© António Ole
The Team in Lockdown Meeting Mode 2021 | © Fareda Khan We imagine a virtual holding space, suspended in time, an unabashed counter-museum of unfinished projects, performances, films, installations throbbing with the expectation of being reimagined, reframed and realised — some day. Jottings, doodles, scribblings, footage, half hummed melodies, shuffling feet. A “Carnival in the Making”, which exhales the reverberations of an unforeseeable but hopeful future across the South Atlantic, and beyond.
Our current global situation is evolving into many permutations. The “new normal” seems forever out of reach - fraught with anxieties and uncertainties, but also endless possibilities. In the ways we create, communicate and journey, in our modes of encounter, our spatiality in urban and rural settings, from the concepts around social and physical distance to simply how we adorn our bodies with masks, face coverings or hazmat suits, and re-imagine the rites of passage from birth to death to vaccination: new ways of being are shifting constantly.
This situation pressed upon us globally by the pandemic presents numerous challenges as the restrictions we face keep altering, and we keep adjusting our approach and practice. Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, we have been creating, individually, collectively and globally, new pathways and frameworks whilst separating myth from reality. How have the creative communities and collaborations within the Echoes of the South Atlantic project reacted to these challenges? How did we as the curatorial team retrieve from these responses our original plans, even while honouring the inevitable derailments and indefinite postponements? How do we convert disappointment into hope?
Carnival in the Making is our curatorial concept for the digital publication arising from the final phase of the Echoes of the South Atlantic project. It has evolved in consultation with the artistic collaborations within the project and in cognisance of the logistical constraints around delivery imposed by the special period we are going through. It showcases the largely unfinished status of most of the original projects as works in the making, that reflect in different ways the spirit of joyful, creative, improvised resistance that is the deep history of the Afro-Atlantic world and is most evidently manifested in a “Carnival” as phenomenon.
Moving away from the idea of a carnival located at a precise point in calendrical time, we retain the promise of eternal return and the act of making this happen — in all senses of the term. Investing the labours of the artists with meaningfulness and agency, we place the as yet unfinished work alongside the projects that have, despite the pandemic, been completed. This digital publication thus documents the journeys all artists have undertaken that, having begun in Bahia three years ago, has to end, for the moment, during an extraordinary and unforeseen development on a global scale.
Even as the lines of demarcation of our uncertain and fractured world change rapidly, the relentless fallout of COVID-19 merges with assaults on minorities worldwide and escalating restrictions on the right to protest social inequalities. Black and Asian communities are some of the most vulnerable across the Western world, a consequence of historical inequity, poverty and structural racism. Existing in this “new normal” is inevitably to encounter complex, topical and societal injustices. In particular, to respond adequately to Black Lives Matter (BLM) in a time of COVID-19, we invoke Carnival, emblematic of Afro-Atlantic expressive culture that sits on a historical continuum with the BLM movement.
It is possible to re-imagine through and in art, a society after the COVID-19 cloud: this is what “Carnival in the Making” projects. Fermenting an alternative and equitable utopia our artists reveal new ways of being, collecting the memories of historic injustices and truths amidst the myth and magic in the realm of promise.
Looking back, what were the challenges we faced?
The projects of the different artists, the nature of their interruption, that which is already accomplished, and their plans for the future, all make clear that there are a number of different stages of (in)completion at play. Moreover, a few projects were completed by the time of the publication’s assemblage. At the same time, all projects were guided by a dizzying range of conceptual architectures and a diverse array of media. Finally, we have had to grapple with the parameters of the digital format while navigating across time zones, screens and languages in the absence of face-to-face communication. Under the circumstances, how were we to ensure parity of representation?
Our solutions include imaginative use of the trailer format, interplay of our curatorial commentary with the artists’ voices, showcasing the creative process itself even while it is still evolving. The project pages celebrate the many spin-off collaborations and partnerships entailed by the transatlantic ripple effect of Echoes of the South Atlantic.
Journey and Recall; Encounter and Recognition; Transformation and Party:
We invite you to explore the dynamic play of similarities and differences through these connections linking the projects.
The Team in Lockdown Meeting Mode (2021) | © Camilo Caicedo Ours is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-sited research and curatorial team, which has been able to bring a wealth of personal and professional experiences to dialogue with the participants and collaborators of “Echoes of the South Atlantic”.
The partnership between the co-curators Ananya Kabir and Fareda Khan goes back to 2000, when they first began collaborating on several projects that culminated in a highly successful partnership funded by a Knowledge Transfer Fellowship awarded to Ananya by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. This fellowship enabled Fareda and Ananya to curate the ambitious, multi-sited programme Between Kismet and Karma: South Asian Women Artists Respond to Conflict, that ran in 2012 across the United Kingdom. Ananya and Fareda enjoy a long friendship and symbiotic working relationship founded on commitment to diversity, creativity, and justice through the arts, which is a vision shared by the entire Echoes of the South Atlantic curatorial team and the glue which holds us together.