When the pandemic began, I was completely opposed to how my family was handling it. I couldn’t hold space for their needs of having to be around others and pretend everything was going to be okay. Presumably safer in my car, I set up camp and read books, wrote ideas for “the future”, and talked through my past as if I was 82 years old. Feeling ashamed about being back home, I felt I deserved mosquito bites, the prickly grass scratching my ankles, and the people who feasted on my negative self image and ever-widening doubts. I was angry and likely unpleasant to be around.
During one of my many random pandemic outings where I’d drive aimlessly around the South Carolina Lowcountry while listening to Marian Anderson sing “I Am Bound for De Kingdom” or Megan Thee Stallion rap “Cash Sh*t”, my grandma Lizzie, who I’ve never met, visited the wandering forest of my heart and mind. I became curious about her life and why she died suddenly at 54. There were new questions and obsessions stirring inside of me:
I went to the house, where I used to live
The grass had grown up and it covered the door
Someone across the street
Said I know whom you seek
But they, they don't live here anymore
They are somewhere around the throne of God
The field beside my grandma Lizzie’s house used to be a broom grass field that used to be a soybean field that used to be a vegetable field that used to be how my paternal grandparents fed my daddy and his ten siblings. There were cows, chickens, and goats.
Caption: Above is a picture of a part of the family land that was stewarded by my Granddaddy Silas and Grandma Lizzie, including fences painted red, white, and green, an open field, trees, and other neighborhood homes
The field behind the house where my ma grew up went through similar transitions and fed a family of ten. Now, there are beautiful weeds and tall pine and oak trees.
When my grandma Thelma would meet people for the first time, she wanted to know where they came from. In her Geechee* dialect, she’d ask, “Who yo people is?” Today, I find myself sitting with this question stirring inside of me more than ever before.
I moved back home to Plantersville, South Carolina in October 2019, after living in the Upstate area of South Carolina for 15 years. When I came back, I met interesting historians, teachers, and healers. These encounters led me to explore where I come from in ways I had never considered. I was encouraged to intentionally honor the spaces made for me by my direct ancestors, including the dead relatives within my family that I knew personally and the ones I’ve heard about in stories or the names I’ve read on birth and death certificates.
It was the first time I began to honor my grandparents’ houses, worksites, foods, favorite smells, songs, and places of leisure. It was the first time I realized how precious it was to have access to these memories and stories as a living history. I approached these spaces (physical and memoried) as if they were museums, holding sacred and important information for my creative existence.
According to Merriam-Webster, a museum is “an institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value”. Personally, I experience institutions as holders of white-supremacist capitalist cis-hetero patriarchal models of worth, production, and perfection, whether BIPOC-led or white-led. But, because the word continues to visit my consciousness, I continue to sit with it. Museum.
For me, there will never be enough creative work surrounding the Great Migration, the African-Americans who stayed in the South, and the ongoing work of intergenerational and ancestral healing across the African diaspora. It’s exciting to dig into these questions through writing, even if I never know the answers to them:
Want to try a few exercises?
* Note: The Gullah Geechee people are descendants of Africans who were enslaved on the rice, indigo and Sea Island cotton plantations of the lower Atlantic coast. Learn more from https://gullahgeecheecorridor.org/thegullahgeechee/
Happy day to all you BIBA readers! I'm cutting to the chase - the beautiful Q&A between BIBA and Marlanda Dekine - Sapient Soul, the current Shirley Graham DuBois Creative-in-Residence with Castle of our Skins! Note: the text is a transcription of the audio answers! Read, listen, enjoy!
BIBA : Please share with our BIBA fans your name, your origin story, and a favorite memory from childhood!
MD-SS : Hello BIBAfans. This is Marlanda Dekine. I am also known as Sapient Soul. I am originally from Plantersville, South Carolina. I was born in Simpsonville, South Carolina. When I was two, my family moved to Nashville, Tennessee. I turned six in Plantersville, South Carolina.
I was born to my mother, Vernetta Ford Dekine, and Tom Andrew Dekine. They grew up within about two miles of one another and went to school together their entire life. I have two twin sisters and a brother. My grandparents, my great-grandparents, and my great-great grandparents are all from Plantersville, South Carolina, on both sides of my family.
