Conference „Echoes of the South Atlantic“
Lexicon for a common world
Until the 15th century, the Atlantic Ocean marked the perceptible border between Africa and Europe on the one hand and America on the other. Their overcoming set in motion a history of colonization, enslavement, exploitation and migration. The Goethe-Institut's conference "Echoes of the South Atlantic" puts this past in the center of an intercultural discourse.
By Ana Hupe
The "2021" performance by Jota Mombaça and Michelle Mattiuzzi summed up the spirit of “Echoes of the South Atlantic” two-day conference: Both entered the foyer of Haus der Kulturen der Welt dressed in white and holding hands. The discolored hair of Mattiuzzi formed a halo circle over her head that gave the tone of the living ghosts that would be invoked by the duo by reading aloud, writing, transcribing and erasing sentences like "the black impossible body", “to touch the brokeness” or “every white smile is a threat”. The ghosts had already been raised by Paul Gilroy, keynote of the first night of Echoes, in a historical presentation on the terrace, where he remembered William Edward Burghardt Dubois, Stuart Hall and others who opened the path for his classic “The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness”.
Performance „2021“ by Jota Mombaça (left) and Michelle Mattiuzzi (right) | Photo: Sebastian Bolesch
Counteracting the rise of fascismMusic guided Gilroy’s speech, a tribute to João Gilberto, Brazilian musician who died on last July 6. By playing multiple songs from Jamaica, Ghana and other African and Latin American countries, he reminded us of the importance of diaspora’s musical archive as a space to convey a futurity for the people of the Global South to counteract the rise of fascism.
Felwine Sarr, closed the event on the same stage, in a hope-making lecture, high lightening the shaping of new identities that exile and relocation brings. (Video of keynote) Sarr stated that we live with transnational questions, arised from increasing mobility in the world, still treated as questions related to the National-States and it’s a new lexicon for a common world we need.
Felwine Sarr during his keynote | Photo: Sebastian Bolesch
Many projects – one pastBesides the keynote speakers, the conference had four panels and two film screenings: The acknowledgement of the involvement of Scandinavian nations in colonial violence; the dark history in the process of producing apparently harmless commodities, such as vanilla in Madagascar; and the importance of platforms for queer artists from the global South were some of the panel issues. In common, the participants have the desire to refresh the language of art history. One of the discussed strategies for the creation of a decolonial glossary were actions of refusal of representativeness. The curator Paul Goodwin demanded, as Èdouard Glissant would put it, "the right to opacity", showing works by artists who question binaryisms to bring different worlds in relation.
„Drafting beyond the Atlantic: Wombs of a Rainforest“ by Amilcar Packer and Anita Ekman | Photo: Sebastian Bolesch
Reconstructing History and ListeningThe main objective of "Echoes" platform is to promote South-South dialogues, rethinking the colonial role of Europe as mediator of these relations. The project that Cameroonian artist Jean-Pierre Bekolo carried out in Colombia reflects well this goal: he analyzes the relationship of the "original" African man with the diasporic identity. The Angolan Antonio Olé also investigates the resistance of the black people of the diaspora and will make a film on the political power of carnival, together with German curator Nadine Siegert, in Salvador, Bahia, in 2020.
The power of sound, medium that better navigates connecting worlds, was honoured by DJ Samy Bem Redjeb. The music he played allowed us to enlarge our phantasies to fight the still existent colonialism.