ALZIRE

Kitso Lynn Lelliott’s work in the Neues Schloss resembles an artistic ghost-story. By means of images and sounds, the artist evokes the presence of Alzire, a young woman who worked and lived at the court of Wilhelmine of Bayreuth. There are few traces of the young woman. Not even her real name is recorded. “Alzire” is the name given to her by Margravine Wilhelmine, based on the tragedy by the same name, “Alzire, ou les Américains”. It was written by French philosopher Voltaire, who the Margravine adored. All we know of Alzire, the human being, is based on a burial script by Hofprediger Schmidt. Not even 25 years of age, she died in Bayreuth on May 22nd, 1751.

She had come a long way. As her country of birth, Surinam in South America is mentioned. At the time under Dutch colonialism Surinam was a place of slavery with many of its enslaved people being of West African ancestry. It had terrible conditions for people working on the sugar plantations and was a place of rebellion with people refusing the bondage they were placed under. The installation in the castle enacts, through this recalling of the disremembered Alzire, its own rebellion against the desolation of erasure. Her ghostly presence is recalled to fill a space and the narrative of a place she was otherwise forgotten from.

Alzire‘s story leaves many questions: What brought a woman from the Americas to the court of Wilhelmine of Bayreuth? What were the conditions of her journey? Did she act as a servant in Bayreuth, performing not only the duties of a servant but also being perceived through to the popular ‘exoticism’ of the time, when it was fashionable to have people from Africa and the Americas work at the European courts? Was she solely subject to being gazed upon? How did she look back? And did the eyes of the two women, Wilhelmine and Alzire, meet: seeing as both their migrations to Bayreuth were, most likely, not willful ones?

CONCRETE AFFECTION – ZOPO LADY

This project by Kiluanji Kia Henda is a poetic journey into a moment in time and space, both utopian and dystopian: 1975 in Luanda, Angola’s capital. After a liberation war and the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, it is the year before Angola finally became independent from its colonizer. The film describes an choking condition from the perspective of a Portuguese individual who is about to leave the country where he lived his whole live and who contrary to the independent Angolans who lived a utopian moment, saw no future. But he also doesn’t know where to go. Inspired by the first chapter of the book of the Polish journalist and writer Rychard Kapuscinsky, “Another Day of Life – Angola 1975”, this film also transports the images of modernist architecture of Luanda into the past. At the start of the projection the narrator wakes up from a nightmare, only to see that reality is just as hopeless as his dream world. It is his last day in the city and he is hesitant to leave.

DEPOSITS OF THE FUTURE

Deposits of the Future through Times and Spaces: African/Diasporic Safe Knowledge

“[I]t it is our visions which sustain us. Do not neglect nor shortchange them. Do not treat your dreams lightly. They point the way toward a future made possible by our belief in them and our labors in their name, which is also ours. There is a world in which we all wish to live. That world is not attained lightly. We call it future.”

 –Audre Lorde, I Am Your Sister.

My ideas are drawn from my work on digital Diasporic spaces, which mostly is theoretical and discursive. I work a lot with images, which I see as a carrier of collective knowledge translated into (a) different language/s to travel and re/connect with agents who weren’t present at the particularly moment. The translation part is multi complex, because it is drawing from and feeding into a constantly growing archive of collective knowledge. This body of symbols, codes and references, spread and re/negotiated through different media, academic and art representations as music, sound, pictures (in contrast to ‘images’), poetry, biographies, and various genres of fiction create/d a net of texts. I like to think of this archive as a map of our connected Diasporic experience, which probably manifests itself the best now in the digital representation. The archive of knowledge is passed on through generations of African/Diasporic people through times but also through geographic spaces, enlarging this map, which itself became part of the archive. As ways and modes of transfer may vary and academic scholarship usually just peaks into small ‘spaces’ of it looking for aspects relatable to their disciplinary embedded subject-matter, I believe that it is such an archive of knowledge where our key concepts i.e. future – and with that history and present –, time and, narration are informed by and re/negotiated through. Especially Western academic scholarship might not always find their research connected to this notion. The dynamics developing from such disconnect are in every research results embedded. Questions like, who’s story is been told?, which story is not been told?, do have a larger impact then just being references to the power of contribution. They rather go to the heart of that what is not communicated, what is held back. It is in this context the assertion that one is silent toward a certain mode of knowledge production is a valid (intellectual) intervention. This silence manifests itself in manifold ways and is highly consequential to everybody’s work. While most white scholars are not actively aware of it, it does mirror itself in their work as the void I discussed earlier. A work of void/s that will be passed on by citations and transformations as pioneering. It can be argued that the politics of knowledge (-production) are nowhere else so urgently present as in the left-out traces of lived realities of the other. But, while silence in all cases contains a certain kind of transgression, it can be read as a paradoxical performance, as a realm of the subversive. In any case that which often finds its way as a ‘void’ in normative research can be seen as a trace of resistance, a rupture within, so to speak. The silence of a self-authorized (collective) subject contains both, critique and crisis. Empirical research with/in an arguably very small pool of ‘informants’ often lives from human networks scholars are able to built. Those human networks aren’t necessarily able to translate or even be part of the collective experience behind the ‘void.’ To understand that the question, Whose story is being told?, is not just a variant of the question, Who can speak?, but points to the danger of a normalizing academic discourse where that which is being told is that which can be made intelligible and comprehensible to a certain knowledge is here ultimately important. Furthermore, assuming that all experiences can be analyzed by everybody ultimately leads to appropriations of collective experiences (see above). Chimamanda Adichie already warned us how entangled histories can nonetheless present parallel lives.

