European Gaze, Diversity of Black Experiences, Gayification & Blackness in Uruguay.
Painel 2: The panel featuring Felipe Arocena, Koyo Kouoh, Diedrich Diedrichsen and Ute Fendler was one of four where conversations happened in an organic format with a vary malleable structure. | © Taylla de Paula
“My knowledge is non-academic, non-research and non-conceptual. I believe in knowledge that comes to you through your tissues.”---Koyo KouhThe panel featuring Felipe Arocena, Koyo Kouoh, Diedrich Diedrichsen and Ute Fendler was one of four where conversations happened in an organic format with a vary malleable structure.
Koyo Kouoh, an artist started off the conversation by reflecting back on two points from the keynote addresses which caught her attention; the visuals of slavery from Schwarcz’s presentation and Snoep’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Kouoh talked about the existence of amnesia in relation to Schwarcz’s talk, saying, “Although she (Schwarcz) did not really say it, there is amnesia that exists when we talk about slavery and its impact.” Kouh also talked about her disagreement with Snoep’s point that the problem with museums in Europe, notably Germany and France, is rooted in the politics of the countries not the museums themselves. Kouh believes the opposite. “The fire that European ethnographic museums are facing right now and rightfully so is because it is these institutions that are responsible for the failures in collaborating with non-European cultures.” Kouoh, the only black woman on the panel went on to share her feelings of joy and inexplicable excitement on being back in Bahia, where she has been several times before and where she always feels at home. “I feel an intimacy with black people all over the world and what connects us is humungous. I don’t know where to begin or end,” she said. She went on to talk about the continuous resilience of black people despite the centuries of oppression and how this strength has shaped the ways black people exist worldwide. “After the pain and horrors we have endured we still have the constant ability to recreate ourselves and be totally resistant to genocide and rise again and again.” Kouoh addressed the distortion of the African continent through the white European lens, the fetishization of African heritage and how this has placed the African continent in a position of economic pessimism that has greatly affected the lives and minds of black African people.
Ute Fendler, researcher and professor talked about the different ways black artists have created stories that address their varied realities. She highlighted the works of French filmmakers, Guy Deslauriers and Dyana Gaye along with the writings of Guadelepan author Maryse Conde. Diversity of experiences and the absence of a single black story were the focus of her presentation.
From Fendler’s thread of varied black realities, cultural critic and German author, Diedrich Diederichsen steered the conversation into what he called, “the dubious and problematic European creation of the adventurer and the problematic European traditions of ethnography and exploration.” To illustrate these points, Diedrichsen used the life and work of German author Hubert Fichte who spent a large part of his life existing in a dichotomous state of enlightened researcher along with being a eurocentric writer. Diedrichsen talked about Fichte’s desire to create a “gayification of the world, bringing tenderness and eroticism.”
The panel ended with Felipe Arocena highlighting the legacy of “whitening the race” in Uruguay where non-black immigrants were brought into the country after the end of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in order to lead to the “dilution of the black race.” According to Arocena, about 1 in 10 Uruguayans today identify as being Afro-descendants.
After running behind schedule the panel ended with very few questions but a larger understanding on how the experiences of blackness worldwide are still predominantly viewed from the viewpoint of slavery and oppression; an unnervingly white and eurocentric representation.
by Tari Ngangura
READ MORE ARTICLES