heroes were always animals (the ant crossing the puddle of water risking life and limb; the blackbird protecting its young from a cat, etc.). An ermine with human features often figured as a protagonist in my fantasies. In other words, I had very few friends as a child.
When you were a child, what did you want to become?
As a child I wanted to be an interpreter. I thought it was great that people could speak several languages and could act as a channel between different worlds. The fact that the command of language implied a certain power. The way an interpreter manoeuvres between the one and the other, without necessarily having to be the one or the other himself.
What was your most unforgettable experience on stage?
It is hard to choose one specific moment. Every time you are on stage and you feel that there is a connection between you and the audience it is a moment worth remembering. When what is being said or done on stage starts to live in the minds of the audience, something occurs that transcends the simple notion of a ‘performance’. If I have to name one moment it’s the performance I did as a teenager at Karlskrona in Sweden. I was in a hip-hop group and we had won a music competition; part of the prize was to give a few performances in Sweden. When four lads from Limburg captivate an audience in a civic theatre in Sweden, as one of them, you feel for a short time like the king of the world. It was so special precisely because it was so far from home and because there was no immediate follow-up to the performance. Performing for performance’ sake, the naivety of the moment and, ‘getting hyped as fuck’.
Who would be a hero to you now?
For me, the prototype of a hero is the ‘Tank Man’. The unknown protester who held back a column of tanks on Tiananmen Square in 1989. A ‘pointless’ act of resistance against something much bigger than himself. Taking up a struggle that you can’t win but still doing it anyway.
What does it mean to you to perform in Malcolm X at KVS?
Malcolm X always made an impression on me. Although he is often portrayed in black and white terms (no pun intended), the course of his life was full of change. The contrast between his determination and his openness to change is fascinating. Apart from that I’m simply excited to be working together with a varied team of talented people.