A panel of the thinking about Africanities in the South Atlantic
Five invitees from different fields accepted the challenge of discussing their works without thematic axes previously established. In the end, they arrived at the theme of the panel: “Excavations and Reparation Stories in the South Atlantic.”
ASLIGUL BERKTAYThe historian of Turkish origin approaches the trafficking of enslaved Africans between nations of the South Atlantic. “When we look at this Southern axis, we cannot see everything. It is necessary, for example, to distinguish Africa and the African diaspora,” she considers. Berktay points that, face the large quantity of Africans who were enslaved in the system of exploration of the Americas, slavery was naturalized - not only in the American continent, but also in African territories. “It was easier to obtain slaves than any other commercial good,” she resumes. The historian affirms that, with the technologic improvement and the collapse of local populations, identity differences between the colonizer and the enslaved were very marked and defined. In this process, “the Transatlantic became marginal in relation to the growth of the Americas,” she defends.
Berktay explains that still today, a century and a half after the apex of slavery traffic, in times of much talk about human rights, “there is no counterpart to slavery. The current preoccupation with human rights collides with the past.” The historian brings to the debate the theme of migration and of the ascension of the right, which she calls an “imminent danger,” especially in Europe, and throws out the question: “We have a lot to learn and to define who are the people who belong and those who do not. Who are ‘they?’ Who are the ‘others?'.” And ends: “Our relation should be egalitarian. We need to remember this history in the quotidian of our lives.”
JUAN ANGOLA MACONDEThe autodidact historian and economist centers his speech in the potentiality of memory and of ancestry: “We have the challenge of learning with the history told by our ancestors,” he defends. The place of observation and the place of speech are also important points to the historian: “It is necessary to think of history and to observe it from the outside in, but with our own voice, inside home.” Still on oral ancestry and tradition, the Bolivian defends that Western Africa must search for a convergence in which all of the African descendent peoples must recognize one another in all places. “The root speaks for itself. Each one has a story to tell. We do not need to linger to recognize this and one another,” he affirms.
Pointing to the importance of African history and oral tradition, Maconde finalizes speaking of the exchange and of culture as an important element in African identity, “not only the music,” he stresses. About the potentiality of this identity, he concludes that “African history has already gained a voice, an oral and familiar tradition that comes from the collective memory of all of our African ancestors.”
PATRICK MUDEKEREZAThe Congolese writer and cultural producer approaches the expansion of music from the Congo and from other countries in the African continent, especially in Latin America, and the role of Europe in this axis of diffusion: “Europe has an important point, maybe due to the resonance of the power of slavery. The Congolese music that is produced in Colombia, for example, is made via France or Belgium.
In mapping where different Congolese and African rhythms extend into Latin American countries, Mudekereza highlights music as an important instrument of integration: “As I heard in the talk by Bonaventure Ndikung, through sounds, connections can be made. We can see how collaborative art became important in Latin America and Asia, for example.” About the potentiality of African music beyond the borders of the continent, Mudekereza highlights, at last that “when we listen to a song, we can feel again something that was lost, in the presence of the body and of different ways of playing, feeling, and even of smelling. The Congo stayed inside a nucleus of slavery. Congolese music made this intangible,” he concludes.
FERNANDO OLIVAThe curator of the Modern Art Museum of São Paulo (MASP) highlights the process of renovation in the department of museum curatorship, which resulted in the discovery of forgotten or little known artists, such as Maria Auxiliadora da Silva, an autodidactic painter from Minas Gerais, who was in activity for only seven years, between 1967 and 1974. Of African descent, Maria Auxiliadora explored in her paintings elements of the Afro-Brazilian culture such as capoeira, samba, and Candomblé. Oliva explains that, in a scenery dominated by white painters of European descent and tradition, Maria Auxiliadora’s art was taxed as “primitive, popular, differentiated,” or even as “repetitive and with nothing new.” The curator stresses, however, that the painter resisted categorizations and did not present herself as a popular or naive artist, but only as an artist.
“The work of Maria Auxiliadora was the materialization of the personal expression of the black woman,” defines Oliva. “She had faith in her own style, passed through a rejection that caused her a certain disappointment and even at her deathbed she put pain into her art,” he concludes, referring to the paintings in which the artist portrays herself in her last days of life, before being a victim of cancer.
CIRAJ RASSOOLThe historian and South-African curator begins his talk with provocations: “What is race? And creolization and mixing? Is it true this idea that Brazil is a racial democracy?”. In pointing to cultural similarities between Cape Town and Salvador, Rassool highlights that in both places there have been “different layers of colonialism with distinct forms of embellishment.” About the politics of reparation, Rassool cites that universities in the United Stated already have a certain understanding that “there is the blood of enslaved people on their clothes.”
About the role of museum, Rassool defends that its function “is not only to take care of the collections, but also to mobilize and realize partnerships within itself.” “What is the difference between heritage and patrimony? What do we have of museology in South Africa and not in South America?,” he questions. To the curator, it is necessary to overcome idealism and to search for new ways of thinking about slavery and to change the reasoning of it. “In Afro-Brazilian history, for example, we need to use a quilombola heritage as a means of protection. How to speak about the history of slavery from the inside out? Who is telling this story?,” he concludes.
by Cadu Oliveira
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