A favorite memory from childhood for me is actually pretty funny. It's one of defiance now that I sit with it a little bit longer and think about it. We were allowed to play in a hurricane, once, when we were small kids. My father would often open the back and the front door. He’d let the wind of the hurricane kind of sweep through the house. When I was about six (really all through elementary school) my grandparents on my mother's side taught me that when a storm is happening that the Lord is speaking. You're to turn the TV off, turn off all electronics so that you can listen to what the Lord has to say.
I think the fact that my dad had us, you know, I don't know how we came to this conclusion that we were going to go outside and play and he was okay with it. But, we were running around out there with the wind carrying us. These moments of water coming up that you didn't expect from just any direction. Um, to be running and playing freely while God was speaking I think was like...looking back...an act of defiance.
You know, as a kid, I was kind of afraid because I was an old soul. I was always thinking about safety and whether we were safe, whether other people were safe. I knew all houses didn't have the same structures that could handle a hurricane. I remember having fear, but now that I think about it, it was also like this act of defiance against...against God speaking...just running around, outside, making a joyful noise.
BIBA : What moves you the most about poetry and the literary arts?
MD-SS : I think what moves me the most about poetry is the fact that people of all different backgrounds and ages engage with poetry. And while there are academic avenues for poetry and there are ways to make it, um, more so part of your vocation, there are people everywhere every day that are just getting up to write poems and no one's telling them to do that. And sometimes these people read poems out loud and no one's telling them to do that. And these poems have a way of connecting people, um, in surprising ways, uh, across difference, across similarities. I mean, just the idea that you could speak into someone else's experience simply by, um, recalling something that you paid attention to in your own life. Um, whether it's a blade of grass, a moment with ice cream or, um, or a moment of witness of something that's happened in the world and it's connectivity to. And so that's very, very moving for me.
Um, when I think about the literary arts, I think about the way that poetry connects to every other art form and the way that it can, even if it has not. And so it's not strange to imagine poetry alongside dance. It's not strange to imagine poetry alongside music. There's music in language, um, whether there is an actual, um, beat or sound. Um, there is, uh, the fact that individuals with different abilities engage the literary arts. So there is a hard hearing or deaf community that engages. There are blind people that engage. It's just, it is an art form that everyone has access to, and it also touches many other art forms. So it's actually a doorway into the arts...a gateway drug, if you will. (laughs)
BIBA : How does music inspire your practice, and what type of music moves you in a way that sparks growth?
MD-SS : Music inspires my practice in a very intimate way. Um, more so than I that I knew or that I kept up with. Um, and what I mean by that is at a young age, my style of writing, um, I’d journal and then I would try to craft what I journaled into Christian hip hop. Um, and I would perform Christian hip hop at church talent shows with my cousin. And so he was, or is, the guy that knows all the current hip hop, especially back then, because I was very sheltered. We both were, but somehow he knew how to find out about what the songs were at the time that our friends or our bullies were listening. (laughs) And, um, what I, what I find amazing when I look back at that is I'm sitting there on Fruity Loops, like the demo Fruity Loops, like the first one that ever came out and I'm making these beats and I'm writing these songs and we're going back and forth to figure out whether it works well. And it's my first practice at collaboration between music and language. I'm not thinking about it that way. We're just having fun.
And, uh, so I have a binder of these Christian hip hop poems from when I was like somewhere between the ages of 9 and 11 or 9 and 12. Um, fast forward to when I'm in college...most of my friends were classical singers. They were learning, um, opera, instrumentation. They were doing, uh, something very intense. I remember being called juried. Like I think, I think they called them juries. Um, and they had to get really, really prepared. They'd disappear for two weeks at a time. And they were always very stressed out and, uh, I was a psychology major, so I was stressed out, but for very different reasons. Um, but I remember them having to, it was, there was a precision that they were being taught to seek after, a precision and a perfection that I wanted no part of. I found it very amazing to witness because I'd watch them hit these marks that were just for me beyond human. Um, but when I think about what it did to them, watching them do that, especially as Black musicians in a PWI, um, I, I know that that was not something I was interested in. What I was interested in was the fact that we were both drawn to what each other was doing. What I was doing, you know, open mics...they're very loose and you can even improv on stage. And if you have a voice and you have the ability to freestyle, you can, you can have a good time on stage and people are going to feel the vibe of what's happening.
