Writer: Blackhouse Kollective
Photography: Blackhouse Kollective
the blackhouse kollective educational exhibition at bree taxi-rank,during december 2016, publicly defied the rainbow reconciliation farce. displaying work titled sankofa – lest we forget, our exposition was greeted by police bullying. shabbily donned street-vendors poised helplessly at the receiving end of that police violence.
sister nehanda – a blackhouse organizer –puts down the mic after pausing to iron out a glitch in the program. her address,targeted at women as teachers and pillars of a nation, is closely tailed by movement of limbs and dreadlocks snaking the paving where pigeons feed and street-kids draw their sheltering blankets at night: locks as long as grown-man’s arms linger in her feet. an artist seems to have ambushed her slot before she concludes. funeka ramorula, a rastafari contemporary afrikan dancer in khaki cargo-pants and matching shirt, is scheduled to come on next but waits no time warming up the audience to his performance.a pause sets in. ayubogada’s background music broods melancholically. a brief distillation of thought clears nehanda’s brief confusion. the glitch irons itself out: nehanda concludes and leaves; the dancer takes on the ‘floor’.
a nameless and faceless brother who slung over his shoulder a bloated sack of clothes, shoes and whatever is marked and embattled for ‘illegal-vending’ by anti-black state troopers.
heartless bullies that the police were on the day chase the hawker around. until the hawker is cornered. until –like a flailing animal at a slaughterhouse-gateway –the hawker succumbs to their violence.
a police-against-hawker tussle aimed to subdue and wrest the brother’s sack from his stubborn-but-hesitant grip is followed by confiscation of vendor’s hard-earned belongings. a black ke e rekilemachina-eng shoe – could have been a tommy hilfiger design – slips out of hawker’s inventory sack and docks on the ground.
the shoe is seen on captured footage incorporated, unrehearsed, to ramorula’s dance repertoire. the dance rendered by ramorula quickly turns to protest.in the face of state descending on our people with its indifference to our suffering and lack-of-common-touch (sobukwe’s insightful reading of mandela’s character described in exact wording comes to mind) protest is a sensible response.
ramorula has taken the stage to present his dance item;incorporating the leftover-shoe to his dance moves is a stroke of genius.
ini raises the unpaired-shoe to a symbolic status. a status that renders the shoe a stand-in, a symbol of vestiges pointing to a forgotten violence:violence completely missed by the camera’s eye; violence that the distant spectator who looks at a historic crime scene, dimly appreciates; violence the world has not taken the time to memorialize; a black holocaust violence.
the solitary-shoe,now potent with power to unlock a hundred-year long gridlock, represents, as does our displayed exhibition, an excavation of backgrounded pain, a pain severed from our collective recollection, a pain that the dancing brother artistically weaves to our psychic inheritance,a pain his dance-moves braides to experiences of which blacks have no living recollection.
ramorula re-membered 1790 dispossession wars in the cape: home to many a joburg hustlers who come to queue up for ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ rations of subsistence (fending for kids who sleep on empty stomachs back home).
the dancer re-membered stand-alone moments of violence. he pieced-together a hundred-year long war that swept through 1834-5 claiming our Kings heads.
as the dance turned to protest against jmpd’s bullying, bree taxi-rank entertainment turned sombre. it is at this moment that nehanda’s pained voice returned to resume the mic. opportunely nehanda unfurled her revolutionary instinct. as her voice thumped rhythmically,contextualizing a common-site violence (a violence that has come to be synonymous with the place), the dancer moved, in protest.
he moved stitching nehanda’s emotive intonations. he moved weaving the memory of our gallant but fallen kings –warriors who led in battle against the ever so encroaching oppressor;he moved suturing violence of royalty murdered to two-thirds of a nation wiped out in the cape colony; he moved braiding the reversal of the haitian revolution to continued heinous black lynching happening globally; he moved to the emergence of our social death – a permanent feature in black life and psyche; he moved to occasion a scandal which reveals that:the historic social formation of white bodies, even when they are not there, suckles its vitality and coherence from “blackness’ [incoherence] – the West’s most iconic creation”, as moten remarks in his book:the break.
the ‘sankofa – lest we forget’ exhibition appropriates black history and black thought as tools for the spreading of Afrikan consciousness and the furtherance of the azanian struggle.
the exhibition is an installation designed to engage black people about historical and contemporary issues related to the black liberation struggle, while also paying tribute to the forgotten women, angelina sobukwe and mamcente biko, who birthed mangaliso sobukwe and bantu biko in the month of december.
the exhibition expresses our rejection of the “day of reconciliation”, a problematic construct initiated by desmond tutu and nelson mandela, constituted through the truth and reconciliation commission (trc). we reclaim this day as sobukwe-biko day to remind us of our on-going struggle for true liberation. there can be no reconciliation without land.
about the blackhouse kollective
the blackhouse kollective is a formation of black power pan afrikanist activists founded by the blackwash movement of azania. the kollective includes social activists, students in law; philosophy; political sciences; information technology, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, professors, intellectuals and young professionals.
the blackhousekollective actively and intellectually invests in works aimed to revive the black radical scholarly tradition as espoused by activist-scholars such as archie mafeje, franz fanon and bantu biko. we do this by way of critically engaging our lived experience in struggle and decolonising foreclosing approaches to knowledge production.
blackhouse has hosted leading black activist-scholars in an educational program titled ‘philosopher in soweto series’. among internationally acknowledged luminaries to grace our community lecture dialogues are: prof charles mills (usa), prof lewis gordon (usa), prof janine jones (usa), prof mogobe ramose (rsa), hon andile mngxitama (rsa), prof oyeronke oyewumi (usa), prof maldonado-toress (usa).