“When your back is pressed to the wall you go to the deepest part of yourself, and there’s a response–It’s your great ancestors talking. It’s blood memory.”
— August Wilson
Still Here explores stories of migration, displacement, and survival in films by eight artists that represent a spectrum of the African Diaspora. The works in this exhibition use moving images as conduit to highlight the rituals and traditions that persevere and evolve, despite the oppressive historical ripple effects of colonialism and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Through practices and tools of survival such as migrating, defending, dancing, gathering, praying, and claiming agency over one’s body, the works in this exhibition demonstrate that black and brown bodies are not here for consumption of the white gaze, nor are they passive beings upon whom actions are done or inflicted. Instead, the film’s subjects investigate and enact strategies to deeply connect with parts of their personal and collective narratives that have been overlooked or erased by dominant Eurocentric historical accounts.
The stories illustrate a range of experiences with a focus on what was lost, what has evolved, and what is in danger of being erased; through these episodes, it is evident that a spiritual element always remains. The films tell the stories of people of color who use their intuition to create connections between their ancestral pasts and their complex present identities, forming an in-between state resulting from displacement and living in the western world. Still Here underscores the resilience of people of the African Diaspora, and how moving images can serve as a device to demonstrate how these communities have developed tactics, language, and strategies to assert their agency and sovereignty.
The eight artists in this show include Larry Achiampong, who documents the mutations of religious tradition as result of colonization by filming various African communities worshipping within the interiors of Roman Catholic Churches across London. Adama Delphine Fawundu explores the essence of hair growth and its symbolic significance to her native Mende heritage. In his film Papa Machete, Jason Fitzroy Jeffer illustrates the importance of heritage, memories via Haitian machete fencing, an esoteric form of martial art which was used during the Haitian revolution as a farmer’s key to survival. Carlos Javier Ortiz questions the status of Black America today by revisiting the history of the Great Migration, where six million African Americans relocated from the rural South to the cities of the North, Midwest and West from 1915 to 1970. With simplified movement and one continuous still shot, Cinthia Marcelle orchestrated 16 musicians to meet at the centre of a crossroads, battle, and leave playing music in harmony, emphasizing that all parties are still remaining in the end. In JUVÉ NITE, MELO-X depicts groups of people of color celebrating, dancing, and practicing religions; their bodies present and their influence palpable, strong, assertive, and often revolutionary. Helina Metaferia raises attention to the Black body through the conjuring of powerful bloodlines in her performance work. Her project places female descendants of Black civil rights activists in conversation with each other, and at sites of historic trauma, in order to visually interrogate the role of the inherited social movement histories on the Black body. Joiri Minaya uses her body as a tool for both creation and destruction, questioning the creation of the exotic illusion put on her being. She asserts her autonomy onto a mural she worked on for a month, destroys the work, and therefore destroys the illusion set on her identity. All eight artists prove that even through migrations, mutations, battles, oppression, and struggle, they are still here.
THIS EXHIBITION IS PRESENTED IN 3 PARTS
May 8 to June 9
Adama Delphine Fawundu · The Cleanse
Cinthia Marcelle · Cruzada
MELO-X · JUVÉ NITE
June 12 to July 14
Larry Achiampong · Sunday’s Best
Helina Metaferia · The Call
Carlos Javier Ortiz · A Thousand Nights
July 17 to August 11
Joiri Minaya · Siboney
Third Horizon (Jason Fitzroy Jeffers) · Papa Machete
Major funding for this exhibition provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts