“In the twenty years I have been writing in Denmark no one ever told me
not to write about something…”
Mettte Moestrup, author and activist
This presentation of renowned Danish author, Mette Moestrup, during BE.BOP 2014. SPIRITUAL REVOLUTIONS AND “THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA” took place on Sunday, May 18, 2014 as part of the panel: Is “Neo”-Afrophobia a Scandinavian Syndrome? Re-visiting Nordic Exceptionalism. With Mathias Danbolt, Simmi Dullay, Mette Moestrup, Kuratorisk Aktion. Moderator: Gillion Grantsaan.
After writing two consecutive columns on critical whiteness, a subject that has been part of her intellectual production for a while, Mette Moestrup was asked by her editor to avoid this subject in future columns. In spite of this, she wrote about her experiences during BE.BOP 2014. Her publisher agreed to let it go to print but she then proceeded to fire Moestrup as columnist.
Original article in Danish here:
EVERYONE WHO IS ROOTED IN (AT LEAST) TWO PLACES CAN OFFER RESISTANCE TO THE THINKING OF NATIONAL IDENTITY.
BY METTE MOESTRUP
Flabbergasted of joy. Full of hope. Dizzy from the meeting with so many intelligent eyes, inspiring voices. Already impatient to meet again, make plans, think ahead. That is how I feel after having spent the great holiday in the arms of BE.BOP in Copenhagen where workshops on Christianshavn and performances in Nikolaj Kunsthal were open to the public.
The abbreviation BE.BOP stands for Black Europe Body Politics. It is the third time that this cross-aesthetic event takes place in Europe. The author is the internationally awarded curator Alanna Lockward who among other things knows all about decolonization, and who is firm at getting the theorists and artists to play together in collaboration. So it is not only the brains who are playing the field. Bodies are there as well. In a way, an idea that bodies can think together.
During the weekend I have seen the audience laugh. And cry. And make group body answers to the non-shake off performance about torture by the Colombian artist Hctor Aristizbal. My own spontaneous position in my group – the group consisted of those who happened to stand close to me – was to look for shelter among the others but at the same time to raise a fist up in the air. When we were asked to put words to our position, these words came out of my mouth: “I’m not giving up.”
Earlier that day, the Dominican artist Teresa Maria Diaz Nerio had presented a movie and had talked about brown and black masking, i.e. when white actors are made up as browns and blacks (a couple of funny, comfortably racist examples are Karl Stegger as a caricatured cannibal in the popular movie Styrmand Karlsen from 1958, Lille Per and other children in the song En lille neger fra Afrika from the movie Far til fire og ulveungerne (1958), and, more contemporary, the reggae number Tennisbolden by Drengene fra Angora from 2008). Now, in the group, Teresa cowered below me and whispered “I’m loving”. And the scholar in transatlantic slavery, Robbie Shilliam, was standing straight by our side and said “Love.”
Just as uncompromisingly critical BE.BOP is of racism and of the handed down colonial mental thoughts in Europe, just as much energy is used on healing without any old-fashioned compromises. The objectives of BE.BOP, which was initiated in 2013, are partly the Afro-European diaspora, and partly (im)migration and bicultural conscience in a broader sense.
It is the first time that I participate, but certainly not the last. Seldom have I participated in something so meaningful. The proof of the openness and healing ideology of BE.BOP is that the guest curator Jeanette Ehlers, whose reviewer-praised, disarming and eye-opening exhibition about, among other things, Danish history of slavery SAY IT LOUD (which is still open at Nikolaj Kunsthal), was the center of attention at this year’s BE.BOP, was so generous to invite not only me but also other white Danes to participate in a panel debate. But it was also important, as Chairman of Adoption Policy Forum, Yong Sun Gullach, pointed out in the discussion, that whiteness does not dominate, not even as criticism of whiteness. BE.BOP is inclusive, but whiteness is simply remote.
Deep down, all people probably know that inherent in homo sapiens are two equally strong driving forces: The urge to settle down and conquer an area, say ‘we’ve lived here, this is where we belong’, and the urge to move, nomadically, migrate, move from one place to another, ‘we’re on our way, in transformation. Among other things, BE.BOP offers a kind of interdisciplinary and – artistic think tank for the idea that Afro-European citizens, as well as all in Europe, who have a “double conscience” or experience with (im)migration, including refugees, immigrants, adopted, people who are born and raised in Europe but have a bicultural background, can contribute positively, even indispensably, to the wording of the future Europe. Provided by the ‘double conscience’, it is possible to make a contribution to a criticism of the idea about national identity. Everyone, who is rooted in (at least) two places, can offer resistance to the thinking of national identity. It is important, e.g. currently with the Ukraine in mind1, that we think of the human being before the nation. In addition, it is important that we never forget the colonial and slavery historical past of Europe. People, who are forced to navigate between one or the other place in their art and their writing or research, in their way of being physically present in the world, are a resource, which one is wise to listen to if the future is not to go to hell.
Translated by Lise Skjold.
This is the amazing presentation of Mathias Danbolt in the same panel.
After this panel we enjoyed a skype invervention by Simmi Dullay (SA) followed by an extensive analysis of the whitewashing of historical P.O.C activism by some Danish authors.
BE.BOP 2014 FROM THE INSIDE OUT
BY SIMMI DULLAY
What I wanted to contribute to the panel is two on going developments of citizenship and authorship, both related to a collective family experience with Denmark and how citizenship, exile and belonging is being denied. This essay is about citizenship, exclusion, and the black repository of knowledge. Being born in South Africa meant that upon our return in 1992 according to U.N. law we are automatically provided naturalized citizenship despite having received political asylum which extended to us becoming Danish citizens. Apart from the first four years of my life, Denmark is my childhood (albeit negotiated through the lens of decolonisation and black consciousness), which does not make my experience any less valid or render it illegitimate in comparison to other experiences of Denmark, though it speaks directly to the colonial particularities of empire, slavery and apartheid legacies.
Despite not having been back to Denmark for 13 years… Denmark and Danish culture does live through me in precarious ways, such as Danish being the first language which I learnt to read and write in, despite speaking fluent English. I was four years old when my parents fled into exile to Denmark with us in 1978.
I hold on to certain Danish traditions as these define part of a life I no longer have access to. This does not in any way mean that I ever identified myself as ‘purely’ Danish. I identified as both South African and Danish…yet, returning ‘home’ to what was meant to be a free South Africa, proved to be a struggle betrayed, in which my South African Indian heritage and exile in Denmark continues to be questioned on grounds of not being ‘black enough’, ‘being too white’ as well as not being a ‘real Indian’ and not being a ‘proper Indian girl’ (whatever that may mean).
These colonial legacies still continue in our lives today especially with regards to citizenship and belonging. Being born during Apartheid from slave indentured Indian labourers and forced into exile, means that our lives have, from the beginning, been situated around citizenship and belonging. In the present time and currently trying to renew our Danish passports, we are faced with drawn out processes, which points to a possible denial of Danish citizenship due to the racists policies in DK around foreign policy, ethnicity and belonging, hinged on racism nonetheless.
I do not believe it is a coincidence that I still receive Danish demands that I pay tax! Concerning labour, I recall how impossible it was to be granted a job-interview when using my own name, but if I used my x-husbands last name (Jensen) I would make it as far as the interview until the presence of my black body would generally elicit a polite ‘we will get back to you’. It is difficult not to draw parallels between the ways that the black body is made illegitimate; made homeless, denied value appropriated and consumed by colonial and state violence.
Not long ago I attended Bonaventure de Sousa presentation where he spoke at length about the function of labour laws in the colonies, (which differed significantly from labour laws in the metropolis of the empire) as part of the penal state’s administration, was to legislate a criminalization of the colonized. The function of the labour institution in the colony and in empire was and continues to be governed by violence across different institutions that maintain and reproduce colonisation; such as the institutionalisation of the military, medical establishment, religion, education and law in which appropriation, legitimacy and accumulation still remains central to a globalized economy….but, it is not as simple as this…because one must take account of that these dialectics of power and race are upheld by people. The currency of whiteness must under all circumstances reproduce itself, especially in the idea of altruism and the white saviour.
I draw on my parents experience as part of the genealogies racism to explain how these have not changed, but become worse. Both my parents were very active in both local and global solidarity; socially and politically and were driving forces in the Danish Anti-Apartheid Movement, as well as in the broader Scandinavian Anti-Apartheid struggle. They actively participated in the Pan-European Peace Movement against US president Ronald Regan’s militarization of Europe in the 1980s and in a range of Anti-Racist activities as well as in broad Anti-Imperialist and solidarity work.
