By Alanna Lockward
Words have always rained over my head like in this afternoon when I have asked them for the first time if this is a curse or a blessing. Words created the world and also this project. I am thankful to them and to all of those who have listened and paid attention and resonated in full bliss or with any other indeed most valuable attitude.
Love is my foundation
Wisdom is my capital
Struggle is my mother
Truth is my redeemer
Sorrow is my companion
Love is my foundation
Jimmy Cliff is playing over and over. Each line of his improvisation in a live recording will help me with the task of explaining how BE.BOP has transformed me in many ways.
LOVE IS MY FOUNDATION
My love for connecting people and passing along the gifts life has so generously put on my path. Love made Sangeetha Bisnath and Simmi Dullay meet over the internet via my introduction. Sangeetha I interviewed 15 years ago in the mountains of Santo Domingo, a South African of Indian descent as well as Simmi, and both from Durban as well. Every time I read them exchanging reassuring notes on Facebook a huge smile grows inside of me. Two radical women living in different countries, who have never met in person and write and think and live beautifully are in touch through this project and that is only one of the many invisible threads that BE.BOP has created around me as a safety net while I listen to my own re-birth each time, mothering myself inside the struggle and also inside this project. Compassion has surrounded me big time at BE.BOP and a generosity which I pay back accordingly by expanding the Black Diaspora and decolonial networks in Europe and beyond. This is how Walter Mignolo introduced me to Artwell Cain, who then introduced me to Temi Odumosu, whom I then introduced to Jeannette Ehlers, and now Temi is curating a show with Jeannette, Sasha Huber and Patricia Kaersnehout among others. This is how the force of this project continues growing: by means of strenghtening our praxis knowing that the historical times we are living in white supremacist Europe demand from us a unity and tenacity bigger than our separate selves.
Since 2005, when I first conceptualized what later became BE.BOP and submitted the first of three grant applications to the same institution, the project has evolved as a curatorial concept substantially. Here is a quote from that first version:
“The purpose of our project is, firstly, to question the terminology which includes a clear separation between Germans and non-Germans: “Germans are Germans, the Others are the Others”, also the terms “parallel society” or “integration”. Secondly, we are interested in articulating an interdisciplinary perspective to cross the boundaries between different areas such as cultural policy and German identity studies, mass culture, art, architecture, film, and journalism. We want to bring together the different areas in which the current metamorphosis of German identities is being discussed”.
The original version (in German) is available here:
as well as in the archives of the NGBK (Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst):
The Deutsche Welle interviewed me in 2013 on a lawsuit that transformed me into an expert in European Anti-Discrimination Law and in citizenship and Black identity in Europe. In 2008, my case created an epistemic shift in German litigation on matters of employment. Not only that, this succesful case was raised against the most prominent and “international” art institution in Berlin. They said to me in writing that I could not be considered as a candidate because I was not a “native German speaker”, they even refused to meet me in person to find out how good or bad my German was. Their racist email is now an example of what everyone must avoid at all cost in this country, at least in writing. This was the first time that the Anti Discrimination Law (AGG-Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgsgesetz, Germany was the las country in Europe to submit to the European guidelines, joining only in 2007) was used in court and the jurisprudence created by this case is a matter of profound personal satisfaction among other reasons because I then decided to get proper training as an activist in anti-discrimination and empowerment strategies and met tons of wonderful people. I also met many representatives of the white saviour industrial complex and that knowledge has proven to be very helpful in conceptualizing BE.BOP as a safe space (a term I treasure, learned at these wonderful trainings) by and for Black People. The epistemic turn from my original project of 2005 which was about discussing citizenship from the perspective of all transnational communities in Germany is self-evident in this regard.
WISDOM IS MY CAPITAL
Teresa María Díaz Nerio helped me for three months representing me in an absurd negotiation with the fiscal agent from Spain whom I had contracted to receive the substantial grant for BE.BOP 2012. Thanks Teresa for keeping up with the madness of those horrific three months. Thanks fiscal agent for pushing me into finally founding my own company in Germany in order to receive grants. Gracias de todo corazón. Gracias Teresa por toda tu sabiduría. Thanks for your patience and for the phenomenal support.
TRUTH IS MY REDEEMER
When I first arrived in Scandinavia in February 2011, I had already traveled extensively around Europe in search of Black Diaspora artists that were dealing with issues of citizenship and colonial legacies. The current format of BE.BOP was already sent as a funding application to my sponsors and to Walter Mignolo as a curatorial proposal. The idea of putting together Black Diaspora artists with thinkers and writers and facilitate a bridge for their interaction was already central to this project. Furthermore, I had already published an extensive essay on Mwangi Hutter where I mention some of these artists. This essay was presented as a paper at Columbia University on March 2011. Earlier that year, my submission to the III Congreso Internacional “Afroeurope@s: Culturas e Identidades” (Cádiz, September 28th– 30th, 2011) was accepted. It will be published this year by Cambridge University Press with the title: “Black Europe Body Politics. Towards An Afropean Decolonial Aesthetics” and it is also available online in a dossier on Decolonial AestheticS/AestheSis edited by Rolando Vázquez and Walter Mignolo for Social Text/ Periscope.
Furthemore, already in 2010, as a keynote speaker together with Yolanda Wood, I presented a lecture entitled: “Decolonial Aesthetics: A Caribbean Re-existence”. This was at the historical III World Festival of Black Cultures, Dakar.
My first internationally published article was a review of a group show dedicated exclusively to Caribbean immigration and citizenship in South Florida, it was published at the Miami Herald Spanish edition with the title “El Éxodo en Lincoln Road.” In spite of the curators’ request of using the work of Ana Mendieta to illustrate my article, I chose instead a marvelous painting by Charo Oquet, “Big Heart” (1994) filled with love, hope and compassion. This is in 1995, when the vast majority of BE.BOP participants were coming out of high school.
Two years later, I curated at the same space, ArtCenter South Florida, my first international show with only Dominican artists. In my text I challenged what I still call “the Cuban supremacist discourses on contemporary art in the the Caribbean” which until very recently maintained what I also conceptualized as “the marginalization within the marginalization” to discuss the absence of Dominican artists even in shows dedicated to the region. The title of the exhibition was “Insight into Otherness” and in that year, 1997, I promise I have never read or even heard about Homi Bhaba. I was simply using the tools of critical discourse analysis provided by the rigorously post-structuralist and Frankfurt School inspired curriculum of the communications department at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Xochimilco (UAM-X). In another campus of this university one of the most prominent professors was someone that founded the Zapatista Revolution, the now “extinct” Sub-comandante Marcos. Another one was Enrique Dussel. I rest my case. I graduated magna cum laude in 1983, 31 years ago, from la-gloriosa-y-tres-veces-heroica UAM-Xochimilco having studied with Porfirio Miranda, one of the founders of the Latin American Theology of Liberation. My training in critical theory, (post) Marxist philosophy, and Gramscian thought that permeated the preoccupations articulated in “Insight into Otherness” have been part of my curatorial praxis and writing consistently ever since. BE.BOP is indeed the culmination of almost two decades of a systematic approach to the role of art in political activism, spirituality, healing and liberation always from the historical perspective of the legacies of colonialism. Having focused on performance practices and moving image as curator and writer is a result of my transdisciplinary professional activities as a dancer, writer, journalist and curator. In that order.
For those that can read Spanish, an anthology of my essays and interviews from 1994-2004 on Caribbean aesthetic practices was published by CENDEAC (Murcia, 2006), the most prolific editorial house in Spain focused exclusively on contemporary art and philosophy. The title of this anthology is: “Apremio. Apuntes sobre el pensamiento y la creación contemporánea desde el Caribe”.
My first novel “Marassá y la Nada” (Santuario 2013), soon to be released in English as well, deals with the legacies of colonialism, racialization, Vodoun and spirituality, the Haitian Revolution in relation to the Black Church as well as Caribbean philosophy. I finished writing it in Berlin in 2004 and dedicated it to my grandfather, George Augustus Lockward Stamers, an unsung Pan-Africanist author and intellectual, my role model (more about him in my documentary project “Allen Report: Retracing Transnational African Methodism”, release date: March 2015).
If I insist on this timeline it is because after listening to a particular comment in one of our panels that implicitly questioned the genealogy of this project, and also after reading in social networks about the wonders of my “inspired intervention”, I feel that truth and redemption must shine. A curatorial project of this type is hardly an “inspired intervention”, it is instead a labour of love… An art labour, a loving (self) mothering experience honouring my familial, artistic, intellectual and spiritual ancestors. Also, I do wish that this evaluation serves in the future to contextualize the up and comings of this project for new guests and participants. So thanks to those who made those comments who have prompted me to put these lines together, and also to those who have been close to my project and who have taken their inspiration a bit too far in my book, sometimes even reproducing the exact same image of a BE.BOP’s poster for a similar event without previous consultation. Of course I might be completely wrong, quoting sources properly could simply be too time consuming for some people. Thanks above all to the first sponsors of BE.BOP 2012, Allianz Kulturstiftung, without their timely support, projects that have replicated my ideas without quoting me, that (lucky for me) have taken place after BE.BOP, could have been used as reference for my project when it is indeed the other way around. If there is something that I find extremely gratifying is to see the results of networking in the engagement as faculty of BE.BOP artists in the Decolonial Summer School Middelburg organized by Walter Mignolo and Rolando Vázquez, for example. This is crucial for the empowerment of the Black community in Europe which is central to BE.BOP: creating possibilities for professional expansion. The transdisciplinary approach of BE.BOP is observed rigurously, the contributions of artists, activists and scholars are all valued equally and furthermore, as we witnessed in this edition, artists were performing film theory (Teresa María Díaz Nerio, Ni ‘mamita’ ni ‘mulatita’) and academics were singing liberation songs (Robbie Shilliam). Freedom to re-invent ourselves has always been my motto. My inclination to highlight proper quoting is more based on my own interpretation of the theory of the commons, that is all. Let me add to this that each time someone tries to explain to me what BE.BOP should become in their opinion, another huge smile grows inside of me because I can see in their enthusiasm how much my project has impacted them. Indeed, I invite you sisters and brothers to create more projects similar or different to BE.BOP. We need as many as humanly possible, please count on me, I love to be invited!
LOVE IS MY FOUNDATION
After not speaking to my dearest friend Charo for almost a decade, working with her again has been a true blessing. Charo is the missing link in BE.BOP. She incorporates in her more than 30 years of artistic practice and research on Dominican Vodoun what I love about art and re-existence, her presence connected my current European endeavour with my intellectual and creative work of more than two decades, even before I started writing about art, when I used my body as a dancer to decolonize my mind, honouring our ancestors, honouring MOTHER AFRICA, honouring the CARIBBEAN. Forgiveness is sweet and tender. I love my friend Charo profoundly, thanks BE.BOP for bringing her back into my life in all her amazing splendour.
Thanks to all of you for sharing your love, your passion for these same issues. Special thanks to the two less patriarchal men I have met in my life, Walter Mignolo and Rolando Vázquez, who is already involved in the epistemic shift that BE.BOP 2015 will bring to the world in terms of womanist ethics in the arts plantations of modernity. Please take note:
BE.BOP 2015. WOMANIST ETHICS IN THE ART PLANTATIONS OF MODERNITY. Rolando always surprises me with his amazing talent for synthesis and Walter has provided this project with an exceptional support since he first invited me to co-curate and bring a preview of BE.BOP 2012 to his exhibition +Decolonial Aesthetics (Duke University, 2011). He did that without even knowing me personally, only through my writing and must specially because of BE.BOP. Opening the doors to my ideas in his amazing decolonial network has been an act of the most outstanding generosity. Gracias Walter, you are an unparalleled exception in that old time religion known as academia. I met you through our common friend Tanja Ostojic, who has shown me her solidarity as a feminist several times. To her I dedicate my coming out of the closet as a womanist, finally being able to talk about the not so hidden agenda of many of my projects where I deliberately have avoided using the f-word (feminism). In fact it is a double dedication to her and to my brother Jorge Lockward (one of Anika Gibbon´s teachers at Union Theological Seminary) who introduced me to the womanists for the first time.
Furthermore, this is a triple dedication because without the phenomenal documentary by Anika Gibbons, “Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology and Ethics at Union Theological Seminary” (2014) this epistemic shift might have taken too long to happen. Thanks Anika for expanding the legacy of these amazing womanist thinkers. I love you for that. I love you. I love you for creating the space to call myself a womanist instead of “feminist”, I have had too many painful experiences with white German feminists, enough to fill a book. Womanist ethics heals me from head to toe. Thank you Anika.
And last but not least thanks so much to Wagner Carvalho who told me in our first meeting at a cafe in Berlin: “BE.BOP is a very important project and we are going to make it happen…” Those words still heal me. Deepest thanks Wagner for keeping the doors of Ballhaus Naunynstrasse opened to BE.BOP. I treasure your work with Tunçay Kulaoğlu and that of Shermin Langhoff reverentially. Shermin´s supportive enthusiasm during our first BE.BOP was anthological. Thanks to Mekonnen Mesghena of Heinrich Böll Foundation for their support. Deepest thanks to Jeannette Ehlers for being such a wonderful guest curator and raising the funds to make BE.BOP 2014 in Copenhagen happen, the fact that five performances took place at the exhibition space where her wonderful show is on view speaks volumes about her commitment and generosity. Thanks also Jeannette for ordering the best possible food for our catering. Thanks for hosting Teresa, Charo and me in your kids room and to your husband Nikolaj Recke for documenting our project in his phenomenal photos.
Charo Oquet´s performance “Engungu in White”, honouring our ancestors after Walter Mignolo´s superb lecture was the perfect opening to the Copenhagen event. Thanks Anne Ring Petersen of the Network for Migration and Culture for their invaluable contribution in Walter´s lecture and in the screening of “The Stuart Hall Project” by John Akomfrah. Sweetest of thanks to the team of Nikolaj Kunsthal specially to Anne Julie Arnfred and our exceptional volunteers. Also deepest thanks to Elena Quintarelli for accompanying the project this year and for editing and uploading the entire video documentation of BE.BOP 2013: you are a class act dear Elena. Yoel Díaz Vázquez, your sublime photo series honouring the Orishas are the umbilical chord connecting the exhibition at Ballhaus Naunynstrasse and the event in Copenhagen. They are the ideal offering for the spiritual revolutions and the healing we created together, thanks so much. Thanks Julia Exenschläger for making our exhibition and event in Berlin a huge success. You are all awesome. Thank you…
For more details on this journey please visit the timeline of the project until 2012: