The Descent

Photography: Enrique Villalonga

The Descent was an immersive, outdoor, site-specific theatre ritual performed in December, 2021, in Northwest Ibiza. Inspired by the Greek myth Persephone, and the Eleusinian Mysteries – the secretive rites carried out in Ancient Greece, also taking inspiration from the story of Persephone – participants undertook a theatricalised journey across a wild, outdoor terrain beside a historical cave, culminating in a ‘descent’ to the rim of the Underworld.

Led in groups of twelve people at a time, audience members were initiated into the Persephone myth via a storytelling guide, reciting texts in English and Ibicenc – Ibiza’s native dialect of Catalan – giant puppet rituals, and live painting performance with the island’s raw earth pigments. Before embarking upon their descent to the Underworld, participants were given an elixir made from local organic Ibizan pomegranates steeped in alcohol. On arrival to the rim of the Underworld – the prehistoric sink hole cave, S’Avenc des Pouàs, in Ibiza’s Santa Agnès – the group undertook a multi-sensory ceremonial journey to the realm of Hades inspired by African initiatory mask rites, before concluding their voyage in a closing ritual by the fire pit.

The Descent was an attempt to reaffirm the mythic identity of the pomegranate, an ancient, native fruit of Ibiza, and also to reaffirm the meaning and significance – on cultural, ecological and psycho-spiritual levels – of winter, on an island whose identity is based around its summer season.

All photographs are by Enrique Villalonga, of Filmotica, who also created this trailer of the performance.