Yet, over the last few years white Danes, many of whom my father mentored in the Danish Anti-Apartheid Movement, have been publishing books where they have taken so-called editorial decisions to write my father’s contribution out of this discourse, and by default, the authors name are inserted as the protagonist of the anti-apartheid struggle! It was my dad who restructured the Anti-Apartheid Movement from a miniscule talk shop of a handful of individuals in 1978, into a national movement, that became the largest of the AAMs in Europe! He lived every moment of his life in the service of developing a formidable force that galvanised, not only Denmark, but Scandinavia and the rest of Europe! He was central in the city we lived in (Aarhus) in virtually every one of the campaigns, some of which lasted months and others conducted over many years. He also initiated national campaigns and linked with international efforts with a similar focus. He also carried out a series of diplomatic initiatives on instruction from the ANC office in Copenhagen. He was also the chair of the ANC Regional Political Committee in Aarhus and was the deputy Chair of the ANC RPC in Denmark
Coming from a Black Consciousness background, as well as based on my experience, witnessing my parent’s experiences, I am conscious of the ways that white liberal spaces claim solidarity, but inevitably perpetuate the colonial violence of ownership and expansion.
I refer to the book edited by Morten Nielsen, et al, titled Aktivister mod Apartheid-dansk solidaritet med Sydafrika (Activists against Apartheid-Danish Solidarity with South Africa), published by Sydafrika Kontakt, Copenhagen, 2004 (available in Danish only). This particular book is irksome in the extreme as it makes no mention whatsoever of either of my parents’ critical involvement in Danish anti-apartheid work by the very people whom they worked with, yet it features some who were on the periphery of anti-apartheid work. Furthermore, the focus is on activities in Copenhagen. Other than the actions of the campaign successfully carried out in Aarhus against the Danish power utility purchasing coal from apartheid South Africa, that is allocated one chapter, there is no mention of the consistent and highly effective anti-apartheid campaigns carried out to national acclaim for over 14 years in Aarhus and in Jutland. In fact the book side steps the fact that the Danish National Anti-Apartheid Committee, based in Copenhagen existed in name only through the 1970s and for much of the 1980s. It ignores the glaring fact that the absolute centre of anti-apartheid work in Denmark was carried out in the 2nd largest city of Aarhus, where we lived and that this was largely due to the untiring work of my father and those Danish and other activists that he and my mum brought into solidarity work (many were in fact our family friends). Pressed for an answer for the exclusion, Nielsen dismissed it as an oversight.
Of the two volume Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa 1950-1994 by Tor Sellstrom, the greater relevance is the 3rd Danish addition to the Swedish series, all published by Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Uppsalla, Sweden, 2003. This last volume is authored by Christopher Munthe Morgenstierne, a historian of Denmark. There is not a single reference to my father, nor the incredible anti-apartheid campaigns he initiated together with my mum over 14 years of exile in Denmark! In effect both have been air-brushed out of the Danish Anti-Apartheid Movement and a process of sanitization has annulled their massive contribution! One would expect this in totalitarian state and least of all in Scandinavia.
My father’s anti-apartheid and other solidarity work was so well known across Denmark that Danish Television made a 40 minute documentary, titled Et Frihed i Fremtiden (A future in freedom) by Annette Breuning in 1987-88 about his life and work. This was broadcast, first in Denmark and then Europe-wide later the same year. He presented evidence to Danish Parliamentary Commissions for the imposition of economic sanctions against South Africa. He presented thousands of lectures to a variety of groups across Denmark about the abomination of Apartheid, and it was the honorarium that he was paid for these lectures that sustained anti-apartheid work in the city! He was regularly interviewed by the Danish media and was the author of hundreds of Danish radio programmes and travelling exhibitions. He even persuaded Iceland and the Faroe Islands to impose economic sanctions against South Africa.
It is significant that the ‘official’ publications chose to ignore a man whose activism did not end with the antiapartheid movement, but whose life is still immersed in the coloniality of apartheid and still actively continues to address the ‘post apartheid’ reality he returned to.
My father’s 278 page book “Salt Water Runs in my Veins” published in 2010 by Madiba Publishers in Durban, South Africa (now in its 2nd print) records his life stories as well as his exile experiences. In many ways this serves to leave behind a written record of his, and our, lived experiences. In his own words, he believes that our histories have to be written by ourselves or else they will be appropriated by those who have few links with our realities (histories). This ‘white washing’ of our histories has to come to an end. The reality is that the pervasiveness of white appropriation of black experiences (of whatever kind) will not end as long as it is not challenged head on. Who is better suited to tell these stories than the owners themselves? On more levels than one, appropriation is tantamount to theft of intellectual property, whether written, oral records, cultural activities, and indigenous knowledge or lived experiences. At the roundtable of the recent Mbeki event ‘Women Transforming Africa’ many young women brought up the difficulties faced with very little support (and often even sabotage) from the older vanguard, who are meant to be our leaders and mentors. Instead we find ourselves in a culture in which there is a sever lack of vision and solidarity despite our struggle credentials which we know informs decolonial ontologies fundamental to the black experience of liberation, national identity and citizenship of belonging (be it from South America, Asia or Africa). Instead one is faced with a culture of hegemonic power and obedience that suffers from amnesia, which seems to have erased our recent (first steps) towards liberation; in which cultural practices of acknowledgement, generosity, the collective, communalism, sharing, critical thinking and support are integral to our survival and identity.
This is easier said than done. One of the shifts of the post colonial is that race becomes a game based on semiotic representation.
Despite change, with a minority of black women in leadership positions, it seems we have lost all solidarity. Instead many of us have become gatekeepers of the ‘plantations interest’ rationalizing the greed and need to buy into patriarchal colonial structures as justified with distorted ideas of ‘it’s my time to eat’. Bearing in mind the dispossession of apartheid, colonialism and its on-going ideologies of predator capitalism in the shape of globalization, is as urgent now, as in our past to address structural injustice and exploitation. We need supportive spaces in which we can question, engage, and remain radical in our uprooting of discrimination, especially in education, as we are guiding and shaping our present and future.
Despite existing in ‘post-apartheid’ the structural episteme of coloniality remains intact, because of being deliberately upheld by misguided leadership; A leadership that refuse to tackle discrimination and injustice or support and protect their co-workers who call out injustice. Some of our manager’s claim an (ill)logic of sweeping serious issues under the carpet; for example the pervasive problem of racism which some managers claim as non-existent to justify their own glorification; for example a black Chair of Department will not acknowledge racism, as acknowledging racism is argued to reflect negatively on their role as managers. The seriousness of this power-dialectic is that the person/people who are targets of racism are punished and lynched as a warning……silenced…… reproducing and institutionalizing racism over and over again. The failure of leadership in an example like this is that the vested interest of the manager is in their own glory, fostering an environment of fear and distrust. What is needed is to implement concrete strategies in for example a series of events that address ways to reflect on bringing a social consciousness into our praxis, to implore a methodology of justice in our work interactions, to be fearless enough to decolonize the space, to take collective responsibility and foster an ethic built on integrity, plurality, inclusion, creativity, critical thinking and empowerment.
I have been quite despondent about the ‘rules of engagement’ that operate in academia for black woman academics….I tend to be met with quite a bit of distrust from establishment….both from men and women…and inevitably end up ‘shocking’ or ‘insulting’ my colleagues. Having been in academia for a good few years, I am aware that my work is considered radical, but in Durban I did not feel the same pervasive hostility or outrage. I was thinking of this and my thoughts drifted to an intense discussion I had with a colleague in philosophy. He became more and more outraged and suddenly exclaimed ‘but I keep forgetting that you are an artist!’ At the time I didn’t get it, I merely thought he was trying to insult me (as the arts are not often taken seriously within academia) but I kept returning to this statement which made me remember that in Durban my work as a visual artist is known and I have not made or exhibited any work since I came to Pretoria. I personally do not see a distinction between being an artist or an academic/researcher, to me these all belong to cultural production…Though I believe that the distinction my Philosophy friend was making, is that for academics the artist is expected to perform as the provocateur … which does to a certain degree absolve artists from the general hegemonic rules which exists in terms of the engagement had in the ivory towers…maybe even making so called ‘deviant behaviour’ legitimate. But so what? This experience brought me back to discourse and how imperative it is to take and make space for intellectual traditions of revolt, which in the corporate university in South Africa seems to be hinged on politically charged (and often dangerous) ideas of patriarchy, sexism and racism (under the guise of reviving so called black cultural traditions). Having been involved in the praxis of feminist/black feminist, decolonial art, it is this very ‘disobedience’ in the cultural production of the performative, in representation and the persona of the artist/intellectual/cultural producer that propels critical discourse………… not merely in the arts, but specifically within paradigmatic shifts of critical thinking that broadens, rips apart, reconfigures the episteme of knowledge production as in canonized intellectual thought. The significance of this experience is not placed upon merely including for example feminism, as most of us aware of how white feminism once included in the canon reproduces the same epistemic violence of coloniality. Many of us are also conscious of how the intersectionalities of coloniality still operate in radical black discourse (including black feminist discourses) who also employ the very same bureaucracy of exclusion ( however much it might be based on the internalization of racism, patriarchy and the need to maintain the little power gained) ..but who none the less become the gatekeepers of who can and cannot speak, who can claim blackness and who cannot…so, as much as I believe that black culture is ontologically based on revolution and solidarity…the structural and material framework of the Eurocentric corporate university, makes it near impossible for black culture to exist. Drawing from the roots…….from radical Tricontinental black culture, the importance is in ensuring critical disobedience grounded in the praxis of social justice both as activist and intellectuals; which means to insist on revolution as methodology and not as a final product”.
I had a short but significant conversation with a friend and colleague of mine, Akhona Matyila who wrote:
Yes, yes I know it is meaningless and I could try to solve the world’s problems, instead I write fiction.
I was at a conference on freedom and the more the presenters spoke, the better they were at the disembodied codified lingo of their respective discipline. It made me realize that the discipline ‘disciplines’ us into reproducing the same institutionalised epistemic violence of coloniality. The irony of your statement resonates with the paradox of Black intellectual thought, culture and history as erased, excluded and worse still is appropriated and white washed within the dominant canon of ‘history’. ‘Fiction’ is where Black knowledge can be passed on without being cut down to size, where it is not all ways punished and silenced. Black knowledge is in the imagined space, in art, in music, in song; in the performance, in dance in storytelling, in whatever form it takes; which essentially is the sum of poetry that contains the repository of black knowledge; that contributes to the world in significant ways and most importantly still contains radical possibilities of change to a world of love and justice.
I am rushing to hospital again. I was not present at BE.BOP 2014 due to being prevented from work, as well as illness. Despite not being present I have felt such incredible support, solidarity and love from Alanna, Teresa, Jeanette, Robbie, Patricia, Quinsy and others of which I am deeply grateful for. Between the struggles we face, the right to a dignified life; It is in these relationships I feel belonging, it is in the solidarity and love that I have citizenship. If we continue to harness, to cultivate, to fight in solidarity, we will overcome! As I wrote the conclusion, I came across the following image on facebook. Our visibility, our strength in numbers, our voices are needed more than ever! A Luta Continua!
TO BE OR NOT TO BE.BOP IS NOT A QUESTION
BY PATRICIA KAERSENHOUT
Overflowed by Black love
like a warm tropical rain
love rains down
a safe haven
for my weary soul
a soft pillow
for my restless mind
which were not lost
to be found
oh how good it is
empty spaces we fill
with our cheek to cheek smiles
we keep on
the whole world
is smiling in circles
What the world needs
more then ever
and we’re gonna
’cause we have plenty
this is not a fantasy
nor a figment of
“If you take a seed…and scatter it across the lands, some will end up in marshes, some in rich fertile lands with flowing streams, others in sand, and others among the mountains and rocks. IF the seed is tough, it will adapt and survive in all conditions; if it is weak, it will perish. The same seed in one country may yield a baobab but in another an oak. Our race is potent seed. Whether you are from Ghana or Guyana, you are born of the same seed and you will be of the same fruit. We must recognize our fruition in London, in Paris, in Dakar, in Harare, and in Maputo. Our roots are deep and wide.”
BE:BOP 2014, Black Europe Body Politics was a gathering of the fruits of the diaspora. It offered an array of panels, performances and exhibitions that focused and conjured the spirit of healing for a diasporic people. It conjured the spirits of the ancestors and created a space for us to collectively Re-member, Re-envision, Re-Image and even to see ourselves. BE.BOP 2014 claimed a space of visibility for the stories and images that celebrate the triumph and continuation of what can only be called the ingenuity of our people- particularly when it comes to survival and creativity.
From Jeannette Ehlers’s Say It Loud exhibition at Nikolaj Kunsthal, that firmly place our diasporic footprints on these shores, to powerful and radical stories of women in the church as in Anika Gibbons’ ‘Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology and Ethics at Union Theological Seminary (2013), from Charo Oquet’s remix of ritual and performance in Engungu in White to Quinsy Gario’s interactive genetic migration in A Village Called Gario, BE.BOP 2014 dared to go where ancestors dictated and its presence is indeed an integral part of the healing process in all that is post-colonial and de-colonial.
The power of BE.BOP 2014 lies in the fact of it’s presence; not only that such a space was demanded, but also the way in which that space was utilized: For a diverse group of thinkers to connect & dialogue in each other’s presence, in real time & real talk.
Examining issues of Empire and the commonality of post-colonial experiences, BE.BOP 2014 finished off the sentence where the title of Ehler’s exhibition left off, ‘Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud’, and it said this on a continent that exhibits disturbing trends when it comes to the presence of our people. This conference was indeed a historic event, as it actively contextualized our experience thereby allowing us all to empower each other through our very presence and reflections. Most importantly, BE.BOP 2014 proved to be in line with a tradition that seems to be prevalent in many so-called indigenous pre-Columbian cultures, that of inclusion that has a variety of multi-disciplinary artists, academics and writers. In this sense, BE.BOP 2014 can certainly be said to illustrate that indeed “our roots are deep and wide.”
For me personally, BE.BOP 2014 is evidence that the ancestors are at play: It is the drumbeat that sets the rhythm for things to come and in this sense, it has been a truly empowering experience to be in the presence and share work/thoughts with every one of the participants.
A GREETING FROM JEANNETTE EHLERS
Dear all you beautiful Be.bop’eans!
I want to thank each and every one of you, deep down from the very bottom of my de-colonial heart, for taking part in this Black magic moment in Copenhagen! What we did during BE.BOP is so beautiful.
Like every year, BE.BOP took me to a higher level of consciousness. What is remarkable though is that this year the energy was so full of LOVE, sharing and caring in a way I have never experienced before.
Still trying to grasp and digest all the important knowledge that was spread here and I’m so thankful and proud that this actually took place in the city where I live! I know for sure that our energies and spirituality have had a great impact on this location and that this event will keep being referred to as a crucial moment in BE.BOP history.
A HUGE shout out to Nikolaj Kunsthal for the collaboration in making BE.BOP Copenhagen an experience one will never will forget, to Cinemateket, Network for Migration and Culture, The Danish Art Council for support and to The Danish Art Workshops for housing this very needed event.
BE.BOP 2014 EVALUATION BY CHARO OQUET
I want to start by saying that meeting all of you and participating in this project was such an amazing experience. I learned so much from each and every one of you. Of course, it left you wanting for more.
First of all I want to thank my dear friend Alanna Lockward as the author of BE.BOP, such a great project deserves to be honored. One of her distinctive skills is gathering truly talented people in one space. She was also a fabulous host and I had a wonderful and special time in Berlin.
Alanna and I first met in the Dominican Republic in 1988. I was back home for a year after living in New Zealand and New York. We met at a gallery where I was having an exhibition. We were in touch again in 1995 in Miami Beach when she wrote about my work in an review of a group show dedicated exclusively to Caribbean immigration in the US.Since then, Alanna has been writing consistently about my work in mayor books and publications. Alanna is one of our national treasures because there are not too many people in the Caribbean who are working at her level with such seriousness and capacity.
What unites us is not only our Dominican nationality but also that I have been working on issues and narratives of “Immigration”, “Colonialism”, “Afro-Descendant”, “Vodoun” since 1981. This issues go in an out of fad and some people pick and choose them for their own benefits at different moment. Yet, this has always been part of my discourse. Why? Because I believe that it is an ongoing issue that must be dealt with. The battle is not over. I understand that some people’s relationship to this issue can be different from mine. I was born in the Dominican Republic, I migrated and perhaps my closeness or distance from it is different from other perspectives. I was fortunate to have lived so far away in New Zealand, a place where there were no people of African descent and I was the only Dominican there. I, like Alanna come from a Black Dominican family with roots in other Caribbean islands, who was always been aware and proud of its Négritude. Like in her family, we were also Black artists and intellectuals that believed in education as a means of rising and empowerment. Their struggles became ours. Yet, I had to go so far away to see our own prejudices, not just my own, but my family’s and that of my fellow Dominicans. It took that distance for me to become self aware of these issues: our own racism, our own denials.
We all approach Decolonial narratives from different vantage points. I like to go back to what I call the real essence. The rituals that still exist and are alive. This is why I do field research. I go back to this because it grounds me. I want to get close to the earth, to the forest, for me this is it – this is where I find it. To others it might seem a bit camp or too ethnic, and yes it can be all of that but, it is real, you can’t deny it. We come from that – it is maybe that part that some of us choose to want to ignore or make fun of.
Someone during BE.BOP told me that I should drop this issue and instead work on issues of Trujillo the infamous dictator and his dark legacy. I replied to that person, Trujillo is dead – there are plenty of people talking about this in the DR. Racism is alive! Not to mention that I am old enough to decide for myself which are my issues. Thank you.
I have two children, one lived for a very short time in the Dominican Republic when she was one and a half to when she was two and a half. Their father is from New Zealand. My daughter speaks Spanish and she loves the culture. My son doesn’t speak the language and yet he does feel part African- American. They both pass as whites and I don’t expect them to understand Caribbean issues as I do. They haven’t lived them as I have, they have hardly been to the Dominican Republic, they get it but it is not the same. You have to feel it in your skin as most of us do, to understand why these issues are so important.
Meeting all of you was the best part of it all. I will not name each one because you know that each and every one of you was so special to me. I wish we will see each other again soon.
I also want to thank all of the people who helped Alanna produce and coordinate the Berlin event such as Elena Quintarelli, Julia Exenschläger and Yoel Díaz Vázquez and the staff at Ballhaus Naunynstraße. I Also want to take this opportunity to once again thank participating artist and Guest- Curator Jeannette Ehlers and Nickolaje Recke who were such great hosts, the staff at the Danish Art Workshops and the Nikolaj Kunsthal staff: Anne Julie Arnfred and her team and volunteers who were so helpful, polite and charming.
A SHORT EVALUATION BY MWANGI HUTTER
EVALUATION BY ROBBIE SHILLIAM
“Well, what we did was deepen Black Power. Part of the reason that last year was a difficulty, but a necessary one, was that Black Power was always Black Love. We were reaching towards that, but got a little too
trapped in the masculine energies. Black Love was always a love of dignity and hence of humanity. And THAT is the reason it has had to be defended, sometimes with masculine energy. Black love is a grounded love that is strong enough to reach into the sky, rather than an abstract love that showers only sparsely and partially on who it wants. Your principle of giving more room to the sisters to carry forward these
conversations is entirely right. It is instructive for us all. I’m not sure these insights could be developed, at this point in time, any other way.
This year, we deepened the relationship between arts and theory; it was harder to tell who was a “theorist” and who an “artist” – or rather, and to put it better, who was doing theory and when, and who was doing art
and when. I think the importance of this lies in the inadequacy of the word “archive” to capture what you/we are bringing together. An archive is dead knowledge. Letter knowledge, dried and encrusted ink. Or tape
knowledge with acid slowly erasing itself. Or electronic spit trapped on metal. I would prefer to characterize Be Bop as a cultivation of “living knowledge traditions”. That’s just the phrase I’ve started to use, I’m
sure there are many others, maybe better ones! What I mean is traditions that are constantly re-trieving themselves, re-inventing themselves.
They are not modern. They don’t require a categorical segregation with the past and ancestors in order to be sanctified as adequate knowledge. They are not born but born again and again. Hence we can dispense with
the idiocy of these words “authenticity”, “self-reflexivity” that try to bracket off science from art and spirituality.
Most importantly, living knowledge traditions are what we carry with us at a very very deep level, and even if we have grown up in almost all ways sundered from our living knowledge traditions that might give us
respite and dignity, we can and will find them, in the most unlikely places, even in the documents of racists, that we savagely tear apart the meaning of, but for our own healing arts. Yet if you don’t look you
won’t find what you lost. You said it: that ensemble that you have collected is putting back together the pieces of a dignified existence with love and care.
I would want to say that what we are doing is not PRODUCING knowledge of the body, of the spirit etc. Produce in Latin is “to extend”. That is, there is no creativity or personal investment in production. Colonial
lore commands almost all to “extend” what is already given to them. Knowledge production is a passive affair. It is a zombie affair. We, though, are cultivating knowledge, the Latin root of cultivate meaning
to till, to turn matter back on itself, to oxygenate it. Hence we can get rid of that old rubbish of roots (traditional, mysticism) versus routes (modern, self-reflexivity). Roots are our routes. Tilling the
matter of the Continent of Black Consciousness which tells stories of black humanity and, indeed, of all humanity.
For Afropeans, the challenge we must rise to is this: we must find the confidence and the energy to retrieve ourselves as a global majority as we defend our rights. I refuse to lay down dead to be covered over by a
narrative of settlement. That is Babylon. I am saying yes we must attend to where we are, and with great, great care. But I am saying that our Zion cannot be contained solely in the lands of settlement and certainly
not within the provinciality of immigrant culture consciousness. From an inequitable triangle of death to a righteous circle of life. You get trapped in the points of a triangle. But in a circle you circulate. Nice and healthy. And even if some of us might feel the gravity of place around which that circle rotates, still, all of Jah world is beautiful.
PS we need to find a way to consolidate what we’ve done collectively. That was the only thing that was lacking as opposed to last year’s organizing model. we didn’t have time for it this time.”
FEEDBACK FROM KURATORISK AKTION (FREDERIKKE HANSEN & TONE OLAF NIELSEN) ON BE.BOP 2014
BE.BOP in Copenhagen was a magical, ground-breaking, and formative moment for Kuratorisk Aktion. We are still trying to grasp what was shared during those four days, but we both feel forever changed, completely re-programmed.
What we experienced was an embodiment. We have tried to turn our worlds upside down forever, but received ideas are not easily tossed. BE.BOP drove home the argument for decolonial delinking from modernity in a way and magnitude we have never experienced before. It felt like all of a sudden the ‘outside’ of the Scandinavian/European/Western/Global North knowledge traditions that we have been trying to carve out and work from, went from what at times has felt to be a non-place, an almost fictitious position of disidentification, to a warm space of inclusion, a real space of Black love (Patricia Kaersenhout) and cultivating knowledge collectively (Robbie Shilliam).
There was a generosity amongst the contributors that doesn’t exist in Western academia and aesthetics. A love for the common cause of imagining and doing things otherwise, and a willingness to share knowledge and methods on how to get there.
There was a respect for roots and ancestry, for the hard struggles done by others before us, that fits ill with neoliberalism’s paradigm of individualism. And tangible suggestions for how to reconnect to some of those glorious moments in order to learn from them.
And there was an underlining of the importance of learning and healing not only with our minds but with our bodies and spirits. Of accepting multiple ways of deciphering and countering status quo.
BE.BOP has left us with a pressing desire to adjust our curatorial terminology and methods to the radical bodies and imaginings of (im)migrants, of the double-conscious.
So, all in all, we feel like we have received a great gift – super excited about our future life with these new pathways to rethinking, delinking, and reconnecting.
Be Bop 2014
Be.Bop is built around a community, a community of thinking, learning, sensing and caring. It is the meeting place of people that dare to ask and to walk in paths of liberation. We come from a wide variety of geographies, cultures, trades and professions, but we are all in our own-way seekers of truth and justice.
Be.Bop is a space of coming together, it is a political space. What is spoken in those days, is not the talk of the experts that you encounter in any museum or academic conference. In contrast with the soliloquies of expertise, here the spoken words are heard. The community is all of us listening to each other, understanding together.
This Year my time in BeBop was not long enough, but I have to say that it was deeply marked by the exhibition of Jeanette Ehlers; a space of sensing, of recalling. A space that is wresting the histories of oppression out of oblivion. This movement of remembrance, is rebellious, it is a radical questioning to the order of the present, to the modern/colonial order.
In these last three years, Be.Bop has been as space that disobeys the silencing of hegemonic history. If we are to stop the continuous cycles of violence, we need to bring to the space of the community, to the space of experience the histories that have been denied a voice, that have being denied a presence in our understanding of the world, in our ways of making the world.
Listening as critique is here happening by allowing a relational space in which the silencing of that modern/colonial violence that has been itself silencing is suspended. Listening breaks this double negation that has written the lives of the oppressed out of history, out of the dominant world-views and the dominant forms of world-making and world-sensing.
Decolonial love, remembrance as healing, is the ethos of Be.Bop. It is alive in the coming together of voices, in the caring silence, a silence that listens and remembers, not the silence that silences, that erases. In the caring silence we know that we are heard, that we are acting together.