Joachim Ben Yakoub

Traces of Subversive Intimacies. Relating Palestine, the Caribbean and Their Diasporic Presences

A conversation between Reem Shilleh and Quinsy Gario, facilitated by Joachim Ben Yakoub

A growing number of visual artists in the global south return to the haunting present of the history of slavery, colonialism, anti-imperial struggle and decolonization by excavating lost stories, images and soundbites, relating different unexpected subversive dots on the imperial world map. In this conversation facilitated by Joachim Ben Yakoub, Reem Shilleh and Quinsy Gario will reflect on traces of possible intimacies between Palestine, the Caribbean and their diasporic presence to elaborate on different understandings of the archive. Reem Shilleh will expand on her proposition of an imperfect archive in the context of Palestine: a non-uniform, anti-formal archive that has no place, body, or definition but instead is a collective practice that questions nationalism and statehood as the defining parameters for collective and shared memory. Following Gloria Wekker, Quinsy Gario mobilizes the notion of the Dutch-Caribbean cultural archive, to point to how an unacknowledged reservoir of knowledge and affects based on four hundred years of Dutch imperial rule plays a vital but unacknowledged part in dominant racialised meaning- making processes. Echoing the work of Edward Glissant, Joachim Ben Yakoub will join the conversation from his understanding of the archive, as traces of one world in relation. In the light of accelerated globalisation and planetary entanglements the archive can no longer just be apprehended as a mnemonic device, but functions as a lively discursive and material power formation that structures prevailing aesthetics, the presence and absence of certain political subjectivities and their living memories.

Bio

Joachim Ben Yakoub is master in social pedagogy and doctor in political science. His research is situated on the intersection of aesthetic theory and various postcolonial critiques, from where he investigates movements of revolt in Tunisia and Belgium. He is currently affiliated to the ‘Middle East and North Africa Research Group’ (MENARG) and the ‘Studies in Performing Arts & Media’ research group (S:PAM) of the University of Ghent. He is part of the editorial board of Documenta Journal and FORUM+, he regularly writes for Rekto:Verso and Etcetera and contributes to other different journals, such as International Journal for Cultural Studies, META journal and the Theatre Times. He is a lecturer at the Sint-Lucas School of Arts in Antwerp, where he is also promotor of the collective action research “The Archives of one world in relation”.

Branka Benčić

Film Programme - Propositions against Oblivion: The Secretary of the Invisible

The Secretary of the Invisible describes a film as a chameleon and the figure of the artist as a secretary of the invisible. But it also works in reverse. The artist is the chameleon and film is the secretary of the invisible. (Marine Hugonnier: “The Secretary of the Invisible”, conversation with Anne-Sophie Dinant, Vdrome)

The film programme brings together films and video works by artists and filmmakers of different generations and backgrounds, and juxtaposes historical and recent works. It aims to establish a dialogue that reflects social and political constellations, indicates crises and omissions, redefinitions of the notion of the nation-state and national identity, or the politics of power inscribed in the representation of the other, exploring narratives that are missing in a public discourse, injustice, exploitation, and necropolitics.

Bio

Branka Benčić is an art historian and independent curator based in Croatia, working cross platform between contemporary art, cinema and research projects with main interests in exhibiting moving images, exhibition/institutional histories, historical trajectories of critical, experimental and avantgarde practices in former Yugoslavia, politics of display, and artistic practices dealing with memory and the archive. She is artistic director at Apoteka – Space for Contemporary Art, curator at Artists Cinema – screening programme series at the Museum of Contemporary art in Zagreb, and founder and Curator of Cinemanac Think Film programme at Pula Film Festival. In 2017 she was in charge as curator of Croatian Pavilion at 57th Venice Biennale. She has curated group exhibitions, solo projects and film screenings in Croatia and internationally,  lectured and published extensively on contemporary art in exhibition catalogues, books and journals.

Collectif Mémoire Coloniale et Lutte contre les Discriminations

Uncovering and Challenging Oblivion – Memorial Strategies in Diverging Political Contexts

The task of dealing with violent pasts can be considered one of the most pressing political issues of our time. The rise of human rights discourses and the “memory-boom” since the end of the Cold War have prompted governments and citizens across the world to come to terms with historical injustices such as mass-violence and imperialism. Victims, survivors and other inheritors of colonialism and slavery demand reparation and recognition. Such “past-oriented politics” have since become the central focus of intense scholarly debate, in which several historians and social theorists simultaneously call into question the alleged emancipatory potential of such politics. Past-oriented politics have been criticized for stimulating a “competition of grievances” among (self-claimed) victims (Maier, 1993), for lacking orientation towards the future (Torpey, 2001; Huyssen, 2003), for keeping the wounds of the past open, and for preventing societies from moving on (Olick & Coughlin, 2003). In more recent years, memory scholars have tried to move away from the implicit notion that an “orientation towards the past” automatically goes hand in hand with a “future vacuum” (Rigney, 2018), by trying to understand how orientations towards the past, present and future interact in what they call “memory activism” (Gutman, 2017). This panel takes up these questions about the relation between ‘memory’ and ‘activism’, and between ‘memory’ and ‘the future’. Around the world, a growing number of grassroots memory-initiatives have emerged that explicitly link an occupation with memory to present and future social justice. The panel invites Collectif Mémoire Coloniale (Belgium), Mitchell Esajas (The Black Archives, the Netherlands) and Vesna Teršelič (Documenta, Croatia) to share their perspectives as activists and memory workers in three diverging political contexts. What political, historical and aesthetic strategies do they employ to fight for collective remembering? How do they see the duty to remember related to their fight for social justice in these contexts? And which obstacles do they encounter? They will talk about their experiences as activists swimming against the mainstream oblivion, in their campaigns for visibility of past ánd of contemporary injustices. Eline Mestdagh (Ghent University) will facilitate the conversation.

Bio

Collectif Mémoire Coloniale et Lutte contre les Discriminations is a Brussels collective that is committed to decolonizing minds, public spaces and society as a whole by deconstructing racist stereotypes about people of African descent.

Bambi Ceuppens

Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren

Bio

Bambi Ceuppens received her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of St Andrews. She has taught at the Universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and St Andrews and was a postdoctoral researcher at Ghent University and the Catholic University of Leuven. Currently a senior researcher and curator at the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Bambi Ceuppens’s research focuses on the colonial history that the Congo and Belgium share, Congolese arts and cultures, Congolese in Belgium, museum representations of Africa(ns) and autochthony. She has curated the exhibition “Indépendance! Congolese Tell Stories of Fifty Years of Independence” (RMCA, 2010) and has co-curated “Congo Art Works: Popular Painting” (Fine Arts Centre, Brussels, 2016-2017; Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, 2017) with Sammy Baloji and co-curated “Congo Stars” (Graz, Vienna, 2018; Tübingen, Germany, 2019). She teaches anthropology of arts at KASK School of Arts (Ghent) and Sint-Lucas School of Arts (Antwerp).

Stoffel Debuysere

KASK School of Arts and Courtisane Festival

Film panel

Bio

Stoffel Debuysere is a researcher and curator active in the fields of cinema and audiovisual arts. Based in Brussels, he has organized numerous film programs in collaboration with a variety of organizations and institutions. He is head programmer for the Courtisane collective and a lecturer in Film critical studies at the KASK School of Arts in Ghent where he has recently obtained a PhD with the project “Figures of Dissent (Cinema of Politics, Politics of Cinema)”.

Mitchell Esajas

The Black Archives

Uncovering and Challenging Oblivion – Memorial Strategies in Diverging Political Contexts

The task of dealing with violent pasts can be considered one of the most pressing political issues of our time. The rise of human rights discourses and the “memory-boom” since the end of the Cold War have prompted governments and citizens across the world to come to terms with historical injustices such as mass-violence and imperialism. Victims, survivors and other inheritors of colonialism and slavery demand reparation and recognition. Such “past-oriented politics” have since become the central focus of intense scholarly debate, in which several historians and social theorists simultaneously call into question the alleged emancipatory potential of such politics. Past-oriented politics have been criticized for stimulating a “competition of grievances” among (self-claimed) victims (Maier, 1993), for lacking orientation towards the future (Torpey, 2001; Huyssen, 2003), for keeping the wounds of the past open, and for preventing societies from moving on (Olick & Coughlin, 2003). In more recent years, memory scholars have tried to move away from the implicit notion that an “orientation towards the past” automatically goes hand in hand with a “future vacuum” (Rigney, 2018), by trying to understand how orientations towards the past, present and future interact in what they call “memory activism” (Gutman, 2017). This panel takes up these questions about the relation between ‘memory’ and ‘activism’, and between ‘memory’ and ‘the future’. Around the world, a growing number of grassroots memory-initiatives have emerged that explicitly link an occupation with memory to present and future social justice. The panel invites Collectif Mémoire Coloniale (Belgium), Mitchell Esajas (The Black Archives, the Netherlands) and Vesna Teršelič (Documenta, Croatia) to share their perspectives as activists and memory workers in three diverging political contexts. What political, historical and aesthetic strategies do they employ to fight for collective remembering? How do they see the duty to remember related to their fight for social justice in these contexts? And which obstacles do they encounter? They will talk about their experiences as activists swimming against the mainstream oblivion, in their campaigns for visibility of past ánd of contemporary injustices. Eline Mestdagh (Ghent University) will facilitate the conversation.

Bio

Anthropologist, curator, and social entrepreneur Mitchell Esajas is involved in various community projects in education, employment, diversity, and sustainability and is Co-Founder and Chairman of New Urban Collective, a network for students and young professionals from diverse backgrounds with a focus on the Surinamese, Caribbean, and African diaspora. Having studied Business Studies and Anthropology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, in 2016 he co-founded The Black Archives, Amsterdam, a unique collection of books, documents, and artifacts documenting the history of black people and black resistance in the Dutch context. Based on the collection, The Black Archives develops work with artists, activists, and scholars, as well as exhibitions and other public activities, winning the 2018 Amsterdam Art Prize.

Oliver Frljić

Our Violence and Your Violence

The question of relationship between theater and different forms of  political power is probably as old as this medium. The answer to this question defines the type of representation and a consequent performativity that certain theater deploys. This lecture will deal with different attempts of Oliver Frljić in last few years, whose theater  has been developing modes of representation which goal was deconstruction of ethnocentric normatives, with primary focus to post-Yugoslav societies. The political goals of Frljić’s theatre has been essential for the questioning of dominant modes of representation and the structure of power already inscribed and transcribed through them. Hence, the question of positionality often avoided within theater industry that deals with the appropriation and commodification of suffering, a situation where distress becomes another commodity that, depending on the political and economic constellations, sells well.

Bio

Oliver Frljić is  theatre director born on 31st of March 1976 in Travnik (Bosnia and Herzegovina). His work has been presented in various international festivals and theaters: Wiener Festwochen (Vienna), Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels), Dialog (Wroclaw), Festival TransAmériques (Montreal), Neue Stücke aus Europa (Wiesbaden), Bitef (Belgrade), La MaMa (New York)… His performance “Damned be the Traitor of his Homeland”,  premiered in Slovenian Youth Theatre  in 2010, is Slovenian record holder with more than 60 international guest performances. Frljić’s theatre is  focused on possibility of this medium to cross its own borders and extend its performance in broader social context. Often referring to Aeschylus’s “Persians” as a great source of inspiration, Frljić uses concept of counter-memory to present those parts of history that are not present in official narratives, simultaneously giving the voices to those who are often invisible or underrepresented in society.
His work in ex-Yugoslav countries often deals with devastating effects of war, nationalism, rise of ultra-wing movements, self-victimization and other abnormalities of those societies. Frljić’s performance “I Hate The Truth” is analysis of the effects of those phenomena on his own family. In 2013, Frljić production of “Un-divine Comedy” in renowned Krakow’s Stary Teatr, focusing on the topic of Polish antisemitism, was canceled by director of theatre Jan Klata. Although not presented, this production was labeled by some Polish critics as a theatre event of the year. Since 2014 till 2016 Frljić was general director of Croatian National Theatre in Rijeka. His mandate was dedicated to the questioning of the concept and role of national theaters in the 21st century. Frljić’s production “The Curse” from 2016. in Warsaw’s Teatr Powszechny, loosely based on the same name play by Stanisław Wyspiański, caused very strong  reactions in Polish society. At the moment, the performance, its actors and director are subject of investigation of public prosecutor.
Presently, Frljić is artistic director of European Ensemble, founded by Schauspiel Stuttgart and co-curater of program Europemachine with Srećko Horvat in Burghtheater.

Quinsy Gario

Traces of Subversive Intimacies. Relating Palestine, the Caribbean and Their Diasporic Presences

A conversation between Reem Shilleh and Quinsy Gario, facilitated by Joachim Ben Yakoub

A growing number of visual artists in the global south return to the haunting present of the history of slavery, colonialism, anti-imperial struggle and decolonization by excavating lost stories, images and soundbites, relating different unexpected subversive dots on the imperial world map. In this conversation facilitated by Joachim Ben Yakoub, Reem Shilleh and Quinsy Gario will reflect on traces of possible intimacies between Palestine, the Caribbean and their diasporic presence to elaborate on different understandings of the archive. Reem Shilleh will expand on her proposition of an imperfect archive in the context of Palestine: a non-uniform, anti-formal archive that has no place, body, or definition but instead is a collective practice that questions nationalism and statehood as the defining parameters for collective and shared memory. Following Gloria Wekker, Quinsy Gario mobilizes the notion of the Dutch-Caribbean cultural archive, to point to how an unacknowledged reservoir of knowledge and affects based on four hundred years of Dutch imperial rule plays a vital but unacknowledged part in dominant racialised meaning- making processes. Echoing the work of Edward Glissant, Joachim Ben Yakoub will join the conversation from his understanding of the archive, as traces of one world in relation. In the light of accelerated globalisation and planetary entanglements the archive can no longer just be apprehended as a mnemonic device, but functions as a lively discursive and material power formation that structures prevailing aesthetics, the presence and absence of certain political subjectivities and their living memories.

Bio

Quinsy Gario is a visual and performance artist, who does things with words, images and the Dutch Caribbean cultural archive. His most well-known work, Zwarte Piet Is Racisme (2011–2012), critiqued the general knowledge surrounding the racist Dutch figure and practice of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), later bringing into the open the governmental institutional support that keeps the figure alive in the Netherlands. He has an academic background in gender studies and postcolonial studies and is a graduate of the Master Artistic Research program at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. In 2017 he received a Humanity in Action Detroit Fellowship and from 2012 until 2018 was a recurring participant of the Black Europe Body Politics biannual conference series. He is a recipient of the Royal Academy Master Thesis Prize 2017, the Black Excellence Award 2016, the Amsterdam Fringe Festival Silver Award 2015, the Dutch Caribbean Pearls Community Pearl Award 2014, the Kerwin Award 2014 and the Hollandse Nieuwe 12 Theatermakers Prize 2011. Gario is a board member of De Appel, a 2017/2018 BAK Fellow and a member of Family Connection, an artists collective made out of members of his family.

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

Stellenbosch University

Aesthetics of Memory, Witness to Violence and a Call to Repair

This paper considers the aesthetic, emotional and narrative dimensions of victims’ trauma testimonies and explores new interpretive domains opened up by unique moments of communal responses to trauma testimony that emerged at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. First, the paper focuses on how body language and other forms of symbolic expression can communicate a matrix of complex intersecting memories of traumatic experience in a way that reveals a deeper truth about the past that may not be articulable in verbal language. The paper then discusses three different forms of responses to trauma testimony. These include communal responses, denial, and a visual arts illustration of a creative response to trauma testimony. The final section of the paper introduces the notion of “reparative humanism” and argues that in the aftermath of historical trauma, restoring human bonds among the wounded and the victimisers and their descendants requires engagement with the process of “repair” rather than the more commonly held goals of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Bio

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is Professor and Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University. She obtained her Masters’ degree in Clinical Psychology from Rhodes University, and her PhD in Psychology from the University of Cape Town. Her interests focus mainly on two strands of research. The first is exploring ways in which the impact of the dehumanising experiences of oppression and violent abuse continues to play out in the next generation in the aftermath of historical trauma. For her second research area, she expands her earlier work on remorse and forgiveness and probes the role of empathy more deeply by engaging a perspective that makes transparent the interconnected relationship among empathy, Ubuntu and the embodied African phenomenon of inimba—a Xhosa word that loosely translated means “umbilical cord”. The goal is to find a richer, deeper and more complex understanding of empathy that takes into account an African knowledge archive. Her books include the critically acclaimed A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness, which won the Christopher Award in the United States in 2003, and the Alan Paton Award in South Africa in 2004. The book has been published seven times, including translations in Dutch, German, Italian and Korean, and was adapted into a play and performed at major theatres in Cape Town & Johannesburg, New York and London. Her other books include Narrating our Healing: Perspectives on Healing Trauma, as co-author, Memory, Narrative and Forgiveness: Perspectives on the Unfinished Journeys of the Past, as co-editor, Breaking Intergenerational Cycles of Repetition: A Global Dialogue on Historical Trauma and Memory, as editor, and These Are the Things that Sit with us as co-editor.
Among her honours are: an honorary Doctor of Laws from Rhodes University (2019); honorary Doctor of Theology from the Friedrich-Schiller University, Jena, Germany (2017), the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, from Holy Cross College in Massachusetts (2002). In 2005, she was honoured among “100 People who made a difference”, and her name appears on the Permanent Exhibition of Hall of Heroes in the National Underground Railroad Freedom Centre, Cincinnati. In 2010, she received the “Social Change Award” from Rhodes University for “contribution made by leading psychologists to social change in South Africa.” Since 2017, she has been serving as Research Advisor and Global Scholar at Queen’s University, Belfast, affiliated with the Senator George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice.  Her past research fellowships include: at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, the Claude Ake Visiting Chair in the Peace and Conflict Research Department, Uppsala University in Sweden, and Distinguished African Scholar at Cornell University’s Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

Carole Umulinga Karemera

Ishyo Arts Centre, Kigali

The Music of the Hills

As far as memory can go, Rwanda’s hills had names, given after historical characters and events. Each Rwandan knows the hills where he/she is coming from and also the legends attached to it.
In the same way, each Rwandan still practices Guhemba, Kwita izina and other traditional ceremonies and rituals to welcome to the world the new born and choose collectively a name for him/her.
In Rwanda, commonly called “the country of thousands hills, the beauty of the hills is astonishing and we are still admiring them convinced that Imana (God in Kinyarwanda) is coming back to sleep every night in Rwanda. But we also remember that they were the theater of the genocide and became the open graves for thousands of souls without burials.
We all remember their names and the forever silent lives that inhabit them.
Mother Nature has taken back her rights and has taken care to cover the mass graves with a green coat and to change the rivers of blood into clear blue waters.
But each year in April, everyone can strongly feel the coexistence of those three spaces which are parts of the Rwandan cosmogony: Ijuru, the heavens, Ibuzimu, the land of ancestors and Ibuzimu, the world of humans.
We are struggling to reconcile them in our hearts.
The presentation will explore how, as Rwandan artists, we are trying to wisely reinvest those spaces and create new safe ones where those senses and hard feelings can find their true meaning and way out, to allow all Rwandans and survivors in particular to live at ease with history and memories without a sense of shame, guilt or even sometimes a strong desire to die, and to those wandering souls to leave the bank of our lives and chant with us for the dead and the alive.

Bio

Carole Umulinga Karemera holds a Master in Drama and Music (Jazz) from The Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Mons (Belgium) and a certificate in Cultural leadership from the African Arts Institute (South Africa). She has performed in internationally acclaimed theater, dance and film productions such as “Battlefield” directed by Peter Brook, “Rwanda 94” & “Anathem” directed by Jacques Delcuvellerie, “Scratching the inner fields” by Wim Vandekeybus, “Sometimes in April” directed by Raoul Peck, “Sound of sand” directed by Marion Hansel, “We call it love” by Felwine Sarr & “Jaz”by Koffi Kwahulé both directed by Denis Mpunga. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of Ishyo Arts Centre, one of the most dynamic cultural organizations based in Kigali, involved in advocacy, capacity building and promotion of the creative sector in Rwanda. She is the producer of Kina Festival (International Performing Arts Festival for Young Audience); co- founder of ARTEJ/ASSITEJ Rwanda (International Association for Youth and Theater in Rwanda) and co- producer of Kigali Up! music festival. She is currently a board member of the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) – the Rwandan Academy of Language and Culture (RALC)- a member of the steering committee of the African Cultural Policy Network (ACPN). She is a former board member of the National Institute of Museums of Rwanda, the former Director of the Pan African Dance Festival and Deputy Secretary General of Arterial Network. She’s currently implementing the Unesco’s project “Strengthening the creative industries in Rwanda” and coordinating the “I ART, I ACT!”project – Rwanda Creative Sector’s National Action Plan for Arts and Culture initiated by ISHYO in 2016. For the past 10 years, she has developed an extensive work related to “Arts & Memory” and is co-leading two networks: LITTAFCAR – for the promotion and diffusion of African and Caribbean literature and SMALL CITIZENS for the development of performing arts for young audience in the Great Lakes region. She is an arts manager and an activist supporting freedom of creative expression in Africa. Her current artistic work includes international collaborations for Transmedia production dedicated to young audience, Arts & public spaces creation and Trans-border creative projects. Her last artistic productions include “Mboka” (music-theater play), “My little hill” (music and puppet theatre for young audience), “We call it love”, “Our house”, “Murs-murs” and “Ejo n’ejo bundi”.

Eline Mestdagh

TAPAS/Thinking About the PASt, Ghent University

Uncovering and Challenging Oblivion – Memorial Strategies in Diverging Political Contexts

The task of dealing with violent pasts can be considered one of the most pressing political issues of our time. The rise of human rights discourses and the “memory-boom” since the end of the Cold War have prompted governments and citizens across the world to come to terms with historical injustices such as mass-violence and imperialism. Victims, survivors and other inheritors of colonialism and slavery demand reparation and recognition. Such “past-oriented politics” have since become the central focus of intense scholarly debate, in which several historians and social theorists simultaneously call into question the alleged emancipatory potential of such politics. Past-oriented politics have been criticized for stimulating a “competition of grievances” among (self-claimed) victims (Maier, 1993), for lacking orientation towards the future (Torpey, 2001; Huyssen, 2003), for keeping the wounds of the past open, and for preventing societies from moving on (Olick & Coughlin, 2003). In more recent years, memory scholars have tried to move away from the implicit notion that an “orientation towards the past” automatically goes hand in hand with a “future vacuum” (Rigney, 2018), by trying to understand how orientations towards the past, present and future interact in what they call “memory activism” (Gutman, 2017). This panel takes up these questions about the relation between ‘memory’ and ‘activism’, and between ‘memory’ and ‘the future’. Around the world, a growing number of grassroots memory-initiatives have emerged that explicitly link an occupation with memory to present and future social justice. The panel invites Collectif Mémoire Coloniale (Belgium), Mitchell Esajas (The Black Archives, the Netherlands) and Vesna Teršelič (Documenta, Croatia) to share their perspectives as activists and memory workers in three diverging political contexts. What political, historical and aesthetic strategies do they employ to fight for collective remembering? How do they see the duty to remember related to their fight for social justice in these contexts? And which obstacles do they encounter? They will talk about their experiences as activists swimming against the mainstream oblivion, in their campaigns for visibility of past ánd of contemporary injustices. Eline Mestdagh (Ghent University) will facilitate the conversation.

Bio

Eline Mestdagh is a historian and PhD researcher (FWO, 2017-2023) at the Department of History at Ghent University. Among her interests are the recent manifestations of memory activism in the Netherlands and in Belgium. In her Master thesis (2017), she investigated the uses of the past in the activism of Kick Out Zwarte Piet, a network of activists that mobilizes against the stereotypical figure of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in the Netherlands. Her current research deals with ongoing memory conflicts on the public (re)presentation of the Belgian colonial past, where she is specifically interested in the argumentative role of historical cultures and their underlying assumptions about time, historiography and the proper way to ‘deal with the past’. She is also a coördinating member of the interdisciplinary research forum TAPAS/Thinking About the PASt and a member of the International Network for the Theory of History (INTH).

Laura Nsengiyumva

KASK School of Arts and UGent

Mapping Colonial Belgium

The presence of citizens with African descent in Belgium is the result of a history of oppression and migrations between the territories of Belgium, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. Yet this part of our common heritage is barely known nor is it addressed in the discipline that shapes our « vivre-ensemble »; our urban-planning . This “omerta” holds in its core the seed of violence as it repeats the same imbalance as the one of our oppressive past; demands are received with a brutal defensiveness.
In the present ideological shift, we expect that cities express and facilitate equality and not layers of power. Cultural identity as a variation of this quest for social justice is often narrowed by a narrative of particularism which fails to recognize oppression and migration as universal experiences. Therefore, an inclusive dialogue is the key for intercultural understanding in order to reach the collective. My research, titled Shaping the presence of the African diaspora in Belgium. Inclusive city-making tools, aims to clarify the claims of the defined community through political and artistic actions to engage in the public debate.
Mapping Colonial Belgium addresses the lack of basic data needed to negotiate with the local authorities of all levels. How to make these claims valid as distinct misrecognized group? While avoiding fragmentation? In order to comprehend these spatial issues not only for the use of the Afro- descendants but for the whole community, the first obstacle is to deconstruct the colonial propaganda that surrounds us. Therefore, this map aims to be informative and accessible to the public through open source systems.
By using informatical geographic data, we also translate existing and new knowledge in a common official language used by the authorities (GIS) for surveys. Mapping Colonial Belgium becomes then a political tool that makes visible the traces of the Colonial History left in the public space in Belgium.

Bio

Laura Nsengiyumva is a Brussels-based artist and architect. She won the first prize at the Kunstsalon Ghent in 2011, and the second prize at the Dakar Biennale in 2012. Through her interdisciplinary practice, Nsengiyumva explores themes such as diasporic experience, multiple identity, North-South relations and empathy. She speaks about these topics through images and interventions on colonized spaces. Her transcultural view of history is based on human stories that invite us to find what brings us together. Laura Nsengiyumva is affiliated as an artistic researcher to Kask, the School of Arts of HOGENT, and howest. Her artivists actions like PeoPL (the melting of a statue of Leopold 2) and Queen Nikkolah, are part of her research project “Shaping the presence of the African diaspora in Belgium”

Anna Reading

King’s College London and Western Sydney University, Australia

Colonialism, Slavery and the Erasure of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) Memories

The UK Tory Party Manifesto (2019, p.19) specifically targets the UK Gypsy, Roma, Traveller (GRT) communities with the intent to enact new legislation to criminalise GRT who park on private land, while providing no new temporary sites or housing for communities. This is nothing new: GRT have been routinely criminalised and marginalised for centuries throughout European history along with the multiple erasures of memory. This paper builds on earlier research of mine on the logics of the forgetting of the history and memory of people of GRT origins in European countries, arguably the EU’s largest ethnic minority and transnationally present in all 26-7 EU states (Reading, 2013, 2014). This forgetting includes the disconnection of the memory of transatlantic slavery from rrobia – the 18th and 19th century enslavement of Romany people in what is now the territory of Romania; the erasure of the memory of transportation of GRT to British colonies; the post-War forgetting of the Nazi genocide of Roma and Sinti in the Holocaust and the Cold War marginalisation, sterilisation and criminalisation of people of Romany origin in many ‘socialist’ European countries. The paper examines how erasure and forgetting of GRT history and memory operates materially, structurally and symbolically focussing on a number of examples including those from the Anglo-Romani context.

Bio

Anna Reading is Professor of Culture and Creative Industries, Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute at Kings College, University of London, UK and Honorary Visiting Professor at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, Australia. She is the author of Polish Women, Solidarity and Feminism (1992); Communism, Capitalism and the Mass Media (1996) with Colin Sparks; The Social Inheritance of the Holocaust: Gender, Culture and Memory (2002); and Gender and Memory in the Globital Age (2016). She co-edited The Media in Britain (1999); Save As…Digital Memories (2009) and Cultural Memories of Nonviolent Struggles: Powerful Times (2015). She is a joint Managing Editor of Media, Culture and Society. She writes plays with performances in the UK, Finland, India, Poland, US and Ireland.
She is currently working on a co-edited book on Memory Rights, a funded project on migration and memory with the UK Museum of Migration and two book projects, one on cultural memory and neurodiversity and another on  memory beyond human memory. The paper builds on, Reading, A. (2012) ‘The European Roma: An Unsettled Right to Memory’, in P. Lee and P. N. Thomas (eds),   Public  Memory,  Public  Media  and the Politics  of  Justice. Palgrave pp. 121–140; Reading A (2013) ‘Europe’s other world: Romany Memory’ in Ellen Rutten, Julie Fedor,  Vera Zverera  (2013) Memory, Conflict and New Media Routledge.

Michael Rothberg

UCLA

Implicated Subjects and the Art of Obliviousness

In this talk Michael Rothberg will begin by outlining the argument of his new book, The Implicated Subject. Suggesting that the familiar categories of victim, perpetrator, and bystander do not adequately account for our connection to injustices past and present, he offers a new theory of historical and political responsibility. The figure of the implicated subject and the allied concept of implication provide a way of addressing the manifold indirect, structural, and collective forms of responsibility that enable trauma, exploitation, and domination but that frequently remain in the shadows. Implicated subjects occupy positions aligned with power and privilege without being themselves direct agents of harm; they contribute to, inhabit, inherit, or benefit from regimes of domination but do not originate or control them. In the second part of the talk, Rothberg will turn to the questions of forgetting, denial, and aphasia and will argue that a certain “art of obliviousness” defines implicated subjectivity. Referring to the work of such artists and filmmakers as William Kentridge and Michael Haneke, he will explore whether and how it is possible to counter such obliviousness via a critical aesthetic of remembrance.

Bio

Michael Rothberg is the 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. His latest book is The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators (2019), which is being published by Stanford University Press in their “Cultural Memory in the Present” series. Previous books include Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (2009), Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (2000), and, co-edited with Neil Levi, The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings (2003). With Yasemin Yildiz, he is currently completing Inheritance Trouble: Migrant Archives of Holocaust Remembrance for Fordham University Press.

Selma Selman

Deploying Art to Transform the Mechanisms of Marginalization

My artistic approach is deeply informed by two key experiences: my coming of age during the Bosnian War (1992 -95) and my Roma identity. The Roma people are the biggest minority in Europe and there are often perceived as “nomadic”—people who are not rooted, but rather mobile and migrating—and therefore made invisible within the national order of things. As a result, the Roma people live in countries where they do not have many rights and where they face perpetual discrimination. Due to our statelessness, the war severely affected my family and other Roma people in my hometown, Bihać. We spent three-and-a-half years under siege, with no electricity or regular food supplies. During the siege, the Roma population was especially vulnerable; i.e. were the last to receive humanitarian aid. In my long-term project “Get the heck to school” I collaborated with a U.S. based Bosnian NGO, BHeart Foundation and together, we sell my art and belongings to collect and distribute scholarship funds to at-risk Roma children. Those children, particularly the girls, face the problem of poverty and child marriage, both of which are on the increase due to the dire socio-economic situation stemming from our migratory history and war experience. So far, the project has provided 12 Roma girls with scholarships, successfully shielding them from child marriage. In conjunction, we have provided 42 children with daily lunch in school. My search for functional, contemporary political resistance stems from my personal experience with oppression from various directions and scales, but as an artist, I do not want to flatten myself to an identity that would cohere simply to the image of Roma origins. In my artworks, my ultimate aim is to protect and enable female bodies and enact a cross-scalar approach to collective self-emancipation of oppressed women.

Bio

Selma Selman (b.1991) comes from Bosnia and Herzegovina and is of Romani origin. Her work embodies the struggles of her own life as well as her community, employing a plethora of media such as performance, painting, photography and video installations. She was a fellow for the Roma Graduate Preparation Program at the Central European University in Budapest, the following year. That year, Selman was the recipient of the prestigious “Zvono Award”, given to the best young artist in Bosnia and Herzegovina, winning a residency in New York City. Selman participated in Tania Bruguera’s International Summer Academy in Salzburg, “Arte Util” in 2013. In 2017 Selman was awarded as the best Young European Artist “Trieste Contemporanea Award”, Trieste (ITA). In 2018 she was nominated for Forbes 30 under 30, Art and Style. In 2019 she was The winner of the White Aphroid Award for outstanding artistic achievement.
Her works were shown internationally, “Hero Mother” in Kunstquartier Bethanie, Berlin (2016), solo shows “You Have No Idea”, agnès b. Galerie Boutique, New York (2017), 2018 ‘’I Will buy my freedom when”, Studio Tommaseo, Trieste (ITA). In 2019 she was part of the 58th Venice Biennale (FUTUROMA). Selma is a founder of the organization ”Get The Heck To School” whose aim is to empowering Roma girls all around the world who faced the ostracization from the society and poverty. Lives and works in the USA and Europe. 

Reem Shilleh

Traces of Subversive Intimacies. Relating Palestine, the Caribbean and Their Diasporic Presences

A conversation between Reem Shilleh and Quinsy Gario, facilitated by Joachim Ben Yakoub

A growing number of visual artists in the global south return to the haunting present of the history of slavery, colonialism, anti-imperial struggle and decolonization by excavating lost stories, images and soundbites, relating different unexpected subversive dots on the imperial world map. In this conversation facilitated by Joachim Ben Yakoub, Reem Shilleh and Quinsy Gario will reflect on traces of possible intimacies between Palestine, the Caribbean and their diasporic presence to elaborate on different understandings of the archive. Reem Shilleh will expand on her proposition of an imperfect archive in the context of Palestine: a non-uniform, anti-formal archive that has no place, body, or definition but instead is a collective practice that questions nationalism and statehood as the defining parameters for collective and shared memory. Following Gloria Wekker, Quinsy Gario mobilizes the notion of the Dutch-Caribbean cultural archive, to point to how an unacknowledged reservoir of knowledge and affects based on four hundred years of Dutch imperial rule plays a vital but unacknowledged part in dominant racialised meaning- making processes. Echoing the work of Edward Glissant, Joachim Ben Yakoub will join the conversation from his understanding of the archive, as traces of one world in relation. In the light of accelerated globalisation and planetary entanglements the archive can no longer just be apprehended as a mnemonic device, but functions as a lively discursive and material power formation that structures prevailing aesthetics, the presence and absence of certain political subjectivities and their living memories.

Bio

Researcher, curator, editor, and artist Reem Shilleh ’s practice is informed by a long research project on militant and revolutionary image practices in Palestine, its diaspora, and solidarity network. Some of her recent projects are the curated film program The Space Between: The Invocation, MMAG Foundation, Amman, 2019; the research exhibition series Desires into Fossils: Monuments Without a State, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, Ramallah, 2017; and the curated film collage, commissioned by A. M. Qattan Foundation Perpetual Recurrences, Qalandiya International, Ramallah, 2016. She is also Co-Founder of Subversive Film, a curatorial and research collective formed in 2011 that casts new light upon historic works related to Palestine and the region; engenders support for film preservation; and investigates archival practices and effects. Shilleh lives and works in Brussels and Ramallah.

Christel Stalpaert

S:PAM – Studies in Performing Arts & Media, Ghent University

Film panel

Bio

Christel Stalpaert is Professor in Theatre Studies (Performing and Media Arts) at Ghent University (Belgium). She is director of the research centres S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts and Media) and PEPPER (Philosophy, Ethology, Politics and PERformance). Her main areas of research are theatre, performance, dance and media art (since 1890) at the meeting-point of philosophy. She has contributed to many journals such as Performance Research, Text & Performance Quarterly, Contemporary Theatre Review and Dance Research Journal and edited works such as Deleuze Revisited: Contemporary Performing Arts and the Ruin of Representation (2003), No Beauty for Me There Where Human Life Is Rare: On Jan Lauwers’ Theatre Work with Needcompany (with Frederik Le Roy and Sigrid Bousset, 2006), Bastard or Playmate? Adapting Theatre, Mutating Media and the Contemporary Performing Arts (with Rob Vanderbeeken, 2012), Unfolding Spectatorship: Shifting Political, Ethical and Intermedial Positions (with Katharina Pewny and Jeroen Coppens, 2016) and The Choreopolitics of Alain Platel’s les ballets C de la B: Emotions, Gestures, Politics (with Guy Cools and Hildegard De Vuyst, 2019 Bloomsbury).

Matthew G. Stanard

Berry College

Confabulation, Colonialism, and Consciousness: Belgian Memories of Empire after 1960

When examining forgotten memories of European overseas empires, present-day commentators often assume an accusatory stance, as if Europeans have chosen to deliberately mis-remember the past, or to suppress unflattering memories. To what degree have gaps in collective memories—and filling those gaps—shaped processes of remembering and forgetting the colonial past? This paper examines the role of confabulation in the formation of a collective consciousness in the case of Belgium and its colonial history. Confabulation is a memory disorder where a subject fills gaps in his/her memory with made-up or twisted information; the tall tales the subject spins about past events are misleading, but not deliberately so. The means by which Belgian rule in the Congo was commemorated in the metropole and the way in which that colonial control ended not only created positive recollections but also gaps in Belgium’s collective memory; filling those gaps contributed to a positive narrative about the colonial experience that has only begun to be questioned in the past two decades.

Bio

Matthew G. Stanard is Professor of History at Berry College in northwest Georgia (USA) where he teaches courses on world history, modern European history, the history of Africa since 1800, and European overseas imperialism. He is author of several works on European colonialism and decolonization, including The Leopard, the Lion, and the Cock: Colonial Memories and Monuments in Belgium. His latest book is the forthcoming co-edited volume (with Berny Sèbe) Decolonising Europe? Popular Responses to the End of Empire. Stanard lives in Rome, Georgia, with his wife Noemi and sons Marlon and Ivan.

Vesna Teršelič

Documenta – Center for Dealing with the past

Uncovering and Challenging Oblivion – Memorial Strategies in Diverging Political Contexts

The task of dealing with violent pasts can be considered one of the most pressing political issues of our time. The rise of human rights discourses and the “memory-boom” since the end of the Cold War have prompted governments and citizens across the world to come to terms with historical injustices such as mass-violence and imperialism. Victims, survivors and other inheritors of colonialism and slavery demand reparation and recognition. Such “past-oriented politics” have since become the central focus of intense scholarly debate, in which several historians and social theorists simultaneously call into question the alleged emancipatory potential of such politics. Past-oriented politics have been criticized for stimulating a “competition of grievances” among (self-claimed) victims (Maier, 1993), for lacking orientation towards the future (Torpey, 2001; Huyssen, 2003), for keeping the wounds of the past open, and for preventing societies from moving on (Olick & Coughlin, 2003). In more recent years, memory scholars have tried to move away from the implicit notion that an “orientation towards the past” automatically goes hand in hand with a “future vacuum” (Rigney, 2018), by trying to understand how orientations towards the past, present and future interact in what they call “memory activism” (Gutman, 2017). This panel takes up these questions about the relation between ‘memory’ and ‘activism’, and between ‘memory’ and ‘the future’. Around the world, a growing number of grassroots memory-initiatives have emerged that explicitly link an occupation with memory to present and future social justice. The panel invites Collectif Mémoire Coloniale (Belgium), Mitchell Esajas (The Black Archives, the Netherlands) and Vesna Teršelič (Documenta, Croatia) to share their perspectives as activists and memory workers in three diverging political contexts. What political, historical and aesthetic strategies do they employ to fight for collective remembering? How do they see the duty to remember related to their fight for social justice in these contexts? And which obstacles do they encounter? They will talk about their experiences as activists swimming against the mainstream oblivion, in their campaigns for visibility of past ánd of contemporary injustices. Eline Mestdagh (Ghent University) will facilitate the conversation.

Bio

Vesna Teršelič is founder and director of the organization DocumentaCenter for Dealing with the past based in Croatia. The central aim of her work is to establish factual truth about the war and to contribute to shifting the discussion from the level of dispute over facts towards a dialogue on interpretations. In doing so she continues her previous work as Director of the Center for Peace Studies, Zagreb, and as founder and co-ordinator of the Anti-War Campaign in Croatia. Since 1985 she focuses on organizing for social change, through advocating environment protection, affirming women’s rights and promotion of human rights. As one of the initiators of non-political regional coalition of civil society organisations and individuals, working to establish a fact-finding commission into the Yugoslav wars, known as RECOM, she has been campaigning for years for establishing the facts about war crimes and human rights violations committed in former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2001. She was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1998 for her efforts in building peace and affirming right to truth, justice and remembrance in post-Yugoslav countries after having been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.  In 2013 Vesna Teršelič was Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow of the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Addressing the topic of the symposium, Vesna explains: “Reflecting on dealing with violence of the 20th century and consequences of racism, slavery, and unfinished wars is usually tinged with disappointment. From an activist perspective, strategies of forgetting seem to be far more successful than remembrance policies. As any social and political marginalization, suppression of memory of victims and recollections of violence survivors comes naturally, while the campaign for visibility of the past and contemporary injustices is left to a small number of individuals willing to swim against the mainstream oblivion, with artists as especially important voices in speaking truth to power.”

Sarah Vanagt

Film panel

Bio

Sarah Vanagt makes documentaries, video installations and photos, in which she combines her interest for history with her interest for (the origins of) cinema. Her work includes films such as After Years of Walking (2003), Little Figures (2003), Begin Began Begun (2005), Boulevard d’Ypres (2010), The Corridor (2010),  Dust Breeding (2013); and video installations such as Les Mouchoirs de Kabila (2005), Power Cut (2007), Ash Tree (2007). Her work is shown at film festivals (FidMarseille, Viennale, Doclisboa, Idfa Amsterdam, Rencontres Internationales Paris/Madrid/Berlin, Hors Pistes Centre Pompidou), and in museums (Frankfurter Kunstverein, Fact Liverpool, NGBK Berlin, Shedhalle Zürich). The silent short film Girl with a fly (2013) was first shown at the 5th Biennale of Moscow. The films In Waking Hours (2015) and Still Holding Still (2015) premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The installation Showfish was presented in M HKA, the Museum for Contemporary Art of Antwerp in October 2016. Vanagt’s latest film DIVINATIONS was first shown at Courtisane in Ghent and then at Doclisboa and IFFR Rotterdam.

Petra Van Brabandt

St Lucas School of Arts Antwerpen

Film panel

Bio

Petra Van Brabandt is a philosopher; she is head of research and teaches semiotics and cultural criticism at St Lucas School of Arts Antwerpen. Her research focuses on sociopolitical dimensions of art. She writes and lectures about art and feminism, pornography, and laziness.