LET IT RAIN

Up on a neck of a sacred hill known as Njelele is a shrine comprising a level open ground, more or less the size of a basketball pitch, and, by its side, a cave with two chambers . With only two small paths approaching the shrine from opposite directions, the space around is covered by trees and large rocks, making it into an ideal natural sanctuary. It is here at the shrine that on special days during the year, usually in the darkness of night, the people that call to Mwali for rain and fertility gather for that purpose. Having slaughtered an offering bull, they roast the meat and eat it unsalted. Opaque home-brewed beer is shared and some of it is poured
to the ancestors on a rock. The drinking and eating is followed by the beating of drums, singing and dancing, activities that continue to the early hours of the morning.

Tumi Mogorosi’s installation presents an aesthetic response to research material provided by Kupakwashe Mtata. Zooming into rain-making celebrations at the Njelele Shrine in Matobo, Matabeleland in Zimbabwe, his jazz composition enters into a conversation with the rough and shaky visual notes recorded during research trips. Experienced as patterns of images and sound they evoke an atmosphere of anticipation but also of presence, of the “future” being already there. Different spiritual registers are in action such as Metatron, a mythical angel of mediation, and Njelele-based rituals of rain-making which are calling a future into being. The rain asked for here is not necessarily water drops from a cloudy sky but invokes other showers of blessings, too.

 

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?

AFRICANS IN THE SOVIET UNION

Africans in the Soviet Union. Visions of the future, memories of the past

This project is a fictional intervention into the past and pr
esents three documents. The first is a letter written by Kwawe Paintsil Ansah from Ghana in 1961, applying for a scholarship in the Soviet Union in 1961. The letter is part of the research archive of researcher Constantin Katsakioris. Ansah’s text describes the aspirations that made him consider Moscow in the context of Socialist Friendship at the utopian moment of African independence. His document is combined with a fictional letter: a response written by literary scholar Gilbert Ndi Shang which rejects/suspends Ansah’s application. The third text is a further response in form of a poem by the Mozambican writer Luís Carlos Patraquim. This fictional collage speaks about dreams and visions of a past future, its limitations and potential from the perspective of the present. The historic photographs displayed depict African students in Moscow and Kiev and add a visual layer. One in particular stands out, taken during the 1963 demonstration, when students protested against the unresolved deathcase of fellow student Edmund Asare-Addo.

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

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.

S.E.F.A.

We are more than happy to announce the performance S.E.F.A. by Nastio Mosquito for our exhibition opening on the 7th of November. Be prepared, that´s one you shouldn´t miss.

S.E.F.A.
Nástio Mosquito
2014
Live Performance
Courtesy Nástio Mosquito ©, Photo by Margaux Kolly ©

“Se Eu Fosse Angolano” (S.E.F.A.) is a conceptual audiovisual / live piece of work that, using contemporary society, draws a distinct tone when approaching, questioning and repositioning the usefulness of identity. All citizens part of “modern societies” on planet Earth, specially the ones living in communities that seek to reinvent themselves after decades of either inner individual conflict or civil blindness, are the target of this project. Not being a happy listen, it is full of hope and ambition for a better and greater future. A future that reaches beyond those nations to the people that make them.

On stage, the challenge of the project is, to bring to life the concept we call “The Deconstruction Of The Legitimacy Syndrome” as well as to have the ultimate standoff between identity and motivation.

Motivation, belief, faith and its tangibility, use and consequence are at the centre of the proposal. If we had a question it would be:

Can you really change a human without interacting, invading, changing what he believes?

At the end of the day it is just a show that through music, poetry, video projections and live performance will race towards the interaction we have with our own relationships, history, emotional ghosts, social celebrations and much more…”

KUPAKWASHE MTATA

Kupakwashe Mtata is a doctoral researcher in Religious Studies working within the “Visions of Nature” sub-project under the auspices of the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies. His research focuses on religion and nature by exploring on-going encounters between European colonial and African autochthonous ontological designs of human-environment relations in contemporary Africa, with Matobo National Park of Zimbabwe and its environs as a case study.

TUMI MOGOROSI

Aged 28, SAMA award nominee, Tumi Mogorosi is increasingly building a reputation in the South African jazz scene among the new crop of young jazz musicians. Besides his intermittent formal studies at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) which he completed in 2012, the young drummer has refined his brush strokes alongside prominent South African jazz musicians who count – among trumpeter Feya Faku, bassist Herbie Tsoaeli as well as Andile Yenana.

Tumi Mogorosi was also part of the Gauteng Jazz Orchestra which opened the stage for world- renowned American Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis during his 2011 premier of the Joy of Jazz. More remarkable is Tumi’s fresh and bold offering as a composer and leader on his debut CD, Project Elo, which was re-released in London by Jazzman Records 31 June 2014. Project Elo has also toured France in Dec 2014 and performed at the Trans Musicales Festival in Renne.

Within the project of the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies Mogorosi works together with Kupakwashe Mtata.

LONGWALK

Check out Kae Suns video

Being one of the participating artists, he will show his new video to the song LONGWALK in the upcoming exhibition! You can find a little preview here with Kae on Okayafrica

The collaboration took place in Bayreuth along with another artist presenting in the exhibition, designer Emeka Alams from Gold Coast Trading Company. For a little deeper inside, have a look at his interview with Art Nouveau Magazine Emeka on an-mag

Time flies and you better be ready for it!

REMIXING WAGNER

DJ Spooky and Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) operas and conceptual writings remain some of the most influential works of the last two centuries. With their complexity, abstract harmonies and deeply elaborate use of leitmotifs, Wagner set the tone for how we think about composition and multiple interpretations of set design, architecture, and the complete use of music to create a virtual tableau for 21st century digital media. It’s been argued that he is essentially the first multimedia composer.

Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies, the innovative research structure at the University of Bayreuth, have invited Paul D. Miller to explore some of the deep structural relationships between Wagner’s concepts and the tensions between his work as a composer and theoretician and the long standing controversy surrounding his career.

From 2015-2016, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky is Composer in Residence at Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies in the heart of Bayreuth where Wagner oversaw his crowning achievement – the legendary Festspiel Haus. The Residency is comprised of an exhibition, concert series. It will be part of the joint exhibition of Academy researchers and artists responding to the overarching theme “Future Africa – Visions in Time” which opens on November 7th, 2015, at Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth. Paul D. Miller’s project on the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk is devoted to explores the philosophical dimensions of Wagner’s work in relation to 21st Century aesthetics and compositional strategies. The Residency will culminate in an album that explores many of Wagner’s most well known works.

Artist statement:

I first encountered Wagner not just as a composer but as a friend of one of my favorite philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche. The collected Aphorisms of Nietzsche Contra Wagner, and one of my favorite adages from it “For, as a rule, artists are no better than the rest of the world, they are even worse – they misunderstand love. Even Wagner misunderstood it…” are a big inspiration for my work. I did one of my degrees in Philosophy and focused on Ludwig Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Hegel, and the rise of humanism. The intriguing thing about Wagner is that his work was never meant to be “just music” – neither is mine. I started my Residency in Bayeuth by physically walking through the town and environs for many miles. I wanted to put myself in the scenario of Wagner’s architectural idea-form, the Festspiel Haus to explore the resonance between the composer as architect and philosopher. There’s also the dynamic engagement with some of my soundtrack work: Wagner’s music was used to sublimely powerful effect in DW Griffith’s deeply controversial film “Birth of a Nation.” I remixed the film and soundtrack with Kronos Quartet in 2016. The other aspects of Wagner – The Tristan Chord (which many musicologist a trace to the rise of Modernist post Harmonic tone sequences, etc), and Wagner’s relationship to cinema inform the project and Residency: Apocalype Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979), Amiri Baraka’s famous “Dutchman” (1964) on over to the Richard Burton 1983 biographic “Wagner,” to Stephen Fry’s “Wagner and Me” (2012), James Franco’s rendition of “Tristan and Isolde” (2006, Tony Scott, Director) and more currently, the rise of multimedia as the dominant global discourse of our time – all of these point to Wagner as more important than ever. From his relationship to modern cinema (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars etc) one can see his traces on almost every major aspect of Western culture – up to and including the main theme of many, many weddings: The “Bridal Chorus” (“Treulich geführt” in German), from the 1850 opera Lohengrin, is a march played for the bride’s entrance at many formal weddings throughout the Western world. Then there’s the whole issue of his concepts of Gesamkunstwerk and Zukunftmusik that anticipated our media discourse by a full century. While Wagner won critical acclaim for what he achieved in his theater works, his nuanced and passionately written, problematic philosophical works are less well known. I’ll balance music with art and philosophy in this Residency, and I hope you can join me for the journey.

Bayreuth, 2015

I’ll be exploring a digital media response to his work by looking some of the more complex issues informing his work.

relation to 21st Century aesthetics and compositional strategies. The Residency will culminate in an album that explores many of Wagner’s most well known works.