RAFO DIAS: DRAGONS, MONSTERS AND OVERCOMING FEAR
By Marina Lopes
Rafo Diaz’s Maputo home is both a child’s dream and worst nightmare. The charming cottage in a leafy suburb is filled with seashells and toys. Guitars, a piano and a xylophone line the walls of his living room, waiting to be played, and a wooden swing hangs from the porch. His twelve-year-old daughter, who just returned from school where she won a poetry prize, spends the afternoon barefoot on the front yard, inspecting old maps. Yet inside keeps Maputo’s eclectic monsters. A three-headed cat, plastic ghost and gigantic snakes, all painted by him, line the walls of his foyer. The Peruvian puppeteer, who brought the darling play, Liliana, to the Centro Franco Moçambicano this year, launches his second spectacle this week with, Tudo Sobre o Dragão.
Diaz, a lively man with hair down to his shoulders and slanted eyes perpetually squinted in a smile, had an unconventional start. Born in the heart of the Amazon jungle, he was raised on a diet of mythology. As an adolescent inspired by the tragic world of Edgar Allan Poe, he wrote dark stories about tortured minds. Diaz soon threw himself into tribal theatre, breathing it 24 hours a day. “I was young, I was looking for something to put me in line. For some it is college, for me it was theatre. I needed somewhere to direct my creative energy,” he said. While living in Chile, Diaz met a group of performers that converted him take up puppeteering. “While they spoke to me in all seriousness, they would be playing with puppets on the side.”
When he came to Mozambique in 2009, he brought with him the story of Liliana, a young girl so afraid of eating her vegetables that they grow into monsters she must fight to survive. “I’m obsessed with idea of monsters and overcoming fear,” said Diaz.
Complete with interactive songs, costumes and puppets, the show brought delight and giggles to Maputo’s children in January. He has since toured around the country, bringing theatre to villages that had never seen puppets before. Diaz’ latest show, which premieres at CCFM, on March 30th will incorporate Chinese shadow puppets and Japanese techniques. In addition to the shows, Diaz holds classes every week, where adults of all professions can learn to overcome stage fright and learn the art of storytelling.