Friday, 25 March 2016

Ngugi wa Thiong'o - Jalada Africa

New Ngugi wa Thiong’o story translated into over 30 African languages in record-breaking issue of Jalada Africa

Ngugi wa Thiong'o
In the House of the InterpreterA Grain of WheatThe River BetweenWeep Not, ChildPetals of BloodDreams in a Time of WarWizard of the Crow

The latest edition of Jalada Africa contains a new short story by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o translated into over 30 African languages, making it the “single most translated short story in the history of African writing”.

The short story was originally written in Kikuyu as “Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ”, and was translated by Ngũgĩ himself into English as “The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright”.

This is an impressive first foray into translation for Jalada Africa, a Pan-African writers’ collective based in Nairobi, Kenya. Translation Issue: Volume 1 is the culmination of a four-month project, and features collaborative work by professional and amateur translators as well as language enthusiasts from 14 African countries.

In his introduction to the issue, Jalada Africa managing editor Moses Kilolo says: “Professor Wa Thiong’o is uniquely placed to be the first distinguished author and intellectual featured in our periodical translations issue. He has, for many years, been the most vocal proponent in publishing in African languages.”

nullThe story is available in Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiZulu and Xitsonga, as well as the original Kikuyu, Ahmharic, Dholuo, Kikamba, Lwisukha-Lwidakho, Ikinyarwada, Arabic, Luganda, Kiswahili, Hausa, Meru, Lingala, Igbo, Ibibio, Somali, Nandi, Rukiga, Bamanankan, Lugbarati, Shona, Lubukusu, Kimaragoli, Giriama, Sheng, Ewe, Naija Languej, Marakwet and French.
Audio recordings of the story are also available in Kikuyu, English and Sheng. The anthology will soon be available in PDF and ebook formats.
  • Jalada Africa encourages writers and translators who do not find their African languages featured in this issue and who would like to volunteer to contribute a translation of this story and to future Translation Issues to get in touch with at

The aim of the project was to renew interest in publishing in local languages and increase access to such stories.

Ngũgĩ says: “The cruel genius of colonialism was to turn normality into abnormality and then make the colonised accept the abnormality as the real norm … mother tongue first; then add to it, as necessary, that’s the way of progress and empowerment.

“So [Jalada's] actions will empower Africa by making Africans own their resources from languages – making dreams with our languages – to other natural resources – making things with them, consuming some, exchanging some.

“The moment we lost our languages was also the moment we lost our bodies, our gold, diamonds, copper, coffee, tea. The moment we accepted (or being made to accept) that we could not do things with our languages was the moment we accepted that we could not make things with our vast resources.”

Read a short excerpt from the English version:
A long time ago humans used to walk on legs and arms, just like all the other four limbed creatures. Humans were faster than hare, leopard or rhino. Legs and arms were closer than any other organs: they had similar corresponding joints: shoulders and hips; elbows and knees; ankles and wrists; feet and hands, each ending with five toes and fingers, with nails on each toe and finger. Hands and feet had similar arrangements of their five toes and finger from the big toe and thumb to the smallest toes and pinkies. In those days the thumb was close to the other fingers, the same as the big toe. Legs and arms called each other first cousins.
Jalada Africa is planning more editions of translation, featuring a previously unpublished story of no more than 3,000 words. Writers and translators across the continent will be invited to submit and edit translations in their African language of knowledge and/or study. The ultimate goal is to have each story translated into 2,000 African languages.

Jalada’s September 2015 anthology, The Language Issue, also celebrates Africa’s diversity in language, with fiction, poetry, spoken word, visual art and essays in 23 African languages as well as English, French, Polish and Mandarin.

“Despite long-running conversations on the need for publishing in indigenous languages on the African continent over the past five decades, writing and translations remain minimal and the little that exists continues to rapidly decline,” the publication says. “Since our Languages Issue, we’ve deliberated on the best ways of making writing in our languages a continuous activity.

“We were convinced the previous anthology did not capture all the facets of languages we were interested in. There are millions of speakers in African languages and not many writers in African languages. Why? Can this be changed?”

Related stories:
Image courtesy of What’s Good Africa
Book details

The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright

The Upright Revolution 4

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
A long time ago humans used to walk on legs and arms, just like all the other four limbed creatures. Humans were faster than hare, leopard or rhino. Legs and arms were closer than any other organs: they had similar corresponding joints: shoulders and hips; elbows and knees; ankles and wrists; feet and hands, each ending with five toes and fingers, with nails on each toe and finger. Hands and feet had similar arrangements of their five toes and finger from the big toe and thumb to the smallest toes and pinkies. In those days the thumb was close to the other fingers, the same as the big toe. Legs and arms called each other first cousins.

They helped each other carry the body wherever it wanted to go; the market, the shops, up and down trees and mountains, anywhere that called for movement. Even in the water, they worked well together to help the body float, swim or dive. They were democratic and egalitarian in their relationship. They could also borrow the uses of the product of other organs, say sound from mouth, hearing from the ear, smell from the nose, and even sight from the eyes.

Their rhythm and seamless coordination made the other parts green with envy. They resented having to lend their special genius to the cousins. Jealousy blinded them to the fact that legs and hands took them places. They started plotting against the two pairs.

Tongue borrowed a plan from Brain and put it to action immediately. It begun to wonder, loudly, about the relative powers of arms and legs. Who was stronger, it wondered. The two cousin limbs, who had never been bothered by what the other had and could do, now borrowed sound from mouth and begun to claim they were more important to the body than the other. This quickly changed into who was more elegant; arms bragged about the long slim fingers of its hands, at the same time making derisive comments about toes being short and thick. Not to be outdone, toes countered and talked derisively about thin fingers, starving cousins! This went on for days, at times affecting their ability to work together effectively. It finally boiled down to the question of power; they turned to other organs for arbitration.

It was Tongue who suggested a contest. A brilliant idea, all agreed. But what? Some suggested a wrestling match – leg and arm wrestling. Others came up with sword play, juggling, racing, or playing a game like chess or checkers but each was ruled out as hard to bring about or unfair to one or the other limb. It was Tongue once gain, after borrowing thought from Brain, who came with simple solution. Each set of organs would come up with a challenge, in turns. Arms and legs agreed.
The contest took place in a clearing in the forest, near a river. All organs were on maximum alert for danger or anything that might catch the body by surprise, now that its organs were engaged in internal struggle. Eyes scanned far and wide for the tiniest of dangers from whatever distance; ears primed themselves to hear the slightest sound from whatever distance; nose cleared its nostrils the better to detect scent of any danger that escaped the watchful eyes and the listening ears; and the tongue was ready to shout and scream, danger.

Wind spread news of the contest to the four corners of the forest, water and air. Four legged animals were among the first to gather, many of the big ones holding green branches to show they came in peace. It was a colorful crowd of Leopard, Cheetah, Lion, Rhino, Hyena, Elephant, Giraffe, Camel, long horned Cow and short-horned Buffalo, Antelope, Gazelle, Hare, Mole and Rat. Water-Dwellers, Hippo, Fish, Crocodile, spread their upper part on the banks, leaving the rest in the river. The two leggeds, Ostrich, Guinea-fowl, and Peacock flapped their wings in excitement; birds chirped from the trees; Cricket sang all the time. Spider, Worm, Centipede, Millipede crawled on the ground or trees. Chameleon walked stealthily, carefully, taking its time while Lizard ran about, never settling down on one spot. Monkey, Chimpanzee, Gorilla, jumped from branch to branch. Even the trees and the bush, swayed gently from side to side, bowed, and then stood still in turns.

Mouth opened the contest with a song:
    We do this to be happy
    We do this to be happy
    We do this to be happy
    Because we all
    Come from one nature.

Arm and Legs swore to accept the outcome gracefully; no tantrums, threats of boycott, strikes or go-slow.

Arms issued the first challenge: they threw a piece of wood on the ground. The leg, left or right, or in combination, was to pick up the piece of wood from the ground and throw it. The two legs could consult each other, at any time in the contest, and deploy their toes, individually or collectively, in any order to effect their mission. They tried to turn it over; push it; they tried all sorts of combinations but they could not pick it up properly: and as for moving it, the best they could do was kick it a few inches away. Seeing this, Fingers borrowed sounds from the mouth and laughed, and laughed. Arms, the challenger, paraded themselves, as in beauty contest, showing off their slim looks, and then in different combinations picked the piece of wood. They threw it far into the forest, eliciting a collective sigh of admiration from the contestants and spectators. They displayed other skills: they picked tiny pieces of sand from a bowl of rice; they threaded needles; they made little small pulleys for moving heavier wood; made some spears and threw them quite far, moves and acts that the toes could only dream about. Legs could only sit there and marvel at the display of dexterity and flexibility of their slim cousins. Arms of the spectators clapped thunder in admiration and solidarity with fellow arms, which upset the legs a great deal. But they were not about to concede: even as they sat there looking alittle bit glum, their big toes drooling little circles on the sand, they were trying to figure out a winning challenge.

At last, it was the turn of legs and toes to issue a challenge. Theirs, they said, was simple. Hands should carry the whole body from one part of the circle to the other. What a stupid challenge, thought the arrogant fingers. It was a sight to see. Everything about the body was upside down. Hands touched the ground; eyes were close to the ground, their angles of vision severely restricted by their proximity to the ground; dust entered the nose, causing it to sneeze; legs and toes floated in the air: nyayo juu, the spectators shouted, and sang playfully.

    Nyayo Nyayo juu
    Hakuna matata
    Fuata Nyayo
    Hakuna matata
    Turukeni angani

But their attention was fixed on the hands and arms. Organs that only a few minutes before were displaying an incredible array of skills, could hardly move a yard. A few steps, the hands cried out in pain, the arms staggered, wobbled, and let the body fall. They rested and then made another attempt. This time they tried to spread out the fingers the better to hold the ground but only the thumbs were able to stretch. They tried cartwheels but this move was disqualified because for its completion it involved the legs as well. It was the turn of the toes to laugh. They borrowed thick throatal tones from the mouth to contrast their laugh from the squeaky tones the fingers had used. Hearing the scorn, the arms were very angry and they made one desperate attempt to carry the body. They did not manage a step. Exhausted the hands and fingers gave up. The legs were happy to display their athletic prowess: they marked time, trotted, ran, made a few high jumps, long jumps, without once letting the body fall. All the feet of the spectators stamped the ground in approval and solidarity. Arms raised their hands to protest this unsportslimbship, conveniently forgetting that they had started the game.

But all of them, including the spectators, noted something strange about the arms: the thumbs which had stretched out when the hands were trying to carry the body, remained separated from the other fingers. The rival organs were about to resume their laughter when they noted something else; far from the separated thumb making the hands less efficient, it enhanced their crasping and grasping power. What’s this? Deformity transformed into the power of forming!

The debate among the organs to decide the winner went on for five days, the number of fingers and toes on each limb. But try as they could they were not able declare a clear winner; each set of limbs was best at what they did best; none could do without the other. There begun a session of philosophical speculation: what was the body anyway, they all asked, and they realized the body was them all together; they were into each other. Every organ had to function well for all to function well.
But to prevent such a contest in the future and to prevent their getting in each others way, it was decided by all the organs, that thenceforth the body would walk upright, feet firmly on the ground and arms up in the air. The body was happy with the decision but it would allow children to walk on all fours so as not to forget their origins. They divided tasks: the legs would carry the body but once they got to the destination, hands would do all the work that needed making or holding tools. While the legs and feet did the heavy duty of carrying, the hands reached out and used their skills to work the environment, and ensure that food reached the mouth. Mouth, or rather, its teeth, would chew it, and send it down the throat to the tummy. Tummy would squeeze all the goodness and then pour it into its system of canals through which the goodness would be distributed to all the nooks and crooks of the body. Then tummy would take the used material into its sewage system, from where the body would deposit it in the open fields or bury it under the soil to enrich it. Plants would grow bear fruit; hands would pluck pick some of it and put in the mouth. Oh, yes, the circle of life.

Even games and entertainments were divided accordingly: singing, laughing and talking were left to the mouth; running and soccer largely left to the legs; while baseball and basketball were reserved for the hands, except that the legs were to do the running. In athletics, the legs had all the field to themselves, largely. The clear division of labor made the human body a formidable bio machine, outwitting even the largest of animals in what it could achieve in quantity and quality.

However the organs of the body realized that the permanent arrangement they had arrived at could still bring conflict. The head being up there might make it feel that it was better than the feet that touched the ground or that it was the master and the organs below it, servants only. They stressed that in terms of power, the head and whatever was below it, were equal. To underline this, the organs made sure that pain and joy of any one of the organs was felt by all. They warned the mouth that when saying my this and that, it was talking as the whole body and not as the sole owner.

They sang:
    In our body
    There’s no servant
    In our body
    There’s no servant
    We serve one another
    Us for Us
    We serve one another
    Us for Us
    We serve one another
    The tongue our voice
    Hold me and I hold you
    We build healthy body
    Hold me and I hold you
    We build healthy body
    Beauty is unity
    Together we work
    For a healthy body
         Together we work
         For a healthy body
         Unity is our power

This became the All Body Anthem. The body sings is to this day and this is what tells the difference between humans and animals, or those that rejected the upright revolution.

Despite what they saw, the four-legged animals would have none of this revolution. The singing business was ridiculous. The mouth was made to eat and not to sing. They formed nature’s conservative party and stuck to their ways never changing their habits.

When humans learn from the net-work of organs, they do well; but when they see the body and the head as parties at war, one being atop of the other, they come close to their animal cousins who rejected the upright revolution.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, currently Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, was born in Kenya, in 1938 into a large peasant family. He was educated at Kamandura, Manguu and Kinyogori primary schools; Alliance High School, all in Kenya; Makerere University College (then a campus of London University), Kampala, Uganda; and the University of Leeds, Britain. He is the recipient of ten Honorary Doctorates from universities in Denmark; Germany; Britain; New Zealand, America and Africa. He is also Honorary Member of American Academy of Arts and Letters and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A many-sided intellectual, he is novelist, essayist, playwright, journalist, editor, academic and social activist. His books include Devil on the Cross; Matigari; Wizard of the Cross, (English translations from the Gikuyu originals)

Thursday, 24 March 2016

A 40-Year Old West African Village in South Carolina by Molly McArdle

Against the Odds, A 40-Year Old West African Village in South Carolina Has Thrived

"This is very much an American story."

Oyotunji's front gate, which is decorative rather than practical. No walls surround the 25-acre village. (Photo: Molly McArdle)

The road to Oyotunji turns off State Highway 17, less than 10 minutes away from Interstate 95 and under an hour from Charleston and Hilton Head. Highway 17 unspools along the coastline from Savannah to Myrtle Beach and further up into North Carolina, but this stretch—a tall corridor of green even in winter—is unhurried. There is a convenience store with no ATM and, a bit down the road, a gas station with a broken one. (The next closest option is in Yemassee, a half hour drive away.) The drive through the woods is a short one, but it’s enough to feel transformative. The signage helps too, one side in Yoruba and the other in English:
You are leaving the U.S.
You are entering the Yoruba Kingdom.
“Kabo sile wa,” the sign says, decorated in flags and a crown. “Welcome to our land.”

Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II wearing a traditional crown. (Photo: Courtesy Oyotunji)
At its founding in 1970, Oyotunji African Village never promised its residents a perfect way of life. But it did offer them an idea equally radical: a world without Europe, a space outside white supremacy. A tiny village in South Carolina whose population has waxed and waned from as many as 200 to as few as 25 residents, it has since transformed from a bustling separatist community to a smaller and more-focused religious one.

Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II was born in Oyotunji. At 39, he’s been the leader of this small community for over 10 years. He is a handsome, charismatic man. Ritual marks, three lines, run parallel across each cheekbone and perpendicular down his forehead. The garment he wears, white and embroidered, is beautiful and billowing. One woman, Oyotunji resident Ofun Laiye Adesoji, brings him a glass of water covered by a napkin. Another woman, visitor Ase Jones, moves in and out of the courtyard where he sits, periodically stopping to listen to the Oba, or leader.

The entrance to Oyotunji African Village from South Carolina' State Highway 17.  (Photo: Molly McArdle)

“Oyotunji, this was built on old planation land,” he says. “The Tomotley plantation is right through the woods over there. You can go straight through the woods, less than 200, 300 feet away,” he says. “Africans worked all of this.”

Visitors enter Oyotunji through an imposing gate, painted red and khaki, with a crenelated top. It’s decorative rather than practical; no walls surround the 25-acre village. A child’s bike leans against a low-slung building, and behind that rise pines and oaks, strung with moss. The village is residential compounds, a café and marketplace, public spaces, and religious ones. There are small garden plots, ancestral altars, above-ground tombs, and at least eight temples dedicated to separate orishas—deities in the Yoruban pantheon that can be described as aspects of a single god, a conceptual framework not unfamiliar to Hinduism or Catholicism. The physical reality of this place is explicitly African. Its commanding entryway looks Hausa. Its flag takes its design partly from Ethiopia (the colors red, gold, green) and partly from Egypt (the ankh). Its afin, or palace, is modeled after Ile Ife’s, in Nigeria. The village’s name, referencing the Yoruban empire that dominated southwestern Nigeria between the 15th and the 19th centuries, means “Oyo rises again.”

The foreignness of the place has made for heated local gossip. “There are many rumors about what we do here,” says Adesoji, who gives me a tour of the grounds. “We cook people. We eat dogs. If you go in, you never come out.”

Both Yoruban and English are featured on Oyotunji's bilingual welcome sign. (Photo: Molly McArdle)

Coverage from predominantly white media outlets, too, has ranged from skeptical to lurid to mocking. In 2015, Oyotunji was included on a list called "Here Are the 13 Weirdest Places You Can Possibly Go in South Carolina." It’s similarly been included in books, 2008's Weird U.S. and 2007's Weird Carolinas. In 2009, British travel presenter Alan Whicker, though he selected a visit to the village as his “ultimate travel experience” for The Guardian, describes Oyotunji as “some ridiculous Disney fantasy.” Its leader, he says, dressed in “the exotic robes of some imagined” (and so fake) “tribal deity” and has the “penetrating eyes of an ambulance-chasing lawyer.” An Orlando Sentinel article from 1987, titled “S. Carolina 'Voudou' Colony Unsettles Local Whites,” vividly describes the ritual slaughter of a chicken. “King or Con Man, the Controversial Ruler of Yoruba, SC, Is Really Just Walter from Detroit,” from a 1981 issue of People speaks of sacrificial altars and bathing in blood.

Even farther back, a 1971 story from Charleston’s News & Courier reports with restrained glee, just one year after Oyotunji’s founding, that “the village shows that black man [sic] can function without the man around. Life without ‘the man’ does not, however, exclude his food stamps.”
Oyotunji’s rejoinder appeared shortly thereafter as a News & Courier editorial response by its founder, titled “Pay for Slavery":
“You could have reminded all Americans that having gotten something for nothing, it’s time to pay back,” he writes, “also that an honorable people, rather than hide behind guilty welfare programs, would be paying the blacks unconditional reparations in cash, land, technology, and material. For indeed, if true justice prevailed, some 15 million white Americans and their offspring in perpetuity should be committed to work free for blacks until the year 2221.”
Oyotunji is not a victim of bad press because it’s not a victim—the approval of white people is something Oyotunji was designed not to need. Oyotunji speaks for itself.

Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I, the current Oba’s father, founded Oyotunji in 1970. Adefunmi I’s parents, followers of Marcus Garvey, gave him the name Walter Eugene King in Detroit in 1928. He was raised a Baptist, but from a young age he questioned why the religious figures his family worshiped did not look like them. Adesoji repeats the story during the tour. “He asked, ‘Why is it that we don’t have any African gods?’ The pastor told him that’s because we have none. That kind of infuriated him.”

The young King went on to become a commercial artist and modern dancer. As a member of Katherine Dunham’s groundbreaking modern dance troupe (one that would help launch the careers of Alvin Ailey and Eartha Kitt), he traveled all over the world. “When he got to Haiti he saw Yoruba culture in its full glory,” Adesoji says. “He ate the food, he saw the clothes, he also saw the community come together for the orisha, something he never saw people do in America.”

Oyotunji's main thoroughfare. "When I came home, a lot of things needed to be rebuilt," the Oba says. "We had to jack stuff up and dig stuff down, it was like a historical preservation board." (Photo: Molly McArdle)

The experience changed him. In 1959, he went on to study Santería in Matanzas, Cuba, where he became the first American initiate to the priesthood of Obatala, the orisha responsible for creating humankind. He returned to Harlem and began organizing. He helped found first the Shango Temple and then, on his own, the Yoruba Temple. He took the name Nana Oseijeman, which later expanded to Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi. “The first Oba’s mission,” Adesoji says, was “to make sure that no one would ever have to go through what he went through as a child, trying to find where he came from.”

Adefunmi I stayed in New York through the end of the decade, continuing to expand and promote his interpretation of Yoruban culture and religion, which moved steadily away from the syncretic (a blend of religious and social cultures, including colonial) framework of Cuban Santería. “Lighter skinned deities had a higher place on the hierarchy,” says Kenja McCray, a history PhD candidate at Georgia State University who wrote her master’s thesis on Oyotunji.
King Adefunmi I sitting in state during festival. (Photo: Courtesy Oyotunji)
Adefunmi I was also moving in black nationalist circles, founding a political party that encouraged the creation of an independent African state on American soil, and (as Oyotunji’s website claims) popularizing the dashiki. University of Houston sociologist Mary Curry, in her 1997 book Making the Gods in New York, charts Adefunmi I’s widening influence during this period. “A number of black Americans received their African names from Adefunmi I,” she says, “and some of these began to wear African dress whether they converted to the Yoruba religion or not.” Amiri Baraka, though not a member of the Yoruba Temple, had Adefunmi I officiate his wedding ceremony. (Later on, he would go on to criticize Oyotunji in a condescending 1978 New Republic story.)
By 1969, Adefunmi I had begun to receive death threats. Mama Keke, an Osun priestess from Barbados and one of the founding members of Adefunmi I’s Yoruba Temple, offered him some advice. “Mama Keke had to let him know if you really want to do something for Africans that are living in America, you have to establish land.” Adesoji gestures to the woods around her. “This is our way of sticking it to the man, to be able to come back to the very land where our ancestors were bought and sold.”
And so Adefunmi I went south.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day; Oyotunji wasn’t either,” Adefunmi I reflected to Davidson professor Tracey Hucks at the end of his reign. Hucks spoke with him extensively for her 2012 book, Yoruba Traditions & African American Religious Nationalism, which is as much a biography of Oyotunji as it is a social, religious, and political history. “We never intended to go back to 16th century Nigeria,” he told her. “We began this way out of necessity and to learn how to survive.”
His son, the current Oba, acts and speaks with a mixture of formality and informality, sometimes even performing two different versions of the same action. When we first meet, he says something in Yoruban—a greeting—and waves his irukere, a handle with white horse’s tail hair and a traditional symbol of royalty, over me. Then he smiles and says in English, hello, and shakes my hand. He moves between goofy jokes, anecdotes animated by dramatic voices, stories of his father that mix criticism and respect, and rhetoric about Oyotunji’s national, global, historical importance. These aren’t necessarily contradictions.

All residents of Oyotunji must start and maintain their own ancestor shrine, which includes bringing the ancestors fresh water every morning. (Photo: Molly McArdle)
He tells the story of how Oyotunji came here, to the spot we sit on. “My father purchased this land from a local, Mr. Smalls,” he says. “That family obviously got this land from the Civil War allotment, the 40 acres. The mule was made up.” (General Sherman did in fact try to resettle slaves in this area.) He smiles, and the two women watch us laugh.

People who moved to Oyotunji opted into, for as long as they decided to remain, a profoundly different life. It wasn’t simply that they lived in an all-black community. After all, those had existed in America since the invention of race (think Eatonville, Florida; Nicodemus, Kansas; the Gullah/Geechee-dominated Sea Islands in South Carolina; the antebellum south’s many maroon communities). They lived in a place stripped, as much as possible, of European cultural artifacts and traditions.

Residents taught themselves Yoruban and wore African clothes. (Exceptions were made for rain and winter wear.) They also had adjust to life within a highly hierarchical structure: a kingdom, complete with a king. Daily life had to be newly organized around orisha and ancestor worship as well as dokpwe, required communal work such as building or gardening. Years and lives were measured with a Yoruban, rather than Christian, schedule of annual festivals and rites of passage. And moving to the village up until the ‘80s also meant moving to a place without electricity or running water.
King Adefunmi I dances before the village. (Photo: Courtesy Oyotunji)

“At the time of Oyotuji’s founding, it was a segregated community, so it reflected the segregation of contemporary America,” says M. Kamari Clarke, whose 2004 book, Mapping Yoruba Networks: Power and Agency in the Making of Transnational Communities, makes a case study of Oyotunji. “It forced blacks to create a black movement, to create a black empire. It was a site for empowerment.”
So effective has Oyotunji been at this task that television shows (Roots) and movies (Glory) have tapped villagers to perform on screen as “real” Africans. The village also makes a cameo in gay poet and filmmaker Marlon Riggs’s 1995 documentary, Black Is…Black Ain’t, a masterpiece of collage and an incisive look at gender, sexuality, and blackness, made at the end of his life. (He would die of AIDS-related complications, just before the documentary’s completion, in 1994.) Halfway through the film Adefumni I appears accompanied by a wife, Iya Orite Olasowo, and a chief, unidentified in the transcript, to speak about Oyotunji.

“We realized that we could not really develop African civilization and culture to its fullest degree in an American city, so it became necessary then to leave the urban areas and found our own community,” Adefunmi says in the film.

Oyotunji's Temple of Shango, the orisha of thunder and leadership, among other qualities. "Boy Scouts, Girl Gcouts, fraternities in colleges, Skull and Bones, masons, the president of the United States, all go through Shango rituals," says resident Ofun Laiye Adesoji, "whether they know that that’s what they are doing or not." (Photo: Molly McArdle)
The current Oba presents a different, more malleable message than the one presented in Riggs’s movie. “We’re more tolerant as a community,” he says. “Many years ago Oyotunji was quite the Disciplineville.”
The population has changed along with its mission. In 1973, the Atlanta Journal Constitution tallied 24 residents, in 1977 art historian Mikelle Smith Omari counted around 100, in 1989 Omari found 35. Harry Lefever, a Spelman-based sociologist, estimated Oyotunji to have 30 residents when he visited in 1995 and again in 1997. When I asked Adesoji how many people were currently living in Oyotunji, she said about 24. The only minors present are her three grandchildren.
“In the 1970s it was like the thing to do, it was like going to a rave today,” she says. Nowadays, Oyotunji more like a monastery than a commune.
“The actual village’s population is really small, but the footprint it made is much larger,” Kenja McCray says, calling Oyotunji “the Vodu Vatican.” Hucks’s book records a priestess’s own nickname: “the Yoruba University.” The village has initiated over 300 priests into orisha worship in just the past four years.
“We are very thankful that now because of what the first Oba did,” says Adesoji. Today it’s more acceptable to be a Yoruba priest. “You don’t have to worry about people calling you a devil.” She pauses, thinking. “Well, a witch doctor is okay. ‘Cause that’s kind of like, you know, what we are. If you want to call it that.”

Marriage comes up early in Adesoji’s tour. This is no accident: one of the village’s most famous traits is also its most controversial. Some of its residents practice polygamy.

The village’s founder, Adefumni I, had throughout the course of his life a total of 17 wives. He also had 28 children, of whom the current Oba was number 14. Today, Adefunmi II has three wives and five children. This, when the mainstream media does cover Oyotunji, is where the camera most often zooms in.
In 1988, Adefunmi I appeared on an episode of Oprah, where the iconic host introduced him as “king of probably the most unusual community in the United States.”

The interview was fraught, from the start, as Oprah zeroed in on the village's sexual practices. “I find it interesting that this is going on in South Carolina of all places,” Oprah says. “I know your mamas are shocked,” she says, addressing the four women, who have not yet spoken.

“A king is expected to have in his palace all women who have no husbands, women who have been cast out, who are too unattractive to get husbands. The king is expected to marry all of those persons. He does not necessarily have nuptial relationships with them, but they are still called king's wives,” Adefunmi I explains.
“To marry them all? Everybody else?” Oprah looks genuinely surprised. “Everybody else who's single?”
Adefunmi I tries to makes the case that polygamy is a pragmatic, albeit different, way to organize society. “In the Yoruba culture the purpose of marriage essentially is based on economics,” he says, but it’s a tough sell. He’s in the wrong room.

Adesoji looks at the segment as a missed opportunity. “It kind of turned into some crazy thing,” Adesoji explains. She mimics the questions asked, “Well how do you take care of all the women? Do you have sex with all the women?” She is right that sex was at the heart of Oprah’s line of questioning. “That’s really not what the first Oba went on there to do. He really went there to explain that this is how the African culture sustains its nations. You don’t want to have any single women in the nation that cannot take care of themselves. The goal is for everyone to be married.”

Oyotunji's Temple of Osun. "We like to refer to her respectfully as the Patti LaBelle of all the orisha," explains Adesoji. (Photo: Molly McArdle)
Kenja McCray paraphrases the common arguments for polygamy, namely that cheating is so common in monogamous relationships that polygamy is the more honest option. Rather than hide an affair, additional relationships are openly acknowledged and so negotiable. But polygamy is also contested in Yoruban religious communities beyond Oyotunji. Those critiques ask if the practice is just, McCray explains, “being a player by another name.” In a polygamous relationship, “the central spouse is more privileged than the other spouses,” and it’s men who overwhelmingly have multiple wives, not the other way around. But McCray has also talked to women in polygynous relationships who defend it on feminist grounds as well. (Think of the childcare benefits to having multiple partners, for instance.)