As the past has to become present or better a piece of the present in order to become history and as with access to the past comes access to the future, there is a lot at stake for African/Diasporic perspectives in the endeavor of re/searching African/ Diasporic futures. I do understand my work also in and as a response to a tendency of the commoditization of such ‘African futures’, which do use or operate on commodifying representations of Blackness in general. It is in this context that I first experienced kara lych’s work on Black imagination, time and spaces. Her speculative installation work is based on and embedded in many of the archival connections of collective memory. It speaks to me in a way that combines theory and artistic practice. As kara’s work is investigating notions of space in and through time/s I was trying to connect the idea of using an existing safe in the place of the exhibition (Iwalewahaus) as a safe space and a space that manifests voids, and exclusion at the same time. As we all work on new knowledge productions in the field of future conceptualizations in Africa and its Diaspora our work ultimately also paves the way for future past-memories. Thus our works, now here communicated (and translated) to a broader public point first and foremost to different imaginations and envisionings of the future. However, the value of multiple and even contested perspectives of Future Africa lies also in a disclosure of strategies of engagement and processes of this future past-memory-production. As memories are constructed so might be also our futures. This may open a way of actualizing our futures – as Audre Lorde once suggested –, where we negotiate and subvert conceptions of history and develop different conceptions of time and history, making a radically different future easier to imagine.

The very space of a walk-in safe can not only symbolize this but also make it physically tangible. Although the space itself is visible as there is a little room on the level of the main exhibition that lead to the stairs to get down to the safe, visitors do need some hints, symbols and codes of motivation get stimulated to explore this space on the margin. This speaks directly to the selective processes we executing everyday to ‘go’ or search for something or not: the ‘choice’ behind searching for knowledge will so be more physically tangible and the void of not doing so hopefully also be emotionally more accessible. This space – as a walk-in safe – will demonstrate both, the physical and intellectual consequences of knowledge on the margin, a knowledge (and by that, a history and future) that is – literary – left in the basement as well as the very fact that these spaces are always shaped and developed as safe spaces for African/Diasporic lives and stories. Because in the collective experience of African/ Diasporic histories and futures we live our theories, work and praxis not as some distant dream, but as something that can and will happen, that is happening right now. We should here look to and borrow from the discussions on the African continent, which right now are reclaiming these Futures. As Achille Mbembe pointed out: “So we wanted to recapture that category of the future and see to what extent it could be remobilized in the attempt at critiquing the present, and reopening up a space not only for imagination, but also for the politics of possibility.”

Written by Peggy Piesche

RECORDS OF AFRICAN BLACK QUEER (TIMES)

The Invisible Color of (V)Si(o)lence – Analogue Differences and Future Presences ‘n the Image is the third line of this project’s title. The collages are problematizing different strings of queerness that overlap, intersect and assemblage.  The photos narrate stories that make an other normality sound. They are about the normality of queerness and blackness. They are about ‘being-Muslim’ as culturalized ‘race’ and about ‘being not-Muslim’ and about African (Diasporic) gazes. The images are about all the things in-between where meaning always lingers and then vanishes away into its other sublime physical states in specific times, mo(ve)ments and about what all that means: a range of entirely different possibilities, living next to each other, raising out from each other. The photographs invite us to look at doors in the background. Doors which can be understood as spaces that one has left behind or wants to enter. Doors that can be regarded as visas and borderlines into (one)other(s) wor(l)ds, doors that one has left behind or about to open or long ago has been excluded from entering. And yet, they seem to suggest that there is an other world over there that cannot be touched by our gazes, by the world, from this site of the image. The Photo-graphs silently also depict ‘religion’ as item, fetish and geopoliticized ‘culture’ and the possibilities of understanding. They are about spaces, gazes, about capabilities and matterings that linger in the future that we cannot know.

The photos graph from this future, gazing here at us, reminding us of what here is – a whole range of miss-possibilites that cry out for a materialized ethical turn, in the face of borders, wrongs and violence to which we are compliant, that we must reframe in order to get there. In a way these photos are archives of heterotopias of human imagination and how it (may) materialize(s) – hopefully.

Mariam Popal

LUIS SALA

Luis Sala is a professional dancer, teacher and choreographer from Maputo, Mozambique.  He has danced for the National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique for 10 years, assuming the role of principle soloist from 2000 to 2007, inclusive.  Luis has performed for over 70 presidents and historical figures such as Queen Elisabeth, Nelson Mandela, and Hilary Clinton and had a chance to be in the Movie Ali by Will Smith.  He has toured across four continents and worked for numerous international choreographers, including but not limited to: Donald Byrd, Chuck Davis, Jawole Whila Zollar, George Khumalo, David Zambrano, Arco Renz, Bettina Holzhousen, Kwame Rose, Lia Rodrigues, Clara Andermatte, Francisco Camacho, David Abilio and Casimiro Nhussi.

In 2000 Luis started choreographing his own full length shows. He also choreographed for the FIFA WORLD CUP and for the South African Rugby League. In Luis’ creations he has worked with dancers, Capoeira masters, and musicians from Mozambique, Brazil, South Africa, Canada, England, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Reunion Island and Austria. He has taught internationally, in Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, USA, Canada, Portugal, Lybia  and China. Ssince Luis returned back to Mozambique, he started a professional training program to increase the professional level in dance throughout the country, and collaborating with other countries in Southern Africa and Indian Ocean.

Luis is also one of the main partners with MoNo, (collaboration between Mozambican and Norwegian Government).

UTE FENDLER

Ute Fendler holds the chair of romance cultural and comparative studies at the University of Bayreuth. Francophone, Hispanophone, Lusophone literatures and film/TV (Africa, Caribbean, Canada, South America). Her main research interests are: intermedial and intercultural phenomenon, migration, iconographies, popular culture, performance.

Director of the Institute of African Studies (2011-2015), Deputy Director of Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African studies (since April 2015).

Some recent publications include:

U. Fendler et al.: Transformations. Changements et renouveaux dans la littérature et la cinéma au Maghreb depuis 1990. München: AVM, 2015.

U. Fendler/ Liliana Feierstein: Enfances? Représentations de l´enfance en Afrique et en Amérique Latine. München: AVM, 2013.

DVD-Edition: together with INAC (Instituto Nacional de Audiovisual e Cinema) and ICMA (Instituto Cultural Mocambicano-Aleaao): Imagems do mundo. DVD-Edition 2012 and 2013. Material from the Archives of INAC.

Articles

  • “The missing people – the return of the „people“? Fictocritical positions in the art scene in Maputo”. In: OS INTELECTUAIS AFRICANOS FACE AOS DESAFIOS DO SEC. XXI, Actas da segunda conferência 2012, 2014, 317-330
  • “Cinema in Mozambique: New tendencies in a complex mediascape.“ In: Critical Interventions, 2014, 18pp (online)
  • “Narrating the Indian Ocean: challenging the circuits of migrating notions.” In: Michael Mann/Ineke Phaf-Rheinberger (eds): Beyond the Line. Cultural Narrations of the Southern oceans. Berlin: Neofelis, 2014, 179-198
  • “Nouvelles icônes: enfants-soldats et jeunes guerriers.“ In: Fendler/Feierstein (eds.): Enfances? Représentations de l’enfance en Afrique et en Amérique Latine. München : 2013, 275-287
  • “La question de l’universel ou Traveling Tales. L’exemple de Maryse Condé.“ In: Mourad Ali-Khodja/Jean-Francois Thibault: Des apories de l’universalisme aux promesses de l’universel : chantiers pour une réflexion. Québec: Presses Universitaires, “Mercure du Nord”, 2013, 73-85.

WARNING! NOT FIXED

We are proud to give you a little insight on the project of Ulf Vierke and Delio Jasse, Warning! Not Fixed

Warning! Not Fixed is a story about the act of looking and the illusion of images. It highlights the ephemeral that is also characteristic for this end of photography as process. There is one central question: How does the process of remembrance work? Images, namely strong images or artworks in our memory are different from what we usually call knowledge. Images ‘adhere’, they stick to our memory usually without being on hand immediately. But do they really become disposable in the sense of applicable knowledge later on? The hypothesis underlying our experimental installation rather assumes that the initial image stays intact without being remembered as such; in the process of remembering the image we create new images instead of bringing back the initial one. Thus like retouches we put layer over layer of new-remembered images on top of the initial one. A consequence of the “remembering” is not a destruction but distancing of the original image. In our installation every individual act of looking at the image pushes one-step away from the initial image. The individual process of remembering described above is turned into a collective process. Warning! Not Fixed is as much about the individual’s process of remembering an image, as it is about the collective venture “archive”. The archive unfolds as a process not that much about the past but about futures, possible future remembrance.

PHILIPP KHABO KOEPSELL

Philipp Khabo Koepsell is a Berlin-based author, dramaturge and an internationally acclaimed spoken word performer of German and South African descent. With a clear focus on empowerment and negotiations of race and identity he has been touring Europe and South Africa, giving joyful lessons on activism and performance. His approach proves to be successful across all age groups and borders. On stage he mixes savvy afropolitan poetry with Black German activist messages and theatrical bits creating a unique, gritty, and entertaining style of performance poetry. He writes and performs in German and English.
He is the publisher of a book series focused on Black German arts and literature production. His latest publications “The Afropean Contemporary” and “Erste Indaba Schwarzer Kulturschaffender in Deutschland” discuss afrufuturism, and agency in Germany’s  Black Arts Movement.

TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER SEAS

Ruth Sacks´ artist book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under Seas is made up of a series of textual and visual interventions within French author Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870). Sacks´ main interest in this now-classic late 19th century tale of underwater travel in the fantastical submarine, the Nautilus, lies in the manner in which Western attitudes of entitlement of power are embedded in Verne’s narrative. Early English translators of 20,000 Leagues revealed comparable imperial tendencies in their efforts to make Verne’s text more palatable to a British audience. Beginning with Mercier Lewis’ inaugural translation (1873), the French author’s antagonism towards Britain was obscured and erased. Further liberties were taken in the removal of vast swathes of the book, with alterations made at will. Taking these initial English translations (some of which are still in circulation today) as a starting point, her work treats the process of translation as one of personal interpretation.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under Seas is a contemporary re-working of an early, erroneous English translation of Verne’s French original. She has inserted various additions, removals and embellishments into the narrative in order to accentuate certain political nuances. The Art Nouveau movement, once dubbed Le Style Jules Verne (by Maurice Rheims), is a dominant presence throughout my version of the book. In all of the lengthy descriptions of the submarine, especially her extravagantly luxurious staterooms and art collection, the architecture and interior decór is portrayed as if it were designed by such practitioners as: Hector Guimard, Victor Horta, Émile Gallé, Louis Majorelle and Henry Van de Velde. As the Art Nouveau style only dominated Western Europe for a brief but intense period from 1890 to 1910, this insertion into the narrative is an anachronism, like the Nautilus herself (while prototypes of early submarines had been invented by 1866, they were not yet in use). In using Verne’s 20,000 Leagues as a framing device to ‘house’ the Art Nouveau style, her intention is to draw correlations between the attitudes towards non-Western cultures (particularly those of colonized peoples in Africa) espoused by characters in the novel and those of the Art Nouveau practitioners. In both cases, there is an overriding tone of exoticizing imperialism that I wish to draw attention to. Consequently, in her rewriting of the novel, she have inserted certain narratives describing complex interactions between European explorers and native inhabitants of colonized locations and embroidered those already existing within Verne’s text.

ANNALISA URBANO

Annalisa holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. As a post-doctoral researcher at the Academy for Advanced African Studies, she is working on a book project provisionally entitled Creating Somalia: The United Nations, nationalism and the end of empire in East Africa (1945-1969).