Sunday, April 29, 2012

Via Shadow And Act
Produced by Nu Century Arts, Birmingham, in partnership with the Octavia Foundation, Margins to Mainstream: The Story of Black Theatre in Britain is a groundbreaking film that builds on previous theatre heritage projects delivered by Nu Century Arts, exploring the history and heritage of black theatre in Britain.

Margins to Mainstream: The Story of Black Theatre in Britain "examines the different interpretations of 'Black British Theatre' as a label and genre and catalogues the incredible contribution of black actors, producers and playwrights to the UK theatre tradition. Featuring previously unseen footage of seminal plays, fascinating interviews with theatre heavyweights, 'Margins to Mainstream' tells the story of a dynamic art."

Historians, playwrights, producers and actors that contributed and appear in the film include Courttia Newland, Javone Prince, Kwame Kwei-Armah, and Pat Cumper.

From Ira Aldridge playing Othello in Covent Garden in the 1830s, to Bashy playing Markus the Sadist in a 'rap opera' in 2010; the richness of this story is in its diversity. The film looks at the forgotten treasures and the landmark performances in the huge canon of work that exists. The film is pioneering in its subject and approach, highlighting the battles and the triumphs of Black British Theatre, on its journey from the margins, into the mainstream.


The film will premiere at The Drum Arts Centre, in Birmingham, on Thursday May 10, @6PM. After that first showing, Margins to Mainstream will have numerous showings that are listed here.

See website http://www.octaviafoundation.org.uk

Category: articles

Saturday, April 28, 2012


In the video Caroline Bressey from London's global university gives a mini lecture about London's Black History.

Caroline Bressey is a lecturer in the Department of Geography, UCL. Her research focuses upon recovering the historical geographies of the black community in Victorian Britain, especially London.

Parallel to this are her interests in ideas of race, racism, early anti-racist theory and identity in Victorian society. A large part of her research uses photography and this interest led her to collaborate with the National Portrait Gallery, London, on the representation of black and Asian people in their collections. She has worked as a curator with the National Portrait Gallery and Museum in Docklands.
Category: articles
In our series Black History around the globe, the story of Afro-Brazilian Luis Gama.

By Toyin Ashiru

Luís Gonzaga Pinto da Gama (June 21, 1830 — August 24, 1882) was a Brazilian Romantic poet, journalist, lawyer and a prominent abolitionist


Luis Gama was born in June 21 1830 in Salvador the capital of Bahia which in the 1800s was the most important city for the slave trade in Latin America. He was born to a wealthy white father who would later sell his son at the age of 10 to pay off a gambling debt and a free black woman called Luiza Mahn who was from the Nago nation located in Ghana. Although she had been snatched from Ghana, she had managed to gain her freedom by the time Luis Gama was born and was selling fruit and vegetables on the streets of Salvador.

Luis Gama never told anyone who his father was, but always wrote and spoke freely of his affection for his mother. According to him, his mother was both strong and vindictive which reflected in the fact that she refused to have her son baptised into the Christian religion, she was also known to be a great leader in several uprisings, and is famed for her involvement in the great Males revolt in 1835 where her home was used as headquarters. The revolt involved African Slaves who had converted to Islam and who went on to carry out a series of holy wars in the hope of erasing Christianity and also the white man, the revolt was eventually suppressed and rumour has it that when Luiza Mahan was accused of involvement in the revolt she fled to Rio de Janeiro, but know one knows for certain, what we do know though is; a young Luis Gama was later sold by his father into slavery at the age of 10.

In November 1840 Luis Gama arrived in Rio de Janeiro and was one of 100 slaves purchased by slave trafficker called Antônio Pereira Cardoso. He was to work in the coffee plantations of São Paulo but being from Bahia which had a bad reputation for insurgent slaves, Cardoso couldn’t sell Luis Gama, so he decided to keep him as his personal slave. Gama stayed with his master for 8 years on an estate and learnt how to read and write from a students who rented rooms on the estate. In 1848 Gama escaped and managed to prove that his condition was illegal to justice courts thus becoming a free man.

Once a free man he became a solider in the Urban Guard a military police force where he stayed until 1858 until he was discharged for insubornation, after this he joined the police force and progressed to be the scribe at the Sao Paulo Police Secretariat. He made the most of this job and got to know the legislation and how it was used, he then became a special type of lawyer which was called at the time Rabula (a lawyer without a degree) which was basically a man who made lawsuits on behalf of slaves against their masters. This job highlighted his extraordinary intellect and oratory skills which he used to help the defenceless, who were was the black people of Sao Paulo.

In 1860 Gama published a collection of poems in which he gained huge notoriety and fame for satirizing and mocking Pardos (The Brazilian term for mixed raced or Biracial persons of African and European ancestry ) who wanted to be white and sold out their black brother and sisters by denying their roots so they could join the elite, also poems condemning slavery, his love of black women and of Africa, and the African customs he had experienced growing up in Salvador from his mother and others, this at the time was un heard of. Even though Gama was also a Pardo he found great pride in his blackness and saw himself as black and was proud to have had such a strong and beautiful black mother.

The poems were entitled when first published Primerias trovas burlecas de Getuliano (The burlesque ballads of Getuliano) and the second expanded edition was entitled Novas Trovas Burlescues 1861

In 1869, he lost his job as a scribe due to his behaviour towards a judge who was reluctant to try cases for the release of slaves proposed by him. The dismissal was requested by the Governor of the Province but Luís Gama did not quiver. He replied: “I am honoured at the dismissal I have just received”. He was not only sacked but also sued for libel and defamation.