“These relationships are really complicated, which is why I didn’t write them off. At what point do women use these relationships to leverage what they want out of life?” McCray asks, weighing the question. “I can’t tell whether some women are using it as a kind of transgressive sexuality,” McCray continues. “If you are being transgressive, why stop with heteronormativity?

Oyotunji's cafe and marketplace. The Oba estimates at least two to three thousand tourists pass through annually. (Photo: Molly McArdle)
Gender plays an enormous role in life at Oyotunji. It determines the rites of passage you undergo, it grants you membership in a gendered group, it governs whom you marry and the nature of that relationship. Still the community’s understanding of gender (and to a certain extent sexuality) is something that has been and will continue to be negotiated. Even as Adesoji described the different tasks assigned to young men and women as they come of age, she rails against the idea that it's fundamentally sexist. “There’s no such thing as a man’s job or a women’s job. Everyone’s out trying to make a living for the house, that’s how it’s always been," she says.
Academics have backed up that idea. Hucks, author of Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism, describes “a core group of capable and compelling women” she encountered when she first started her research in Oyotunji in the 1990s. “They served as chiefs, sat on governing boards, and participated in major decisions that shaped the direction of the village.”
The power they held was power they had fought for. Thanks to a concerted effort, in 1974, women got expanded rights (including the right to own property within the village) and compulsory polygyny was banned. In 1992, the village opened the Ifa priesthood to women, which gave them access to divinatory tools used in personal, communal, and transactional readings.

A look back at Oyotunji from the village vegetable gardens. "Our culture and religion is a nature religion," the Oba says. "If you want to understand this culture, you got to understand the trees, the woods, and that right there, the dirt.” (Photo: Molly McArdle)
Adesoji shows me the temple of Olokun, the orisha of the ocean’s deepest regions. “He is a hermaphrodite,” Adesoji says. “He’s both male and female. He represents the curves in an African woman’s body or the feeling you get when you hear the beat of the drum.”
“We thank him for allowing our ancestors to go all over the world so that we would have history,” she says of this deity who lives across genders (if not quite yet beyond gendered pronouns). “He is the orisha of the African people.”

King Adefunmi II sitting in state. (Photo: Courtesy Oyotunji)
Adefunmi II got the call his father had died while driving over the Seven Mile Bridge in Key West in 2005. He was not yet 30. “When I came home, a lot of things needed to be rebuilt,” he says. “We had to jack stuff up and dig stuff down, it was like a historical preservation board.”
Now more than a decade after the death of its charismatic founder, Oyotunji has evolved but not slowed down.
The new king has reframed Oyotunji’s rural existence as an eco-friendly alternative, seeking out grants for sustainable farming and building. “This is a nature religion,” he explains. “If you want to understand this culture, you got to understand the trees, the woods, and that right there, the dirt.”
As Adesoji and I ate the village’s miracle crop of spicy kale, she reflected on her own increased independence. “Why not learn how to grow your own food?” Adesoji asks. “Growing up in Miami, if a hurricane came—good god almighty—the grocery stories are empty, there is no electricity, so what do you do what do you eat? You pretty much got to drive maybe 100 miles before you can get to a grocery store that has food.” I take another bite: it tastes something like wasabi. I save a few leaves for the drive home.
Oyotunji also continues to welcome religious devotees, or aborisha, who come to stay or study every year. There is no official tally but the king estimates that 2,000-3,000 visit annually.

Oyotunji's Temple of Olokun, the orisha of the deepest water. "If it were not Olokun our ancestors would be at the bottom of the ocean with all those treasure ships," explains Adesoji. "He is where all life comes from." (Photo: Molly McArdle)

During my visit, I met one of these visitors, Ase Jones, who had been in Oyotunji for 10 days. A woman somewhere in her 20s, Jones was sweet and bashful, describing her home in Dallas and her community’s reaction to her religious beliefs in a low, quiet tone. She wasn’t sure how long she’d stay in Oyotunji. “I guess you’d call me an aborisha because I do practice the cultural traditions back at home. I wanted to embrace it. I’m supposed to be going to Nigeria in February so I wanted to come here and get a feel for it," she says.

“While she’s here we’ll finish up the adobe house,” the Oba says, motioning to a nearby building-in-progress, part sandbag, part cement, part chicken wire, part multi-colored glass bottles. The Oba has been experimenting with superadobe construction, a durable, cheap, and easy construction method that uses sandbags as its primary material. These structure’s thick walls should, like traditional adobe buildings, regulate the interior’s temperature without need for central air.
“She’ll become one of the people who will helped to put a stone in the castle,” the Oba says of Jones. “Oyotunji was not built by one or two people. It was built by a lot of people. It’s amazing.”
People also come to the village looking for spiritual or bodily help; these clients also help sustain the village. M. Kamari Clarke recalls the large number of people she saw come to Oyotunji in the ‘90s. “That was at the height of HIV/AIDs and during the rise of the prison industrial complex,” she says, “I saw people come in and out, people would bring a daughter or son, people who needed help. They would drop them off for a day to work with a given priest.” Services, which range from $150 to $300 on Oyotunji’s website, could include a traditional naming ceremony, gendered coming of age rituals, or divinatory readings, wherein a priest communicates with a client’s ancestors seeking specific instructions on what orisha to ask a favor of or honor and in what ways.
The income earned from these services form a major part of Oyotunji’s econo
my. This turn outwards, motivated in part by Oyotunji’s declining residential numbers, came from the need to be self-sustaining, says Clark. As soon as the funds were needed “things opened up very quickly.” But this fundamental shift, one that began in the 1980s, has also fostered Oyotunji’s bonds with the local community as well as Yoruban religious communities nationwide.
“This is very much an American story,” says Kenja McCray. She is talking about Oyotunji but she is also talking about a friend of hers. This friend was born in Oyotunji, has tribal markings and a Yoruban name, and a birth certificate that—because Orisha-Vodu naming ceremonies take place several days after birth—just read “girl” in the place where her name would be. McCray’s friend now lived outside the village and had just started a new job. “One of the people at Human Resources, when I turned in my paperwork, decided that I couldn’t be American,” her friend told her. Instead, this HR staffer, another black woman, called immigration.
This is the crux of McCray’s argument. While Oyotunji is an important part of America’s black nationalist history, the village also tells a story about who and what is American. It is difficult, if not impossible, to pry apart the systems of power governing the United States from the idea of America. America is slavery, it is genocide, it is internment and deportation and torture. McCray’s friend was punished for not complying with American, which is to say Eurocentric, standards, while remaining prototypically American. Not only does she have the conventional rights of a natural born citizen, but she also practices a cultural tradition that has been on these shores since about 1619, far longer than many American’s European ancestors. The Yoruban religion in America is older than the nation that now governs it. It is America. At least a part of it.

This is perhaps Oyotunji’s greatest achievement, its most radical and most threatening and most vital—a vision not of an African nation free of Eurocentric America, but an African America free of Europe. It’s work that began in 1970. It’s work that continues, whether or not we see it, today.

Shasheen Littlefeather at the Oscars 1973

Shasheen Littlefeather, 1973

That Unfinished Oscar Speech


BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- For 200 years we have said to the Indian people who are fighting for their land, their life, their families and their right to be free: ''Lay down your arms, my friends, and then we will remain together. Only if you lay down your arms, my friends, can we then talk of peace and come to an agreement which will be good for you.''

When they laid down their arms, we murdered them. We lied to them. We cheated them out of their lands. We starved them into signing fraudulent agreements that we called treaties which we never kept. We turned them into beggars on a continent that gave life for as long as life can remember. And by any interpretation of history, however twisted, we did not do right. We were not lawful nor were we just in what we did. For them, we do not have to restore these people, we do not have to live up to some agreements, because it is given to us by virtue of our power to attack the rights of others, to take their property, to take their lives when they are trying to defend their land and liberty, and to make their virtues a crime and our own vices virtues.

But there is one thing which is beyond the reach of this perversity and that is the tremendous verdict of history. And history will surely judge us. But do we care? What kind of moral schizophrenia is it that allows us to shout at the top of our national voice for all the world to hear that we live up to our commitment when every page of history and when all the thirsty, starving, humiliating days and nights of the last 100 years in the lives of the American Indian contradict that voice?

It would seem that the respect for principle and the love of one's neighbor have become dysfunctional in this country of ours, and that all we have done, all that we have succeeded in accomplishing with our power is simply annihilating the hopes of the newborn countries in this world, as well as friends and enemies alike, that we're not humane, and that we do not live up to our agreements.

Perhaps at this moment you are saying to yourself what the hell has all this got to do with the Academy Awards? Why is this woman standing up here, ruining our evening, invading our lives with things that don't concern us, and that we don't care about? Wasting our time and money and intruding in our homes.

I think the answer to those unspoken questions is that the motion picture community has been as responsible as any for degrading the Indian and making a mockery of his character, describing his as savage, hostile and evil. It's hard enough for children to grow up in this world. When Indian children watch television, and they watch films, and when they see their race depicted as they are in films, their minds become injured in ways we can never know.

Recently there have been a few faltering steps to correct this situation, but too faltering and too few, so I, as a member in this profession, do not feel that I can as a citizen of the United States accept an award here tonight. I think awards in this country at this time are inappropriate to be received or given until the condition of the American Indian is drastically altered. If we are not our brother's keeper, at least let us not be his executioner.

I would have been here tonight to speak to you directly, but I felt that perhaps I could be of better use if I went to Wounded Knee to help forestall in whatever way I can the establishment of a peace which would be dishonorable as long as the rivers shall run and the grass shall grow.

I would hope that those who are listening would not look upon this as a rude intrusion, but as an earnest effort to focus attention on an issue that might very well determine whether or not this country has the right to say from this point forward we believe in the inalienable rights of all people to remain free and independent on lands that have supported their life beyond living memory.
Thank you for your kindness and your courtesy to Miss Littlefeather. Thank you and good night.

This statement was written by Marlon Brando for delivery at the Academy Awards ceremony where Mr. Brando refused an Oscar. The speaker, who read only a part of it, was Shasheen Littlefeather.

 More information:

New York Times:

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

"磐石"由 Alex da Silva |在鹿特丹港的奴隸紀念碑

Photo by Max Dereta
這 麼多已經很難知道從哪裡開始。在威尼斯或肯雅人缺乏的安哥拉演出者嗎?南非的巴塞爾公約 》 或 Alex da Silva 在鹿特丹和他的奴隸制問題為鹿特丹港碼頭的勞埃德美麗作品揭幕儀式。這是媒體大亨們喜歡棲息在轉換後的碼頭時尚 loft 公寓位置。位置是尊貴型和有奴隸制紀念碑的理想地點。出人意料的是,房價上漲自通車後,必須在歐洲第一。從蘇利南和維德角人有,很長一段時間,競選奴隸國 慶和 7 月 1 日是成為荷蘭的國慶日為奴役和一個全國性的節日。

在 1863 年 7 月 1 日,整整 150 年前,蘇利南和荷屬安的列的所有奴隸最後被都授予他們的自由,這是 30 年後英國廢除貿易和荷蘭最終發現他們道德指南針和緊隨其後;今天,從殖民地荷蘭加勒比超過 80,000 後裔住在鹿特丹市,有的直接後裔,別人有關合同制工人取消後接替奴隸。直接受奴役其他種族群體是那些最初從海角維德角群島,非洲西海岸和鹿特丹房屋大約 23,000 維德角,演出者,Alex de Silva 是其中之一。在過去的一年左右的時間裡,演出者一直經常聯繫,飼喂不同片段的新聞有關的專案;在進行鬥爭的緊迫的時間壓力恒定,並找到正確的工匠和工匠建 造一座紀念碑,這種規模和,不同元素完美才會焊接在一起。什麼變得明顯的加班是過去的 Alex 的首要問題和關注的重大致敬的奴隸。很榮幸 Alex 一直不夠慷慨,讓我如此的最新在所有他的專案的不同階段。與他的第一個孩子,他的女兒和父親的新角色介紹,這兩年看到演出者個人的巨大變化。 他通過鹿特丹市這個新任務是完美的時間承認他作為國際演出者的責任,但也認識到奴隸制和它對世界各地的黑人社區意味著什麼年齡的重要性。有一種一般的感 覺,風已從那些奴隸船的帆。歷史上被盜和幾乎重寫-證據必須裸露時間的考驗和黑人社區必須能夠正確記錄的歷史。

最 初,Alex 曾試圖解釋他對他委託的公民雕像的願景,但它現在只是在我開始理解該專案的規模,並開始理解他事業的嚴重性專案的後期階段。工作由一系列焊接明亮拋光鋼手 打的板,站在高 9 米、 寬 5 米。工作描述為奴隸制時代的到來。美麗雕塑的不銹鋼數位看外星人在鹿特丹的天際線和抽象的小船與周圍建築完美融合。在某個角度結構變得幾乎一樣抽象塞拉。 工作有權"磐石",是用在許多中美洲和南美洲的音樂音樂筆記。可來福是加勒比節拍和薩爾薩舞,倫巴舞,拉丁爵士樂中的功能的核心,在非洲裔古巴節奏是古巴 音樂的基石。工作讀取作為它的舞蹈一樣的雕塑和擊中所有正確地注意到,作為數位是如此完美地在一起,並莊嚴地閃耀在鹿特丹的天際線。Alex de Silva 是理想的選擇,當然只有演出者在鹿特丹,有可能產生這樣一種雄偉和發人深省的紀念碑。標的物是真正發自內心的。奴隸制的影響卻在他的國家的維德角如此明 顯,因為它是葡萄牙人與他們的歐洲夥伴的非洲奴隸貿易的重要場所。Alex de Silva,自己就是克裡奧爾語,動詞 criar ("養活"),這在 15 世紀,在維德角; 貿易和軍事前哨鑄造導數它最初指出生和本地"長大"的葡萄牙移民的後裔。這個詞然後傳播到其他語言通過從葡萄牙奴隸商人提供大部分南美國家在 16 世紀,整個的奴隸,所以他是理想的演出者為此專案。

為 了安撫那些一直直接震級或在-直接影響和反映那些獲得了。認為,奴隸制是一門學科,應始終打開痛世界可以做的最好是要確保它很少受到感染。Alex 的大專案是如此壯觀,值得慶倖的是還豎立在完美的位置,引領進鹿特丹港河口口。工作行為所有船進鹿特丹,最大的港口,在歐洲被大量一部分 Nieuwe (新默茲河),通道在三角洲形成由萊茵河和默茲河與流出到北海一側和流進河裡直接進入歐洲的心臟,另會的燈塔。這些河流包括魯爾工業區。Alex 的工作將站在一起的俄羅斯雕刻家,城 Zadkine-De Verwoeste Stad"破壞城市"塑像描繪在 1940 年,創建于 1953 年的納粹轟炸恐怖偉大的工作。城 Zadkine,住在巴黎,有很大影響對已故的塞內加爾畫家,與他的妻子弗朗辛 · Iba N'Daiye 從聖 Louis,塞內加爾,但他後來搬到巴黎。Alex 的畫,似乎注意提示的非洲大師 Iba 恩迪亞耶,有許多相似之處,他們的生活輕視對方有西非的二元混合的回聲和歐洲文化的影響和培訓。Alex 就讀于藝術與建築的鹿特丹 Williem de Kooning 學院于 1999 年,然後去做研究生於 2000 年在荷蘭的格羅寧根密涅瓦學院。他的新工作現在成為其他世界著名的演出者羅丹、 Willem de Kooning 和出色的建築師,雷姆庫哈斯和他標誌性的地標,塑造了現代景觀的鹿特丹等城市景觀的一部分。

最 近時期一直呼籲奴隸制博物館設計和製造,在世界各地每個主要港口。2007 年 8 月看見門全開到奴隸博物館,在英格蘭利物浦。由早期 2010年利物浦奴隸博物館看到其 1 萬名遊客。這個博物館的成功已經滲透到美國大西洋上空,考慮和計畫正在作出的建設更多的古跡榮譽奴隸並開始記錄的非洲在世界各地興起。它是被很多人的非洲 奴隸建造現代世界。今天也許真正的回報,每個國家參與奴隸貿易的時候應認真考慮投資和重新定址的奴隸制問題。什麼是理想的就是見證真正的承諾,在私有和公 共錢包和資金湧入的奴隸博物館建設。這會吸引世界各地的黑人社區,參與並成為一個全新的世界的映射的一部分的積極作用。這將不僅鼓勵參與,但導致一些真正 獲得權力,現在,之前已被國際上拒絕。它還將促進一種特定的主人翁意識的歷史,但最重要的是,它會去創造一個更加公平的全球社會的某種方式。黑人歷史應該 最後為只是一個月但更多的年度事件,持久不在一 365 年天。通過建立這些博物館他們將本質上開始處理,並參與年輕和不安分。博物館應該是世界的一個地方的所有成員都希望來看,他們致力於非洲的崛起。政府和私 營企業應使其公民的義務,鼓勵他們的學生或員工定期參觀博物館。許多歐洲國家正面臨類似危機的社會感覺的隔離和脫離責任的意義在於在橫向思維和開始重新生 成相應的口袋裡。對於那些感興趣的非洲崛起,應該寫的書和電影製作。奴隸制的主體可以有這種積極的影響,對那些最被忽略和成為一個蓬勃發展的產業和新的創 意經濟受剝奪。

一 大批奴隸博物館湧現在過去的 5 到 10 年。他們看起來非常受歡迎的公眾,所有的人想要享受自由的一個虛幻的時刻,但誰將受益?奴隸博物館的目的當然是要賦予黑人社區,但相反,他們都由建立。我 們都知道那裡是為奴的錢,但這是反常的心理。奴隸博物館開在開普敦,SA;利物浦和倫敦,英國;美國在華盛頓特區,Memphis,亞特蘭大,查爾斯頓, 馬里蘭州,巴爾的摩,新奧爾良,亞歷山大,弗吉尼亞州和這裡的東西不加起來。非洲人又一次被拒絕的力量他們的過去,因為這是所有做與擁有權,總是被剝奪了 黑人世界範圍內,它是正如以賽亞 · 伯林先生指出,這是他所謂的"東方主義"的一種形式。寫歷史上的那些自己的人民的頭腦。這
是 21 世紀不能接受,需要重新考慮與聯接起來的幾點思考。需要連結到加勒比海,到牙買加、 古巴和特立尼達,南美巴西和蓋亞納和非洲塞內加爾、 加納、 多哥、 貝寧、 奈及利亞向摩洛哥和埃及。廢止奴隸制在茅利塔尼亞發生在 2007 年。它會讓人耳目一新,看到荷蘭行為是以不同的方式對美國和英國的奴隸博物館模型。

" 非洲的命運是我後,奴隸制、 殖民主義、 種族隔離和新自由主義全球化,非洲人不是他們生活的代理商。定義、 議程范式和觀點仍徵收歐洲和其他國家,占主導地位的非洲現實的所有方面。因此非洲的形象,非洲強加于這個世界的概念那些創立和控制的非非洲人部隊。因此, 全球化不是只有一種強加的產品,但也的想法和理想 — — 而更廣泛的人類多樣性。"

資料來源 ︰ 非洲大屠殺 |HTTP://

非洲是美國和歐洲的最高機密。這些博物館有沉默毫不奇怪,那些在加勒比地區和非洲大陸都沒有意識到他們都有他們的爪子在嵌入的蜂蜜罐。 誰西方國家試圖授權但那些已經建立,這是最糟糕的是骯髒的政治和荷蘭將希望看到遠為清晰,比他們的國際同行的機會。

作者 ︰ Joe Pollitt


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Alex da Silva | Distant Shores

Artist | Alex da Silva in his studio

Alex da Silva 

In 1999, Alex attended the William de Kooning Academy of Art and architecture in Rotterdam and here he established himself as one of the best artistic practitioners in his class.  In his early years the work he produced was more about the exploration of techniques, styles and discovering new mediums to play with. In his third year Alex graduated as"Cum Laude" and this boost of recognition and financial security enabled Alex to build on his environment outside of Africa. After graduating his work changed and grew dramatically as he started to venture into various subject matters that interested him; that of addiction, sexual fancy and the darker side of the human condition. His works became poetic and similar to works of macabre theatre, exploring the underbelly of society through mixed media and paint on canvas.  It is only really now that his work has found a courage and a conviction that was so unsure beforehand.

“The Clave”  a monument Alex created for the city of Rotterdam about Slavery secures his place as one of the great artists of our generation and this accolade has enable the artist to grow in confident and now at the height of his career he is willing to push boundaries as never before. Now in his forties his works have found real maturity and these years will certainly be his most valuable as they will set him aside for the pack and define him as a true International artist of now.

Distant Shores

The show is really a coming of age of this artist as he builds on the success of his magnificent Civic sculptural work about Slavery,“The Clave”, in one of the most significant ports in Europe, Rotterdam; Alex is now back to where he feels most comfortable, painting and creating his demons, back to the indigenous, earthbound creatures of the islands where the most important export is poetry. These islands are part of an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean, better known by some as Nomansland; that space between Brazil, America, Europe and Africa, the islands of the hybrid, where all the world has passed and left their seeds, which now make up the diversity that surrounds Cape Verde and Alex at his most creative. This show is certainly Alex da Silva at his best but there is certainly far more to come.

Author: Joe Politt


Alex da Silva

1999 年,Alex 出席 William de Kooning 學院的藝術與建築的鹿特丹和這裡他確立了自己作為一個最好的藝術從業者在他的課。 他早年創作的主要作品是更多關於技術、 樣式和發現新介質,用來玩的探索。在他的第三年 Alex 畢業作為"優等",這刺激的識別與金融安全啟用 Alex 在他非洲以外地區的環境基礎上再接再厲。畢業後他的工作改變和急劇的增長,他開始涉足各種他; 感興趣的主題事項那的成癮、 性幻想和人類社會的陰暗的一面。他的作品成為了詩意和類似的令人毛骨悚然的劇院,探索社會通過混合媒介和油漆的肋在畫布上的作品。 它是唯一真正現在又發現他的工作有一種勇氣和事前並不那麼確定的信念。

" 磐石"Alex 創建為關於奴隸制的鹿特丹市的一座紀念碑保護他的地方,正是我們這一代和獲此殊榮的偉大的演出者之一已使這位演出者,在自信中成長,現在在他職業生涯的巔 峰他願推邊界之前從來沒有過而安全。現在在他四十年代他的作品已經找到真正的成熟,這些年肯定會是他最有價值作為他們將設置他的包放在一邊,將他定義為一 個真正的國際演出者,現在。