Sometimes that goes very badly. So I'm not saying that everyone should just get up and riff on stage, but I realized that at this point in my life, it's, it's my knowing what those friends were going through and then when I listen to, when I listen to classical music now, especially from Black folk, or I listen to jazz, a lot of jazz or the blues, um, or even, um, like ambient, electronic instrumentals, uh it's, it's like a film moving through me so that when I'm writing, it's not, I don't think I'm creating a film, but I don't think that's what's happening at all. But that feeling that I have when I'm watching a film, it's in my body and, um. Ah, music invigorates me and I sometimes have to turn it off so that I can write...it can be a distraction for me actually. Um, so usually when I've, you know, say I've submitted something for the day or I've revised something and I'm done for the day, then I turn on music to celebrate.
MD-SS : The music that sparks growth inside of me, I mean, I have to say it's music that is, uh, coming out of the UK from individuals that are of the African diaspora. So like, um, I won't give examples just because they're going to be so...well, maybe that's, maybe that's the point.
Um, so I go back to, um, Marian Anderson is a voice that really encourages me and expands me. Um, Little Simz is a hip-hop artist who I think plays in different soundscapes in a way that I really love. I love their voice. I love the music they make. I love the topics that they, uh, interact with in their, in their music. Um, another, I'd say someone else that maybe stretches me when I'm listening. Absolutely Nina Simone. It's going to be...I, you know, I'm one of those people that I listen to and read a lot of dead people and I’m, I'm trying to do better about, um, listening to contemporary, like what's happening, um, in the contemporary scene, but that's something that I've always done since a kid. That's just something about the old soul, the old soul of me, I will feel connected (laughs) to dead folk. Um, but, uh, yeah those, those are the three that stand out to me right now. Marian Anderson, Little Simz, and Nina Simone. And now I'm wondering the three of them sitting down for a conversation that would be really, really fun to (laughs), uh, to witness.
BIBA : Where have you found moments of peace and healing in the world?
MD-SS : I have found moments of peace and healing in the world, in the midst of, um, intense chaos during intentional conversations with people, um, whether they're my family or with close friends, um, or in a, in a space that is being made for the purposes of intentional conversation around something difficult that we're all trying to heal through as people...we're all trying to understand as people. Um, I have found moments of peace and healing by any body of water. Water is very, very peaceful and healing to me. Um, and I would say the same about...not being in a forest cause I haven't gotten that far yet, but that's something that I want to do. Um, forest bathing. Um, but driving through the forest on the back road, um, like driving through old, um, how would you say. I guess I'm thinking of them as old landscapes. They're current landscapes. There where people live now, but they’re historied landscapes and where I'm from that's, I mean, I guess we all have history landscapes, but the way that I see where I'm from, it becomes a bit mythological in a sense that I began to imagine, um, the people of different times that were in the forest or in the field or, um, outside somewhere doing anything. And somehow that brings me immense peace and healing.
BIBA : What advice would you give to people who are wondering how to capture and treasure beauty?
MD-SS : I would encourage people in the same way that I have been encouraged, um, which is to give yourself permission and to allow yourself to go into that child-like space of wondering, to allow yourself to notice and pay attention to things that seem mundane, that seem to no longer have importance to how our days go about, but they are very important. I'm talking about the sound of birds in the morning. I'm talking about the laughter of children. Um, for me the sound of a woodpecker on the catalpa tree in the morning or the blue jays outback, um, these little things that seem like if you stopped to pay attention, it might throw you off from your very important activity, pay attention to those things. I feel like, um, at least in my own experience, because I'm a, you know, my moon is in Capricorn. So when it's time to do something, I put, you know, it's hard work I got to, (laughs)
I've gotten very better, I’ve gotten a lot better at that, but there's been this part of me that, you know, we've also conditioned in this way that, you know, there's hard work to be done. And even as artists you're taught, this is hard work. This is work. You need to treat it as work. And all of that is true, but there's something about work that if we forget that it's beautiful, we are hurting ourselves. And so I am very interested in what it is that is freeing us in the art that we're making. And so in my own work, I've been able to feel myself, become lighter, become more jovial, become, uh, you know, a person that is able to have coffee in the morning without doing eight other things at the same time, because I'm paying attention to the snake plant or because I'm paying attention to my dog.
And there's something about even my dog and the things that my dog will pay attention to. There's, there's a beauty in those mundane and simple things, um, that I think an artist ought to capture and treasure. Um, if not for yourself, for someone else. I just think that that is such a gift. And when I think about the land that my family lives on, um, and the pieces that have been left behind by ancestors that have passed on for more than, I mean, I'm talking decades, they've been gone and there are things on the land that their hands touched. There's beauty in that. And I think the more that we are able to treasure and document and archive, um, that type of beauty, I think it, it, it saves us. I think it loves us. I think it gives back to us.
by Anthony R. Green
BIBA QUICKIE! In just over two weeks, the Center for the Art of Performance (CAP) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will host another digital Tune In festival! This year's festival continues CAP UCLA's love of collaboration, and is curated by award-winning performance poet J. Ivy and pianist Lisa Kaplan (of eighth blackbird). The line-up includes a wide variety of musicians and artists, covering a diverse spectrum of genres and expression! For readers who followed my trip to Ghana through BIBA, you'll see one of the fruits of my travels in this digital festival. My video I returned. I wanted to. features music by myself, Liz Gre, and Shannon Sea, a poem by Angelina Weld Grimké, and a traditional hymn. All of these elements work together to explore Blackness and queerness in diaspora, and question the role of Christianity throughout history and race. Additionally, my string quartet Sacred Ground (... we can still feel the tremors ...) will be featured. This piece was commissioned by Chamber Music Tulsa to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, and the outstanding performance by the Thalea String Quartet will be available to watch during this digital festival. There will also be music by Jonathan Bailey Holland, Errollyn Wallen, spoken word, dance, and so much more! Check out the line-up HERE and the promo video below! You'll see me 2 seconds in, playing a pink toy piano ...
by Anthony R. Green
Castle of our Skins is about to present a live concert titled "Be Still and Know", featuring works by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Jeffrey Mumford, Carlos Simon Jr., Adolphus Hailstork (who turned 80 this year!), and Brian Raphael Nabors (a previous composer-in-residence with Castle of our Skins)! This concert will also be streamed for free, and the seating at our venue - An die Musik in Baltimore, MD - is limited. We are excited to be performing this program with Gabriela Díaz (violin). Ashleigh Gordon (viola, and artistic director of COOS), Francesca McNeeley (cello), and Joy Cline Phinney (piano). For this program, COOS is revisiting the world of composers programmed in past projects, including Jeffrey Mumford - the composer featured in COOS's first portrait concert!
For this particular portrait concert, Jeffrey Mumford was featured in an interview for I Care If You Listen, an "award-winning multimedia hub for living music creators" which has a number of articles, interviews, features, and more. An excerpt from Mumford's interview (conducted by friends of COOS Arlene & Larry Dunn) is below:
"My work is inspired by cloud imagery, the qualities of light, and time of day. I am fascinated by the layers that form, and I am compelled by the speed with which clouds move, splitting off and recombining with one another, reforming and sometimes dissipating entirely. This, I think, is an operative analogy to the approach I take in my work."
Jeffrey Mumford's ethereal string trio in soft echoes ... a world awaits will be featured for this concert event, and paired with animation by Gregory Little. Check it out along with the other beautiful works this coming Tuesday!
Hello BIBA readers!
This post is a rather quick post in support of some digital content that is relatively recent. We here at Castle of our Skins love our digital content (and also love producing it for you all), and we just wanted to promote some projects that have recently came across our attention! The first: a series of two-part inventions by Jonathan Bailey Holland!
Jonathan Bailey Holland’s works have been commissioned and performed by numerous ensembles, including the Atlanta, Baltimore, BBC, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Memphis, Minnesota, National, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Springfield, St. Louis, and South Bend Symphony Orchestras; as well as the Auros Group for New Music; the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble; Transient Canvas; Boston Opera Collaborative; Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia; Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies; Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra; Orchestra 2001, and many others. He has received honors and awards from The Fromm Foundation, American Academy of Arts & Letters, Massachusetts Cultural Council, American Music Center, ASCAP, the Presser Foundation, and more. Castle of our Skins had the honor of featuring a world premiere miniature by Holland for the first Black Composer Miniature Challenge (or #BCMC 1.0)! These older inventions are quirky, serene, inspired - quite magical!
The second recommendation is a streaming concert called "I know why the caged bird sings" - Songs of Black American Composers!
Earlier this year, the Hampsong Foundation with Thomas Hampson, Louise Topping, and others, worked together to curate a massive project featuring music by Black composers. This project resulted in two live concerts and three streaming concerts, which are available to view till June 2022. The concert linked above features an array of songs by a wide range of past and present composers, including Castle of our Skins associate director Anthony R. Green! The diversity of music presented, the professionalism of the performances, the incredible videography and setting, and the entire philosophical implications of this ENTIRE PROJECT are significant. We hope you enjoy the stream and check out the other concert streams as well, and - if you have the time, of course - read the incredible content available on the website of the project! The link is : CLICK HERE!
... and now to announce the selected composers for the second installation of the Black Composer Miniature Challenge ... or #BCMC 2.0!
For this installation, Castle of our Skins is featuring 19 composers with world premiere pieces composed for any combination of flute and harp! The selected composers are:
Adero J. Knott - curator, artist, violinist, and composer!
Ahmed Alabaca - composer, conductor, song-writer, pianist, and long-time friend of COOS!
Alessandro Oreoluwa Buono - artist and sound engineer, currently studying in the UK!
Autumn Maria Reed - composer and bassist for the Black String Triage Ensemble!
Dr. Bernard Short - composer and recently married (congrats!)
Bonita Oliver - multidisciplinary performance artist and improviser
Brittney Benton - young composer, studying at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas!
Charles Lumar II - international performer (bass, electric bass, tuba) and composer!
Danae Annalise - rising composer currently studying at Mannes (New York)!
David Bertrand - flutist/clarinetist/composer, active in the NY Jazz scene!
Deeann D. Mathews - composer, song-writer, and pianist in the Bay Area!
Eddy Conrad - our youngest composer, and participant in #BCMC 1.0!
Edewede Oriwoh - composer, and founder/editor of AfricanComposers.com!
Dr. Gary P. Nash - professor, conductor, composer, and also a #BCMC 1.0 participant!
Dr. George Brandon - composer, trombonist, international musician, and teacher!
Kevin Scott - composer, conductor, New Yorker, advocate for new music!
Malcolm Jackson - multifaceted percussionist, producer, and compos
Raphael Wolde-Selassie - young guitarist, pianist, and composer in Sweden!
and Rodrigo G. Sousa - young writer, poet, saxophonist, and composer in Brazil!
!!! *clap clap clap* !!!
Our Miniature Festival will last throughout the fall, so constantly engage with our social media to see when the new content is released AND to catch up on the past content you may have missed! And keep on reading BIBA for some spotlights, extra information, and more tidbits about Beauty in Black Artistry!
Hello BIBA readers!
The second part of our MINIATURE FESTIVAL (ironically in caps) features not one, not five, but 43 Black poets who submitted haiku and tanka to our call! Castle of our Skins will be sharing these poems with you over the course of nine weeks in different combinations, and we are super excited about this project, curated by our own Shirley Graham Du Bois Creative in Residence, Marlanda Dekine (who also participated)! The list of poets are below:
We couldn't be happier with the wonderful submissions, representing a range of people and subjects! What is even more special is that these incredible Black poets are extending a tradition of Black haiku and short form poets that often goes unrecognized.
In the Winter 2016 issue of Modern Haiku, Charles Trumbull contributed part one of a fascinating two part essay about Black writers of Haiku, which you can begin reading HERE. In the essay are some fantastic examples by diverse poets (including one by Tara Betts, mentioned above!). Additionally, Richard Wright, during his final years, devoted his craft to Haiku, writing around 4000 of them! A collection of 815 can be purchased in THIS wonderful collection (not an amazon link).
Many are familiar with Haiku as a three-lined poem following a 5-7-5 syllabic structure. Not many, however, are aware of its older cousin, the Tanka! This is a five-lined poem following a 5-7-5-7-7 line structure, for a total of 31 syllables as opposed to Haiku's 17. Both forms offer extremely rich possibilities and variations, and composers and visual artists are more often inspired by these short forms than what is usually known.
COOS hopes that you are inspired to research more into Black poets working with short form poetry, especially Haiku and Tanka! And hopefully your research will inspire you to write your own mini poems! Additionally, please check our social media for the musical and poetic content we will bring to you throughout the entire fall!!!! We leave you with a Haiku by Richard Wright:
“Keep straight down this block
Then turn right where you will find
A peach tree blooming.”
Hello BIBA readers! Our 9th season has already begun, and we are excited to share this season containing a mixture of both live and digital content. Last year forced the world to put on a giant creativity thinking-cap, and ... while some things worked and some things didn't ... we here at COOS cherished the journey of re-tailoring our season for you.
One big success during last year's adjustments was the power of the miniature. Castle of our Skins kicked off its first Black Composer Miniature Challenge (#BCMC), bringing 18 world premieres to international audiences! We followed up on this wonderful content by publishing an anthology for those interested in performing this miniatures either for fun, for community music programs, for intimate concerts, or even for giant stages! So how did COOS decide to continue this wonderful project? Well ... we invited students to send in their video performances of pieces from #BCMC 1.0, we created #BCMC 2.0 with works for flute and harp, AND our new Shirley Graham Du Bois Creative in Residence Marlanda Dekine helped design a #BPMC - a Black Poet Miniature Challenge!
What does that mean? From September to December, Castle of our Skins will be bringing you miniature content in the form of music performances from students, poetry readings, and world premieres for flute and harp! ALL FALL, 71 videos!!! LOTS OF CONTENT OF EXCELLENCE!!!
Tomorrow kicks off the first week of our miniature festival, and we'll be sharing student performances of some of the pieces featured in #BCMC 1.0, namely works by Che Buford, Mokale Koapeng, Juwon Ogungbe, and Shannon Sea! The students that will be featured come from three of Boston's most thriving organizations that help young students learn how to perform on an instrument and study music. These are Project STEP, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO), and the Boston City-wide String Orchestra. Stay tuned for videos from the following students:
Alba Gilabert- Reid from Project STEP
Nora Edouarzin from BYSO
Abby Cambronero from BYSO
Angelina St. Louis from BYSO
Lauren Brown from Boston City-wide String Orchestra
Karla Davis from BYSO
Syndey Carroll from BYSO
Krystal Chen from BYSO
Reagan Jackson from BYSO
We hope you enjoy the performances, and if you would like to purchase the sheet music, be sure to use the discount code in the picture above for the month of September to get 50% off your digital download!! Next week's post will be about our first #BPMC, and we'll share some fantastic information on Haikus and Tankas, and some historical tidbits related to Black poets using short forms! Have an excellent week!
by Anthony R. Green
It has been about a month since I left Ghana, and I still cannot stop thinking about the fantastic experience. After I gave the presentation (mentioned in the last BIBA blog), my time at the pIAR Residency kicked off in full gear. Here, I was joined by 3 other incredible artists: Wanda Gala (dance and more), Lena Czerniawska (drawing and writing), and Lena's husband Emilio Gordoa (sound art, percussion, improvisation). Other artists that were there (living and/or visiting often) are Martin Toloku (incredible performance artist), Original Bigwig (cartoonist, political satirist), Eric Acquah (hyper-realist pencil artist and fashion designer), Julius Quansah (dance and choreography), and others. From the open house and final exhibit, I also became acquainted with Lisa Soto and others who were studying at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Lastly, the host is the incredible performance artist Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi or crazinisT artisT. Throughout the residency, I became much more familiar with her practice, and her former focus as a painter (with incredibly powerful, inventive canvases). Just the interaction with all of these artists made me grow in my practice and my awareness of other practices. I am eternally grateful, and look forward to future interactions with everyone I've met!
View to the entrance of the pIAR Residency, Kumasi
Throughout my time at the residency, I stumbled upon focusing on three paths of inquiry: questioning the similarities and differences between US American and African Blackness, investigating the role of Christianity in my life and in Ghana, and exploring the agency of oppressed peoples. I brought one of my toy pianos with me to Ghana, and made some recordings and gave some performances. Within how Christianity is practiced (or performed, as some would articulate), I've always felt a focus on perfection - one must attend church in one's best clothing (Sunday best) and present oneself with the utmost "perfection". At the same time, the Christian God is omnipresent and omniscient, and thus is intimately familiar with how everyone presents themselves at any given time in their life. Consequently, I used my toy piano (perhaps a "less perfect" little sibling of the piano) to perform songs from church in my less-than-perfect clothing, singing them with my less-than-perfect voice, but deeply intrigued by the responses, the interactions, and the connections that I could make with the Ghanaian audiences. In this vain, could my imperfection be sublimated by my honesty, earnestness, and sincere efforts?
An impromptu performance at a local market kiosk, Kumasi
For my final piece, I performed a performance art work which involved me wrapping myself in yarn. This simple act was a plea to have audiences question what the Bible says about poor, naked, sick, and hungry people helping themselves versus the focus on demanding others to help them. And when marginalized, oppressed peoples help themselves, what would that look like? Would it be enough? The 50-minute performance was well-received, and has urged me to explore the nature of this gesture in grander variations for the future. I definitely could not have created this work without being at this residency.
After leaving Kumasi, I returned to Accra for a day with so much more confidence and trust in myself as well as others. With this new-found attitude, I interacted with people more, I walked around Accra with more of a sense of purpose, and the flow of the city really came together. When I left Ghana, I left changed. I left feeling much more whole than when I entered. Lastly, I left knowing that I would return, and booked a return flight the week after I came home!!! So, BIBA readers, stay tuned for another BIBA series from Ghana AND from Kenya in January 2022!!!
by Anthony R. Green
The main purpose of my trip is to attend the perfocraze International Artist Residency (pIAR), directed by the incredible performance artist Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi, better known as crazinisT artisT. Based in Kumasi, this residency launched in 2018, but had its official opening in January 2019. Since, it has hosted a myriad of artists of various different practices, including local artists, African artists, and artists outside of Africa. The projects that have been launched here have a wide range, from abstract, experimental art to radical, political art. crazinsT artisT herself has a strong, respected history of controversial art that has changed the fabric of contemporary art in Ghana and abroad. She runs this residency bringing knowledge from her numerous international experiences in Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, the United States, and more. Even though my stay at pIAR has been quite short, the amount of education and growth I have received from crazinisT artisT, the other residents and staff, and being here in Kumasi has been immense.
Photo: En route to Kumasi on the V.I.P. Bus
I opted for a 5-hour bus ride to Kumasi instead of a short flight, not only because I did not want to deal with the airport coronavirus circus, but I also wanted to see a bit of the landscape. During this trip, my eyes were constantly attached to the window, looking out towards the changing towns, changing environment, changing people, and more. In high-traffic areas when the bus was at a standstill, women selling snacks and refreshing drinks (that they carry on their head) would walk in between cars to sell to the drivers and passengers. At a rest stop, some incredible music was streamed from a loud system, welcoming anyone who needed a stretch and a bit of fresh air. I marveled at the depth of redness of the earth here in Ghana, and couldn’t help but think that the red-yellow-green color system of the Ghanaian flag represented earth-sun-grass. (This is actually not true; the red symbolizes the blood of those who died for Ghanaian independence, the yellow is actually GOLD and it represents the natural mineral wealth of Ghana, and the green represents the rich forests in the country. The black star in the middle represents African freedom in general.)
Video: At pIAR in Kumasi
When I arrived at the Oduom stop, I was taken to the residency by Wadak Smash and Martin Toloku (who is also an incredible performance artist). The reception upon entering the gates was indescribable. It was subtle, but powerful – full of understanding and expectation, but also acknowledgement and affirmation of an energy that has existed far before we could fathom or witness. Martin and crazinisT artisT showed me around the facilities, introduced me to people, gave me some water, and then gave me time to settle. That night, as I remain ready to give presentations and offered to give one on my official arrival day, I talked about my music and artistic practice to the residents and staff in the courtyard, with a PowerPoint presentation that was projected upon a giant wall. The weather was perfect, the environment was open, the discussion became intense and necessary … and it’s all captured on Instagram (for those willing to see)! Follow @perfocraze_international for incredible content from this residency, and to watch my presentation specifically, scroll down to the video post from July 6th.
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