He took on his own defence before a popular jury and was acquitted by unanimous decision. After this episode, Luís Gama worked as a lawyer and a journalist where he scorned the values of the Paulista elite incompetent judges and the monarchy.

In response the judges accused him inciting rebellion by slaves, the president of São Paulo at the time accused Gama of confounded philanthropy and to much preference towards blacks in the country, this from a country that would later import white Europeans to whiten the country.

Gama was a hero amongst black Brazilians and asserted in articles and speeches that slaves should use violence against their masters if they had to.

Alongside the help of the Paulistano club and the masons. His work made sure that many Negro slaves were freed. His main resource was to use the laws currently in effect, that were not respected by the owners. The most important of these was the 1831 law that declared that any Negroes entering the country after that date would be free. By the end of his career over a 1000 slaves had benefited from his legal assistance.

Gama was also an exceptional journalist and founded Diablo Coxo (lame Devil) Brazil’s first lampoon magazine, which mocked the Brazilian elite also O Cabario he also contributed regularly to three other newspapers and magazines in São Paulo.

During debates over the free womb Gama called for an immediate end of slavery and the other throw of the monarchy, a lot of people in Brazil were very scared of Gama’s power and influence over black people and feared he would inspire blacks to rise to unacceptable positions of power.

His obstinate defence of the Abolitionist and Revolutionary causes meant that Luís Gama had a difficult life, almost impoverished yet he was a hero in Bahia, Salvador and Rio with activists naming abolitionist groups after him also a patriotic Battalion.

He died on 24 August 1882, of diabetes and his burial was a significant event in Brazil. In the city of São Paulo, which then had 40 thousand people, three thousand people followed the coffin of the abolitionist leader which included very prominent figures of São Paulo. The A Província de São Paulo newspaper published the following comment: “This capital city has never seen such an imposing and spontaneous expression of intense pain and nostalgia from a whole population, towards one citizen.” About Luís Gama, Rui Barbosa said the following: “The heart of an angel, a brilliant mind, a torrent of eloquence, dialectics and grace”.
Category: articles

The Afro-Brazilian group Ilê Aiyê and Brazilian rapper Criolo joint together for the video "Ilê Aiyê". The video is sponsered by the Brazilian energy company Petrobraz.

Ilê Aiyê was founded in 1974 in the neighborhood of Liberdade, the largest black population area in Salvador, Bahia. Ilê Aiyê means “house of life” in Yoruba. Ilê Aiyê combined the art of carnival including costumes, music, accessories, songs and dance with principles of respect for heritage, ancestry, elders, spirituality, symbolism and community development to become a leading institution representing African culture in Bahia.

Check out the music of Ilê Aiyê at http://globalaxe.org
Category: articles

Friday, April 27, 2012

UK guest blogger Kemi traveled to Africa. She thought she would be re-immersed into her original roots and culture, but she found something else. 


 


Colonial Mentality, by Kemi

In 2010, I longed for a change of environment, and decided I wanted to travel to other parts of the world for some time, and then thought going to Africa for a year would be ideal since many had accused me of losing touch with my roots, so off I went to West Africa to spend one year in Nigeria.

I expected that I would be re-immersed into my original roots and culture. But I was to be surprised because most of the people I met suffered from a condition that’s best described as ‘colonial mentality’.

In his book, Colonial Mentality in Africa, Michael Nkuzi Nnam describes (African) colonial mentality as an unintentional attempt by Africans to continue to behave like they are still under colonial rule. It happens when people who have been colonised accept the culture or doctrines of the coloniser as fundamentally better or more superior. It usually means the colonised feel inferior or improper if they don’t adopt the coloniser’s ideals.

So in what ways did I notice this trend?

Fashion / Appearance

I didn’t expect Nigerian people to dress like cave men or women, but I expected that people would be prouder of their heritage. On a positive note, I did notice that a lot of Nigerians took a lot of pride in their culture and this was evident in the food they ate and the colourful, fanciful, Nigerian clothing they wore. Most companies even had the policy of advising employees to wear traditional Nigerian clothing on Fridays, a sort of ‘dress down Friday’ initiative, which I really loved. However, when it came to physical beauty, unfortunately, I’d say a lot of Nigerians, in fact a lot of Africans, are still nursing a colonial mentality. I was coming from the Western world, where many black women were becoming more and more aware of their roots, becoming proud of these, and showing it by starting movements such as those that encourage natural hair. Natural, thick, full, black hair has become a sort of statement (and dare I say aspirational trend) for many black women in the Western world, and rightly so, celebrated. However, in Nigeria, the ideal woman has Brazilian or Indian hair extensions which she buys with half of her salary. If (especially as a woman) you carried a funky natural style or afro around in Nigeria, you automatically would be assumed to be some religious zealot or mad being. I tell you.

Everyone’s got their right to adopt whatever look they feel works for them, and this is not a campaign against wearing human hair extensions; but truth be told, let’s call a spade a spade, let’s hit the nail on the head, let’s not beat about the bush, if you feel incomplete, improper or inferior when rocking your natural hair, you have a case of colonial mentality.

Apart from the hair, I notice that even among most Africans, lighter skin complexions are favoured over darker skin tones. More so in Nigeria, it is evident in pop culture, and for example in some Yoruba music lyrics which use words like ‘omo pupa’ (light-skinned girl) or ‘apon-bepo-re’ (as light as palm oil) to describe a man’s ideal woman. Women with lighter skin tones are seen as more beautiful. The dark complexion of a woman now baits unpleasant jesting. Duduyemi as a name has become a joke, in fact some sort of sarcasm, rather than the statement of black beauty it is supposed to represent. So it is no surprise that skin bleaching creams are all over the beauty shops in Nigeria, in Africa, even in many parts of Asia. This is simply colonial mentality.

Food

A lot of Nigerians eat their own native food, which they refer to as ‘proper food’. Proper because any other food is not proper. That’s a beautiful thing. But then you find that when a lot of Nigerians want to show that they are well-off or posh, they don’t go for ‘proper food’. For example, if you know you really love ‘proper food’, but because you want to appear posh at a Nigerian party you decide to go for foreign plates, you are clearly suffering from colonial mentality.

Name

There is a certain perception of affluence you get in Nigeria if as a native you have a foreign surname. If you are Nigerian, you may not agree because it’s one of those attitudes that have been so subconsciously ingrained in the society, so, few people are aware of or even talk about it. In Nigerian movies, I’ve observed that most times, rich kids are portrayed as bearing surnames such as ‘Williams’, ‘Davies’, ‘Philip’ or ‘Brown’. There’s nothing wrong with having a non-Nigerian surname, after all, if that’s your lot, there’s not much you can do about it, you didn’t choose it, you were born into it. However, what is wrong is the perception of such names as superior/better, compared to indigenous names.

Colonial Mentality or Acculturation?

Having said all that though, colonial mentality is not the only reason people adopt non-indigenous values or cultures. Let’s face it; there is this issue of globalisation. Every single day, the world keeps converging to become a global village. No country is an island on its own (figuratively speaking!). Thanks to technology, education, travel and many other factors, inter-continent and inter-country interactions make us all share our cultural tastes. We begin to discover new ways of doing things, and adopt them, if we prefer them to our own cultures. It’s probably mostly also a case of acculturation, where people take on new cultures and psychological attitudes after their own cultures intercept with others’. Even in our culinary choices, Chinese cuisines, for example, are not only popular and loved in Western countries, they are now becoming popular in many other countries, and especially in Nigeria, where there are a growing population of people who continue to discover and add new dimensions to their palate. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have a colonial mentality if they prefer foreign food over their native food. It’s all about motives really. If people are trying out different things to see what works for them, then it is understandable. But there is clearly an issue when somebody thinks less of something they like personally, just because the world says it is not the ‘ideal’.

Of course you do have your rights to choose who you want to be, what you want to wear and the message (s) you want to pass across in your chosen way of life. Just always remember that it’s your life at the end of the day, and letting the world dictate for you what you should do with your life is surrendering the control of your life to the manipulative demands of that world.

Fela Kuti, one of Africa’s most prominent musicians before his death wrote a song titled ‘Colo Mentality’. Even though he shortened the word ‘colonial’ to ‘colo’, that title is an amusing pun, because colo in Nigerian slang means ‘crazy’ or ‘mad’. An excerpt from the lyrics from the song says: “Dem don release una, but you never release yourself.” Translation: They (the colonisers) have released you, but you have not released yourself.

As Bob Marley put it, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.”

The colonial masters have released you. Now release yourself.

Kemi is an ex-journalist based in the UK, of Nigerian origin, who I likes to compare cultures of Africans at home and those in the diaspora.  Her blog: http://kemi.blog.com
Category: articles

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Alabama Shakes is the American pop sensation at this moment and they are touring Europe.

With lead singer Brittany Howard (23) the band performed on The Late Show with David Letterman. And they made their first UK television debut on April 24, where they appeared on Later... with Jools Holland and performed "Hold On" and "Hang Loose". Next stop is Bitterzoet Amsterdam on Tuesday May 1.
Category: articles

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Via Shadow and Act
The French film Intouchables is a hit in France. White and Black French alike, love the film. Even in (Francophone) Africa it is a great succes, wrote Sibo in his review. But the American film magazine Variety called it "The kind of Uncle Tom racism one hopes has permanently exited American screens." It's clear that French people love it and Americans probably will hate it?

The Weinstein Company is planning to release it in the USA next month, May 25. But Variety warned, "the Weinstein Co., which has bought remake rights, will need to commission a massive rewrite to make palatable this cringe-worthy comedy about a rich, white quadriplegic hiring a black man from the projects to be his caretaker, exposing him to 'culture', while learning to loosen up. Sadly, this claptrap will do boffo Euro biz."

In an interview with Anthem Magazine Omar Sy addresses the US critiques of Intouchables.
ANTHEM MAG - The Los Angeles Times has said that the film has some ‘crying racism.’ Variety proclaimed that your role as Driss is ‘a role barely removed from the jolly house slave of yore.’ I don’t personally share these views, but I would love to get your thoughts on what certain American critics are saying.

OMAR SY - I didn’t see any racist elements. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done this movie. I would need to see what those critics are talking about, specifically. I did read a few things here and there, but I want to make it clear that, in France, things are very different than the U.S. on a social level. The two societies have not evolved in the same way. In France, when you look at the poor and the privileged in the city suburbs, all immigrant communities live together and share the same environment. You’ll find people from places like Northern Africa and Portugal living together. In the U.S., it’s not like that. I would need more information on what these critics are saying, but we should look at all the details. Then we could explain the reasons behind it. It would take a long time and we would need a whole new movie about that.

Sibo, who is Francophone,  wrote in his review. "It is true that the film is full of clichés and racial stereotypes. As the film is rather kind than harsh it seems from this perspective that the film is a French version of Uncle Tom's Cabin. But I don't think that's what the film is about. Race is used to accentuate differences but race is not the subject of the film. 'Untouchables' is about lonely human beings with very different backgrounds finding friendship and love. However, Variety sees race as the center element of the film."

And also a French speaking couple who commented on the posting loved the film.

I must admit that when I saw the trailer I immediately saw the racial stereotypes, the cultivated white person versus the uneducated black man from the streets. But maybe a lot of French people also saw the stereotypes, but didn't label them as racist.

Category: articles

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Debate:  Am I Black Enough for You? - Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn
When Black Swedish artist Makode Linde pictured himself black-faced and screaming in front of a cake portraying a mutilated African woman, he probably would have counted to ten if had lived in the US or in an African country. But perhaps the complexity of a being a Black artist in Europe creates another perspective.

In a debate “Am I Black Enough for You?", which was held in the Netherlands, Dutch Black artists discussed the perspective of being a Black artist in a European country.  Does Black in The Netherlands mean the same as Black in Anglo-American regions? Should you present yourself as being from an immigrant background, as multicultural or as Dutch? And should you look inward to reflect on your own Black history, instead of confronting the Dutch public with your colonial history? And last but least, should an artist be politically engaged?

About the debate Dutch artist Charl Landvreugd wrote the article entitled "Contributes to how we see ourselves within an expanding Europe". An adaptation of the introduction to the debate evening Am I Black Enough for You? “Notes on Black Dutch Aesthetics”, 26 October 2010.

The debate was held in  Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 2010 and a similar debate will be held upcoming june in SMBA Amsterdam (2012) 

Am I Black Enough for You?

It is time to initiate a critical engagement with a Black-Dutch consciousness in the visual arts. An important aspect of this is to do so in Dutch so that we develop our own language usage to discuss our specific social constructions. Up to now the language used to speak about nonwhite subjects is produced in Anglo-American regions. In order to avoid misinterpretation, I choose the word Black here to denote people of colour. A word such as Black does not have the same connotations in our environment as it does in the Anglo-American context. Using the word Black allows us to give our own interpretation to the concept. From this viewpoint, it ought to be possible in the visual arts to define certain parameters of specific Black Dutch aesthetics without falling into a definition that is derived from the British and American models. Even though we do not yet know precisely what Black means, we can at least make a start.

Giving shape to a Dutch idea of Black starts by a definition that already assumes exclusion. In the case of the debate “Am I Black Enough for You?” it means a gathering of only black cultural innovators and the emphasis of the debate among black people about work created by black people: a black discussion about Black. Consciously rooted in a multiple self, this is not about a struggle for emancipation. The new generation of black Dutch artists and cultural innovators claims without reservation the space to which all Dutch artists believe they are entitled. This involves a Black self-awareness that is Dutch.

Black self-awarenes

Black self-awareness, however, is not the same as a multi-cultural self-awareness. The multicultural definition is formulated by the multi-culturally-inclined bourgeoisie which consists largely of white Dutch people. The “multi” in cultural life defines the creative activities of Dutch artists with a black heart and exterior as multi-cultural and never as Black. As long as opinions relating to works created by Black artists are relegated to that position, they will not easily be regarded as Black Dutch works. It is important, when developing a view of the work, that the undermining and warping of western imagery is not always recognised – there is a certain lack of knowledge of non-western symbolism and philosophy. In some cases the artist chooses not to include any visual aspect of Blackness in his or her work. This makes viewing the work as Black even more of a problem because the visual language provides no clues. Embedded in a discourse that takes place from the white, multi-cultural viewpoint, one could ask with whom are these artists communicating through their work? How are they contributing towards a broader Black consciousness or Black Dutch knowledge dissemination?


Is the artist involved in Blabk self-reflection?
What does Black self-reflection signify in Dutch art? Cry Surinam by Felix de Rooij from 1992 is one of the most remarkable works in this context. It is a sculpture created from an oil stove with a book about the tropics resting on it and a bone and a black skull on top of that.

See more photos at Agnosia 2011 installation shots - Photo: Charl Landvreugd


The image cries out in silence. Critics Rob Perrée and West-Durán say it is a parody of the Surinamer who has abandoned the warmth of his country in exchange for the chill of the Netherlands. 1 For first-generation Surinamers Cry Surinam was a medium for self-reflexivity and the work poses the question of whether migration was really the best choice. For their children, the work plays on those elements that, since the nineteen seventies, have formed part of the creation of a Black-Dutch subjectivity. In fact, the generation of the seventies was raised to integrate and be absorbed into Dutch society. Their full integration has left the legacy that there are some subjects about which it is forbidden to speak out loud, such as slavery and everyday racism. This is the price that had to be paid. Cry Surinam is one of the first attempts in the visual arts to express criticism of today’s Black Dutch identity. It is a unique, Dutch work that lays bare the cultural layers that must be penetrated in order to achieve institutional criticism and self-reflection. The fact that, after all these years, it has still not been purchased, speaks for itself.

Does the artist present him/herself as being from an immigrant background, as multicultural or as Dutch?
With the so-called “failure” of the multi-cultural society, the nation’s struggle with identity takes place in a politically-divided, middle-class society. It seems that order must be restored. A middle-class conflict has developed between the “authentic original inhabitant” – the white Dutch person, and the “incomer” – the Dutch person of colour, as two different classes divided by their colour line and religious backgrounds. The question of the political positioning of an artist can play a very significant role when analysing his or her work. Even though it would be a very interesting position, I have been unable to find a single visual artist who would politically position themselves as being of immigrant background. A conscious positioning as multi-cultural, however, is frequently found.

Politically-correct

An example of this is the multimedia artist Dwight Marica. With the coloured wires around the television in the sculpture Space Object, series 2099, he expressed the idea of a streamlined, multi-cultural society. He defends this extreme, politically-correct position by saying that clichés are not merely stylistic figures but make up his daily reality and that he must respond to them. In later versions of the Space Object, series 2099, the TV in the earlier series develops into a more abstract and less literal form that demonstrates the transforming reality of multi-cultural society.

Photo: Stichting Public Art Squad





Black is not multi-cultural

Some artists are not satisfied with positioning themselves as Dutch. Dutch without any hyphen or excuse. Sara Blokland is one of these artists. Her dual-blooded legacy and the Dutch identity therein is the central thesis in her work. In the installation Reproduction of Family part 1&2, Blokland displays her family in the photographic memory of a historical setting.

Photo: America Dutch Art Events by the Kingdom of the Netherlands


She reflects on the exoticism in the photography and in the production of history. Her family is captured as a collection of images and objects in an installation consisting of a table with ceramic and historical photographic material. The nature of the work brings anthropological and decorative events to the foreground. The individual becomes a part of a scientific approach that creates a tension between the index of a photographic image and the instability of its meaning.2 In her work Blokland illustrates a Dutch identity that is Black and not really very multi-cultural.

Does the artist attempt to bridge the internal ideological gulf in the Black Dutch community?
An example of a contrasting strategy can be found in the work of Iris Kensmil. This artist uses history in her life-sized paintings to fill the ideological gaps and to hold a mirror before us all. Instead of confronting the Dutch public directly with our colonial history, she makes this visible by showing “other histories”. Kensmil plays with the ideological Négritude3 movement and stories from the African Diaspora.

Photo: Iris Kensmil

She uses Afro-American heroes from the American Civil Rights Movement, for example, and Surinam heroes such as Anton de Kom and Maroon tribal chiefs. By promoting Black knowledge dissemination, Kensmil makes a statement about Black unification. By calling for unity from a Black consciousness, she tries in her work to build a bridge in the Afro-Dutch community.


Does the artist engage with the political functioning of Dutch society?
An artist who also denounces the political functioning of Dutch society in general is Remy Jungerman. His wall installation Bakru from 2007 attempts to reflect on knowledge dissemination in the Dutch nation and a new way of suggesting it. Jungerman uses various objects in his Bakru piece that refer to Afro-Surinam Winti philosophy. He adorns a garden gnome with an African mask and thus refers to the forgotten god-like functionality of the figure.

Remy Jungerman / Bakru 2008 - Photo: Aatjan Renders


The joke among people with a Surinam background is that the garden gnome, both in size and functionality, is the same as a Bakru (a Surinamese dwarf entity who, like the gnome, helps in and around the house). In general, western thinking leaves no room for such interpretations of reality and both the garden gnome and the Bakru are banished to the land of fairy tales.

Jungerman places the masked gnome in a structure of wooden laths that initially suggest the modernistic structures of Mondriaan. The artist insists, however, that the play of lines is derived from the chequered pagne, a shawl that is worn by Afro-Surinamese people in a social ritualistic or religious setting. If we are to believe the artist, then the work should be viewed in the context of contemporary African and African Diaspora art. Jungerman uses the pagne in fact to create a link to the West-African weaving and dying tradition of which the Kente cloth is the best example. Contemplating his work would benefit from doing so based on the theory that developed from it, as is done with the work of the Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui.4
Suffice it, for now, to say that the Afro-Surinamese lens that Jungerman uses in his work focuses unity into plurality. It neutralises neo-racist tendencies and accepts a variety of manifestations of Dutch identity as authentically intrinsic. In doing this, Jungerman, like writer Edgar Cairo, reminds people of Afro-Surinam origin of the paradigms that have formed their community throughout the centuries. At the same time he criticises the Dutch institutionalised way of knowledge dissemination and offers Afro-Surinamese metaphysics as an extra method to allude to the situation in a different way.

The idea of Black in the European continental visual arts

When we look at the work and the positions of artists such as Remy Jungerman, iris Kensmil, Sara Blokland, Dwight Marica and Felix de Rooij, and the positions they adopt, it becomes clear that what is designated as multi-cultural can also be seen as Black. It therefore depends on who is posing the question and which questions are raised. Regardless of borrowed styles and figures, it is essential to view the work also with due attention to the philosophical and visual baggage that the artist carries. The positions, criticism and new forms that are distilled from this can help formulate the idea of Black in the European continental visual arts. It is true, here, that the visual arts can help to describe Black as a European identity that 3 Négritude began as a literary movement of French-speaking black poets who were looking for an answer to the colonial situation; the term also describes a broader idea of solidarity in the search for a common, black identity.

Credits

Title :“Notes on Black Dutch Aesthetics”, Conversations on Paramaribo Perspectives, Ed. M. Dolle. Rotterdam: Tent Rotterdam, 2011.

First Published in “Notes on Black Dutch Aesthetics”, Conversations on Paramaribo Perspectives, Ed. M. Dolle. Het beste van De Unie in Debat (een uitgave van de Rotterdamse Kunststichting, 2011).

This article was published on Afro-Europe with courtesy of the Rotterdamse Kunststichting and Dutch artist Charl Landvreugd


Video

Video of the opening of the group exposition of Dutch Black Artist "Agnosia" in Amsterdam South-East in The Netherlands in 2011



Also see the website of Paramaribo SPAN project, a conversation between Surinamese Artist in Surinam and in The Netherlands about contemporary art and visual culture in Suriname, website: http://paramaribospan.blogspot.com
Category: articles

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bob Marley's granddaughter Donisha Prendergast in India
Since the 1960‟s, journalists, scholars and filmmakers have been examining the Rastafarian movement in an attempt to explain its origins and its core beliefs. Today, there is a growing collection of literature and films about Rastafari and now, RasTa: A Soul‟s Journey is a welcome addition to this expanding body of work.

RasTa: A Soul‟s Journey, tells the story of the journey of Rita and Bob Marley's granddaughter‟s, Donisha Prendergast, to eight countries -- United States, United Kingdom, South Africa, India, Israel, Canada and Jamaica and Ethiopia -- to explore the roots, evolution and impact of Rastafari.



Donisha acts as the irrepressible and charming guide, educating viewers about a way of life that many know little about beyond the dreadlocks, ganja, and the red, gold, and green. Along the way, she encounters Rastafarian elders, musicians, poets, professors and individuals who share personal stories of the influence of Donisha‟s iconic grandfather, Bob Marley, on their lives.

Moving away from the standing approaches to Rastafari and Jamaica, RasTa: A Soul’s Journey focuses on the international presence of Rastafari and the friendly people and places where the uplifting spirit of the movement can be found. In wanting to carry the torch of her famous family, Donisha uses this film to re-affirm the classic statement of her grandfather that indeed „Rasta is the future‟. At its heart, RasTa: A Soul‟s Journey, is a film that follows and celebrates a young
woman‟s quest as she comes into her own as a Rasta Empress.

With appearances by Rita Marley, Damien Marley, Dr. Benjamin Zephaniah, Ras Levi Roots, RasTa: A Soul’s Journey is a contemporary examination of this fascinating movement. This documentary was Executive Produced and Produced by Patricia Scarlett, Produced by Marilyn Gray, and Directed by Stuart Samuels, along with the help of a team committed to the project and the support of family and friends. This film is now ready for the world to see.



The Film has screened in Canada and the US and will premiere in the UK in October during Black History Month. For Sweden, Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the The Netherlands there are no firm dates as yet.

See website http://rastajourney.com
Category: articles

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The Swedish artist who made the blackface cake that has caused an international firestorm is himself a black man and says he created the cake to critique Western ideas of blackness. In a video interview with Al Jazeera, Makode Linde also said Sweden’s Minister of Culture, whose laughter at the cake angered many, had nothing to do with his decision to present it. ”She wasn’t aware of how the cakes would look,” Linde said. “And when she saw the cake and found out that it was partly alive, she got quite suprised.

Read the full story at our content partner Dominion of New York.
Category: articles

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth cuts cake depicting a black woman: Photo, Facebook
The National Association of Afro-Swedes calls for the resignation of Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Roth. At the celebration of World Art Day April 15 she cut up a cake portraying a naked black woman. According to the association, she participated in a "tasteless racist manifestation."

According to Afro Swedes' Association the cake represented a racist caricature of a black woman. According to the Modern Museum, the intention was to problematise female circumcision.



To say that you did this with good intention only amplifies the mockery of people who suffer from racism and against women who are victims of circumcision, says Kitimbwa Sabuni, who is spokesperson for The National Association of Afro-Swedes.

One cannot see how it benefits those people to degrade them in this way with racist caricatures in this kind of mocking spectacle, says Kitimbwa Sabuni.

The National Association of Afro-Swedes demands that the Culture Minister resigns.The confidence for her is exhausted. It is such a serious infraction. She as a minister must have sense and must be able to say enough is enough and not participate in this as a representative of the Swedish Government, he said.

We will seek clarification from the Prime Minister, says Kitimbwa Sabuni.

Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth understands the reactions. I understand very well that this provokes, and it was a very bizarre situation. I was invited to speak at World Art Day on artistic freedom and the right to provoke. And then they wanted me to cut up a cake first, she said.

The National Association of Afro-Swedes believes it was a racist caricature of the woman. If so, then they have to turn to the artist, I do not review art, but I can very well understand that the whole situation can be misinterpreted.

The Swedish paper Espressen asked the Minister why she still cut the cake? "In any case, everyone did, but it was perhaps a bit of a shocking situation and that was also what the artist wanted to achieve I suppose. He claims that it challenges a romantic and exotifying approach from the West at what is really about violence and racism. That's what I have learned about the artwork afterwards. The art must be allowed to be provocative," says Adelsohn Roth. (source Urbanlife)

Response of the artist Makode Linde

The artist Makode Linde, who is black,  believes that Afro Swedes National Association misunderstood his artwork, which he regrets, according to Expressen

Makode Linde is known for in his art, which is based on racism, xenophobia and slavery. The cake, which was part of his work, was to make a Western perception of Africa in contrast to the real picture of slavery and oppression. He also stresses that the main purpose of the cake was not to depict mutilation.

Sanza, thanks for the tip!
Category: articles
Curated by Thenublack and the forFATHERS project More Than XY is an exhibition that will celebrate the role of Fathers and positive role models in the Black community. The curators of More Than XY are mounting this show to increase the awareness of the fathers who are active parents in their children’s lives and to provide exposure for the artists expressing their views of fatherhood through visuals.

The show is their way to challenge the often imbalanced portrayal of black men being absent fathers and negative role models. This exhibition celebrates not only the role of Black Fathers but also to highlight positive black male role models who play an integral part in the lives of young people growing up.

While realizing the importance of the individual voice, More Than XY will also encourage visitors to the exhbition to not only to view the works submitted by the Artists, but to be a part of the exhibition themselves by asking them to bring photographs of their fathers/positive role models to be placed on a message wall where they will also be able to write messages to and about their fathers.

Research shows that reading aloud to children is vital because it helps them acquire the information and skills they need in life. The More Than XY show will therefore include a Storytime section for young children attending the show which will include special guests reading some well loved children’s stories to a small group of children.

The first show will take place in London in June and then move to a gallery space in Brooklyn, NY in August.

In London: 17th - 30th June 2012 @ The Darnley Gallery (Centre for Better Health 1A Darnley Road Londen E96QH)

Official Opening: June 17th 3PM to 7:30PM
Category: articles

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Melanie Scholtz, the Jazz singer from Cape Town South Africa. This video is her debut single off her 2010 release 'Connected'.
Category: articles

Friday, April 13, 2012


What has Hip-Hop to do with the 2012 French presidential election? In order to get more votes from young blacks and Arabs in the suburbs, the left wing candidate François Hollande recently YouTubed his latest campaign video with the music of “Niggas in Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West. In the video he is walking in the French suburbs surrounded by black and Arab people.

Although critics call it a cheap move, it seems to be working. After appearing on YouTube on Tuesday, the video has already been watched over 28,000 times. The buzz on Twitter has so far been positive. But not everybody has been fooled. Some web users are complaining of “ethnic marketing”, according to France 24.

To find out if the Hip-Hop video will have effect we will have to wait. The first round of the 2012 French presidential election will take place on 22 April 2012, with a second round run-off, if necessary, being held on 6 May. French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is running for a second successive term in the election.
Category: articles

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Natasha Bowens interviews a young woman at East New York Farms. Photo by Hugues Anhes.
Because green and Black is a much needed combination, today the story of Natasha Bowens. She is a  farmer and food activist in New York, who is making a difference in her community. 

This story originally appeared on Dominion of New York, the international magazine of black intellectual swagger.

Written by: Kelly Virella

Natasha Bowens was living in Washington, D.C. and working for the Center for American Progress as a healthcare advocate, earning a livable $35,000 per year, when she began longing to live and work on a farm, to put her hands into the dirt and cultivate fruits and vegetables.

In December 2009, the University of Florida graduate packed her bags and headed to Argentina for three weeks to do just that. The then-25-year-old was already an environmental activist and was starting to believe that one of the best ways to protect the environment and improve health was to grow food responsibly.

When she returned from Argentina, she began Google searching urban farms and community gardens where she could work in exchange for housing and food. She found a farm she liked in Brooklyn and in July 2010, with $1,300 in savings, quit her job and headed there.

Her journey — which she documented for the online magazine Grist — has been eye-opening, not only for her, but for dozens more black farmers and black-farmer-wannabes, who seldom see themselves represented in agriculture.

A century-and-a-half after plantation slavery, the last thing many black people want to be associated with is working on a farm and that’s exactly what Bowens and her fellow farmers want to change.

“A lot of my black friends are like, ‘What are you doing? You’re going back to picking cotton?’” Bowens says. “I kept hearing this kind of stigma especially from youth, from a lot of first generation immigrant youth whose parents would, over their dead bodies, let their youth go into farming.”

Yet farming is one way that black communities can increase their control over their food supply, reducing food deserts, hunger and the health problems that stem from them. It’s called food justice.

“It’s a beautiful, powerful thing to be able to feed your own community and we should be the ones to lead the way,” Bowens adds.

Bowens spent her first three months as a full-time farmer at East New York Farms in Brooklyn and her first full-season as a farmer in Wassaic, New York, on a 4-person, multiracial, Duchess County organic farm, about 90-miles north of New York City. After working 70 to 80 hours per week cultivating herbs and vegetables, she and her fellow farmers sold their harvests at two Bronx farmers markets and at two in Duchess County, filling the demand of a lot of West Indian families for medicinal roots and herbs.

To dispel the myth that black people don’t farm, Bowens began creating an online map of the food justice movement, documenting the locations of people of color who are farmers, food activists, grocery co-op founders, and more.

Video Color of Food (USA)



In the UK there are three black farmers. One of them is the famous Wilfred Emmanuel Jones who created the brand The Black Farmer.
Black Farmer - UK
Category: articles

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


It is time to feature one of the best soul artists of the moment on this blog. His most succesful song yet is 'Home Again'. I guess most people must have heard this great song already. I posted the video below

Michael Kiwanuka is a British soul musician with a powerful and amazing voice. He was born in the UK from Ugandan parents. I don’t know much about him but I know that he will become a huge star. Not only does he have a great voice, he writes great songs. Check out his live performances and feel the thrill you get from this soul voice. I feature a video from his Live performance this year at the Hacknet Round Chapel.



Check also his website for future gigs: http://michaelkiwanuka.com/
Category: articles

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Photo: Viktor Chlad, Lidové noviny - Martin Kříž teaching Chinese
Hat tip Blackgermans 
In the last posting (for now ) in the series on Black people in the Czech Republic, two interviews. The first is a radio interview on Czech radio with Martin Kříž, who talks about his “painful experience” of growing up as a mixed-race child in more or less mono-cultural pre-1989 Prague. And about how he is helping today’s black Czech children through a new organisation called Čokoládové děti, Chocolate Children. And he talks about his main activity, teaching and translating Chinese, as well as helping Czech firms do business in China. Read or listen to his story here at Radio.cz

The second interview is also on the same Czech radio show but now with three black people about their experience of living in the Czech Republic. They were asked if they ever felt discriminated against and how did they perceive the country.

The intro: In the past 20 years, the number of foreigners living in the Czech Republic has increased dramatically as a consequence of the opening of the Iron Curtain. Still, the country is far from being as diverse as most other European nations, for example France or Germany, and the vast majority of the Czech population remains Caucasian. During communism, the few black people [Cubans] who lived here stuck out like a sore thumb. Nowadays, their number has of course increased, but the size of the black community is still quite small.

The interviewees are Martin Kříž, Tinuola Awopetu, a black expat and well known writer of the blog “Black Girl in Prague”. And Bernard Tecquim, a native of the Ivory coast, who moved to the Czech Republic to study and eventually started a family there. Read or listen to their stories at Radio.cz

Also put a google translate on the very interesting interview (Chech), "Czechs with a different skin colour"
http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravy/cesi-s-jinou-barvou-kuze

Links
Black Girl in Prague
Čokoládové děti (Chocolate Children)

Previous postings:
Black people in Czech - Meet opera singer Filip Bandžak
Yemi Akinyemi’s JAD Prague Dance Company and Kanye West’s “Runaway"
Black in Czech - TV News presenter Zuzana Tvarůžková
Black Czech writer Zmeškal won EU Prize for Literature in 2011
Category: articles
Czech writer Tomáš Zmeškal, who was born as the son of a Congolese father and a Czech mother in Prague, won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2011 for his debut novel “Love Letter in Cuneiform Script” (Milostný Dopis Klínovým Písmem) set in post-war Czechoslovakia through the collapse of communism.
He was one of 12 winners of the prize, which recognizes the best new or emerging authors in the European Union.

Zmeškal’s novel "Životopis černobílého jehněte"  ("The Biography of the Black and White Lamb") of 2009, written long before his debut was published, is the first novel in Czech language dealing with the experience of Africans in the communist countries in Eastern Europe. It is the childhood and youth story of twins, who do not know their ethnically mixed parents and grow in their grandmother’s house. In spite of her attempts to protect them, they suffer from the racism and hostility that surrounds them. Which is all the more absurd since the society, in which they live, officially encourages internationalist attitudes and an understanding among nations.

Tomáš Zmeškal’s novel "Milostný dopis klínovým písmem" was on the shortlist for the Magnesia Litera Award 2009, and received the distinguished Josef Škvorecký Prize. The writer, translator and English teacher lives in Prague.

Category: articles

Friday, April 6, 2012

Photo by Alexandr Dobrovodský from Reflex
Zuzana Tvarůžková, a TV News Presenter of the Czech Television, made a report (video below) about her home town Litvinov. In the report she talks about what is was like growing up there, in a time her presents was not considered a common phenomenon.

It’s all in Czech, but you can understand most of it just by watching it.



In an interview she talks about her background. "I was raised my mother a Czech and a father who is also a Czech, my biological father is from Cuba, and I know him. It's a little secret chamber of our family, "says Zuzana . "He worked in northern Bohemia, in Litvinov, were he studied chemical engineering. He lived in a fairly large Cuban community, "she adds, but the whole thing is still a very sensitive issue for her parents.

But children can be cruel. "I was lucky that I had many friends who largely protected me from unpleasant attacks. My fellow students who were Roma were definitely worse of than me, "says Susan Tvarůžková. But she has lost two of her childhood best friends because of the way she looks. In an argument one called her father a nigger and the other one said she was adopted.

About her musical roots she says. "I sang, I had a different voice than all the other children in the choir, I'm addicted to music. My boyfriend makes fun of me, he has never seen anyone like me who does not need the slightest excuse to dance. Dancing in the supermarket and metro, "says Susan, adding with a laugh:" Girls always said at the disco: it's senseless to dance next to her? "
Category: articles

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

In the series Black people in Czech, today the Czech-born Yemi Akinyemi. He is the executive producer of the JAD Prague Dance Company and had his big break in 2010 as the choreographer of Kanye West's video “Runaway".

In an exclusive interview with Nigerians Abroad Akinyemi talkes about himself and how he got involved in the video. "My name is Yemi Dele Akinyemi, I am 29years old, born and raised in Czech Republic. My father is Nigerian, he is from Ibadan. I started as a dancer here in Czech Republic and in 1999 I established my own dance company and a talent agency called ‘Dance Academy Park’, which is a studio in the central of the city. I do different kind of work for choreographers and I also work for several VIPs in the music industry.

Most recently, last year [2010], I became a choreographer for Kanye West who invited me for several jobs. " Read the full story at Nigerians Abroad.

Category: articles

Monday, April 2, 2012

This week a few stories about black people in the Czech Republic. A good start is the famous opera singer Filip Bandžak. For opera lovers he needs no introduction, for the rest of us meet the young black and gifted singer who has become one of Czech's most famous opera singers of his generation.

The Czech Baritone Filip Bandžak, was born in Pardubice. As a 9-year-old gifted child, he began his musical career as member of the Prague’s Philharmonic Children Choir (PPCC).



Seven years later he made a firm step towards a solo career. Foreseen as talented Czech opera singer of his generation, he made his first steps on vocal scene in 1993 at the Berlin and Warsaw State Operas. Then in 1994, he made his first appearance in Prague´s National Theatre in Rigoletto. His debut he made at Pilsen Opera Theatre as Marcello in Puccini´s La Bohème.

Since then he has appeared at international musical festivals and has won numerous prizes. For the full story go to www.ouverture.net
Category: articles

I don't know if subliminal messaging works, but it's worth the try.
Category: articles
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