秀 真是時代的這位演出者的到來,隨著他的成功基礎上的宏偉公民雕塑作品關於奴隸制,"輸液",在歐洲,鹿特丹; 最重要的港口之一Alex 也恢復到了他認為最舒適的繪畫和創造他的惡魔,回到群島最重要的出口在哪裡詩歌的土著,地面上的生物。這些島嶼是一部分的 10 火山群島在大西洋中部,更好地瞭解被一些人視為荒原;巴西、 美國、 歐洲和非洲,混合動力車,這些島嶼之間的空間裡,整個世界都已通過和離開他們的種子,現在彌補圍繞維德角和 Alex 在他最有創意的多樣性。這個節目肯定是 Alex da Silva 在他最好的但還有當然遠更多來。

作者 ︰ Joe Politt

Jean Michel Basquiat


--Amalia Mesa-Bains

On August 12, 1988, Jean-Michel Basquiat, was found dead in his NoHo apartment from a heroin overdose. Basquiat, aptly nicknamed the radiant child, began as a graffiti artist (SAMO), and rose to prominence in the 1980s in New York City, during a time of economic and political instability. Born to a Haitian father and a Boricua mother, Basquiat’s paintings shook up a stuffy downtown art scene—an art scene that was at once dazzled by the vibrancy of his canvases, and yet disturbed by how the paintings directly confronted the colonialist, racist, and classist social systems that they were privileged in. Despite Basquiat seeking out significant white people within the art world in the beginning of his career, it was this troubling, unhealthy dynamic as a Black painter within this primarily white art world that led to the demise of one of the greatest painters of the 21st century.  

 While the white art world in general professed to adore Basquiat, the “adoration” they emphatically felt often failed to be based on a deep emotional connection to the actual paintings. Due to the challenging nature of the work that Basquiat produced, white viewers who could not allow themselves to be moved by the canvases’ confrontations with white supremacy and capitalism imposed a kind of false intimacy with his work. To truly be moved by him would be uprooting the very tangible racial and social hierarchies that the art world clung to. (Right: Fallen Angel, 1981)

Writer bell hooks remembers her trip to the Whitney Museum in the early 90s for a retrospective of his art:

“At the opening of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work at the Whitney Museum in the fall of 1992, I wondered through the crowd talking to folks about art. I had just one question. It was about emotional responses to the work. I asked, ‘What do you feel looking at Basquiat’s paintings?’ No one I talked with answered the question. People went off on tangents, said what they liked about Basquiat, recalled meetings, talked generally about the show, but something seemed to stand in the way, preventing them from spontaneously articulating the feelings the work evoked. Those folks who are not moved by Basquiat’s work are usually unable to think of it as ‘great’ or even ‘good’ art…this response seems to characterize much of what mainstream critics think about Basquiat. Unmoved, they are unable to speak meaningful about the work. Often, with no subtlety, or tact, they diss the work by obsessively focusing on Basquiat’s life or the development of his career, all while insisting they are in the best possible position to judge the work’s value and significance.”   

These specific type of responses and the barrage of anti-Blackness by his peers flourished while Basquiat was alive, and were mostly likely responsible for his growing sense of isolation and depression during the latter part of his life, despite being a so-called darling within the art world. White art critics who interviewed and spoke of him frequently chose to focus on Basquiat’s rumored playboy status, his turbulent relationship with Madonna, the friendship between him and Andy Warhol, and his cavorting with Fab 5 Freddy in the downtown scene, while rarely taking his dedication to the nuances of his craft seriously.

​To the majority of white bohemians who latched onto Basquiat, the draw was less about being moved by the political, economic, and historical meanings of his paintings, or understanding how he articulated the harsh realities poor working class Black folks endured in the subject of his work. The draw for them was about Basquiat’s image as the “voice of the gutter”, which he deeply, and rightfully, grew to resent. Despite Basquiat seeking out significant white people within the art world, and his insistence that he wasn’t a Black artist, it can be inferred that these associations with them gradually took their toll on his psychological well-being. 
Despite Basquiat’s attempts to rub elbows with pretentious whites in these art circles, it became increasingly clear that they would never come to terms with realizing how important his art was to the greater Black community, who rarely saw themselves reflected in mainstream art galleries:

“Designed to be a closed door, Basquiat’s work holds no warm welcome for those who approach it with a narrow Eurocentric gaze….rarely does anyone connect Basquiat’s work to traditions of African-American art history. To bear witness in his work, Basquiat struggled to utter the unspeakable. Prophetically called, he engaged in an extended artistic collaboration of a politics of dehumanization. In his work, colonization of the black body and mind is marked by the anguish of abandonment, estrangement, dismemberment, and death. To see and understand these paintings, one must be willing to accept the tragic dimensions of black life.”

Basquiat is not the first painter of color whose work the white art world has depoliticized and deracinated. Frida Kahlo, who is hailed by white Western women as a feminist icon, is rarely celebrated for how her political beliefs, rooted in anti-capitalist, pro-indigenous, and pro-working class struggles, informed much of her art. Like Basquiat, white viewers uncomfortable with the political elements of Frida’s work erased these aspects that directly confronted their privileges. While Frida relied on her ties with close friends, family, and turbulent relationship with Diego Rivera to balance these acts of violence within the scene, Basquiat turned to heroin, continually withdrawing deeper into himself, away from a world he previously sought to be accepted into. (Left: Frida Kahlo, Mexican Vogue Magazine)

Despite Basquiat’s legacy being celebrated across cultures in the 21st century, it is clearer than ever that his work is not for the wider mainstream audiences who avidly refuse to confront their own privileges, only caring about how marketable is image is. It is those who experience deep levels of socially inflicted pain who will understand why black figures in his paintings are dismembered, appearing to cry out from the canvas to be recognized. Perhaps it is only those who experienced unspeakable levels of invisibility to society who will resonate with grotesque figures wearing three pointed crowns upon their heads, symbolic of their struggle against erasure. For those folks, Basquiat is at a haunting reminder of our deepest isolation and our deepest humanity. Through Basquiat’s paintings in art history books, for once, I, and others like me, finally saw that we mattered.

Pinder, N. Kimberly. Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History. “Altars of Sacrifice: Re-remembering Basquiat." New York City: Routledge, 2002.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child. Davis, Tamra. Arthouse Films, 2010. Documentary.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Alex da Silva - Making the Visual Verbal

This artist is a friend and one I am deeply proud of. I've waited to see if he will show his true colours and I think now is the time to see his potential as a man and an artist. The greatest export out of the Cabo Verde Islands is poetry so we will start with that.

Here is his poem - Making the Visual Verbal

People change for two main reasons:
their minds have opened
their hearts have been broken .

You chose.
You chose.
You chose.

You chose to give away your love.
You chose to have a broken heart.
You chose to give up.
You chose to hang on.
You chose to react.
You chose to feel insecure.
You chose to feel anger.
You chose to fight back
.You chose to have hope.

You chose to be naïve.
You chose to ignore your intuition.
You chose to ignore advice.
You chose to look the other way.
You chose to not listen.
You chose to be stuck in the past.
You chose your perspective.
You chose to blame.
You chose to be right.

You chose your pride.
You chose your games.
You chose your ego.
You chose your paranoia.
You chose to compete.
You chose your enemies.
You chose your consequences.

You chose.
You chose.
You chose.
You chose.

However, you are not alone.
Generations in your family have chosen.
We all have chosen at one time in our lives.
We stand behind you now screaming:

Choose to let go.
Choose dignity.
Choose to forgive yourself.
Choose to forgive others.
Choose to see your value.
Choose to show the world you’re not a victim.
Choose to make us proud.


Now here are his artwork: