Maverick Life


Marquen Carstens — how words, dance and theatre are bound by ‘bloed’

Marquen Carstens — how words, dance and theatre are bound by ‘bloed’
A model in one of Marquen Carstens’s designs. (Photo: Supplied)

This InArt interview sheds light on his work as fashion designer, theatre maker and playwright.

Fashion designer Mar­quen Carstens is branching out into other things, including writing and directing plays.

When did you first identify as a creative artist?

I began identifying as a creative when I took an interest in sewing at the age of 14. Initially, it was to make some pocket money. However, as time went on, my passion for sewing grew and I realised it was more than just a hobby. I began to experiment with different designs and techniques, and eventually my sewing endeavours turned into a fully fledged, registered fashion business. It was a defining moment when I truly embraced my identity as a creative artist.

Besides your medium, what branch of art most stimulates you?

First, let’s talk about dance. During my five years of working in the dance industry as a costume designer and arts administrator, I was exposed to this art form that opened even more creative avenues for me.

Now, let’s move on to creative writing. I started an NGO named Kookhuis Creatives with two other directors two years ago. It was my introduction into writing and editing scripts. Through storytelling, poetry or even journalling, I am able to express my thoughts, perspectives and experiences in a way that is uniquely my own.

Last, let’s discuss theatre. Theatre combines various forms of art, such as acting, writing, directing, costume design and music to create a multidimensional experience. Engaging in theatre allowed me to step into different roles, explore different emotions and connect with diverse characters and storylines.

This form of art is where all my previous experiences and knowledge came into full effect in co-producing, co-writing, editing and directing the drama Bloedbande, which is showing at KKNK 2024.

Marquen Carstens

Marquen Carstens. (Photo: Supplied)

Which artists in this discipline have inspired you, and why?

Alfred Hinkel and John Linden, the mentors during my time at Garage Dance Ensemble. Working alongside them was definitely my biggest source of inspiration in theatre. Lara Foot is another theatre maker whose work opened my mind to this medium.

What, to you, is art’s most important function?

Art plays a crucial role in empowering the youth with employment opportunities and providing them with a platform through which to express their thoughts and ideas. In a country like South Africa, where social and economic growth is of the utmost importance, art acts as a catalyst.

Artistic expression allows young individuals to convey their perspectives and contribute to social conversations, thereby fostering inclusivity and diversity. Furthermore, the arts industry contributes significantly to South Africa’s economy through tourism, cultural exchange and creative collaborations.

Which local creatives excite you?

Co-writing the script for Bloedbande with Ester Engelbrecht, Shanell Brant and my mother, Maria van Wyk, left me feeling excited, because I realised that Namaqualand has a vast trove of untold stories that deserve to be shared with the world.

Working alongside these talented individuals fuelled my enthusiasm as I dived into the process of crafting the script. Collaborating with others such as Lyntjie Jaars and Khadija Heeger, who are passionate about storytelling and capturing the essence of  Namaqualand, allowed me to explore different perspectives, infusing the narrative with a variety of insights and experiences.

Additionally, the involvement of my mother brought an even deeper level of personal connection and familial bond to the project. It created a unique opportunity for me to honour the rich history and culture of Namaqualand, preserving it for future generations.

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Recognising the wealth of stories waiting to be shared from Namaqualand, I became driven by the thought of contributing to its broader recognition. The prospect of bringing these narratives to light in the form of Bloedbande ignited my passion for storytelling as I embarked on this creative journey.

What specific work do you return to again and again, and why?

I do look to previous works of my own very often and the only reason is to keep on improving my skill set and remembering where it all started.

Marquen Carstens

Marquen Carstens and a client. (Photo: Supplied)

What are your thoughts regarding AI?

I have not been fully introduced to the whole artificial intelligence movement, especially in the arts. I still believe in the manual way of doing things, but I am open to new technological advancements… Sometimes I wish I could have a robot with my skill set, especially when making couture wedding dresses.

Any project you’re unveiling or wrapping up?

Bloedbande is in its rehearsal stage and heads to the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees on 29, 30 and 31 March. I’m also fully in the first matric dance season for 2024, with a lot of interesting 18-year-old girls as clients. My fashion label will stay my first love. DM

Mick Raubenheimer is a freelance arts writer.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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