(Image by Mandip Singh Seehra).
A meditation on ‘lived experiences’
The art worlds should support beings with lived experiences.
Once this has been said, there is more to be said about multiplicity, and the many forms support can take.
As i am transitioning out of my Winter residency at Coventry Artspace Arcadia Gallery i would like to celebrate the work of an extraordinary being in the city. Loraine Maiya Mponela, a Black, mother, poet, sanctuary seeker (activist), current chairperson of Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG), and also a beloved housemate of mine – among other things.
i would like to use this text to share Loraine’s important wisdom directed to all of us – including artists, arts organisations, and racial justice fighters.
Breath in –
Breath out –
Loraine shared a series of recommendations as part of Refugee Week Slow Conference and workshops in the past 6 weeks. Loraine’s words shook me from head to toe, not only because Loraine speaks eloquently from a place of love, but also because i believe that what Loraine articulated that day is extremely relevant to the arts scenes.
Do you feel the words shared by Loraine? Can you resist the desire to mechanically listen to and analyse the words?
Can you feel them?
When ‘diversifying’ your boards did you include beings seeking sanctuary?
When planning your events did you invite ‘us’? Do you make sure that language is not a barrier by allowing beings to communicate in different languages with the help of translators?
Stopping at “beings seeking sanctuary cannot be paid” is not enough. – try harder – Operating under neoliberalism and austerity it is essential to make sure that offerings of training opportunities, food, travel expenses, vouchers… are included in bids. Making coalitions is a survival mechanism. It might not be for all but it is for the many. Fighting poverty, oppression, and lack of love is our responsibility in arts too.
Breath in –
Breath out –
Breath out –
How is coming to see your show relevant to someone with an empty stomach?
– try harder –
As i attempted to express with ‘sorry we are closed’ my latest spatial intervention, i am preparing the ground with humility for useful artistic interventions to raise inquiries around racial justice, solidarity, afro-futurity, aesthetic and archiving and i have to try harder – too.
What about you?
Deviating from a more general point Loraine beautifully made in her speech i am asking:
How do artists, artworks, and arts spaces stand in solidarity with beings seeking sanctuary in the city?
i am not speaking about a one-off event or a one-off acknowledgement, nor about only redirecting beings seeking sanctuary to specialised organisations but about humbly contributing to the movement. Joining on-going work and making sure access for beings seeking sanctuary are thought through from design to implementation and evaluation of artistic programming.
Co-creating, celebrating, and contributing in urban cohabitation is essential and it does not necessarily have to be about black and white beautiful projects. Observing and witnessing projects involving beings seeking sanctuary, i have always been quite disturbed by toxic positivity. i am a strong believer in multiple and polyvocal testimonies in any shape or form. Carrying with me a gift since 2016 or was it 2017? – a comment from interdisciplinary artist and writer Grada Kilomba at a conference in Berlin, it had something to do with ‘how some of us can’t simply make arts about flowers and need to express ourselves in less gentle manners’.
How do we support that?
Do you feel Black, Global Majority, Queer and Trans, Lesbian, Gay, +++ beings, those caring for others, beings seeking sanctuary, disabled, poor, and the multiple intersections of us?
What beings with lived experiences coming from non dominant positionalities tell us is that including beings following dominant codes and codifications is just not enough. We must be ready to support transgression of explicit and implicit rules and not only temporarily via performative capitalisation of/on us.
How do we/you imagine the future of arts worlds?
How do we/you re-imagine the future of socially engaged artists?
Can trust be built – away from a sole focus on ‘strangers might be worth to integrat’ in our economy, or social tissue for the survival of the current systems’?
Breath in –
Breath in –
Breath out –
What about transparently acknowledging that here is the imperfect systems we have been relying on, here are our mistakes (not too much white (including non-white*)guilt/fragility in it though – keep that for ‘woke’ support groups), we would like to contribute to on-going justice work with you, to invite you, and support you in your own time, and on your own terms to ‘build worlds full of love’* with or without us.
Using the words used by Saidyia Hartman and by Alexis Pauline Gumbs:
“we were never meant to survive and here we are creating a world full of love”*
.worldS full of love.
How do we/you do that without violently extracting skills and knowledge from others?
How do we/you do that without using beings, without tokenising them solely for our own benefits?
How can we/you make, hold, nurture space for beings coming from multiple routes to express themselves in their own time and on their own terms, rather than asking them to feed your voyeurism or (white) saviour complex?
What about insisting on rotation of power/positions, supporting other beings as an everyday practice for each of us to grow ( – well – ) nearby one another, and access to leadership positions, or be enabled to contribute in non-hierarchical structures?
How do we do that?
Those are fractal threads of conversations with others, and with myself i am taking further.
What are yours?
Receiving guidance for this meditation from Loraine and beyond Loraine, i am also sending (financial, physical, and emotional) love to organisations, beings part of the extended ecosystems supporting me. Support takes many shapes and forms.
Instead of the initial reading list i planned to share with you, i invite us all to check, nurture and grow our networks of solidarity.
Lovingly from a stranger in a strange land inspired by Loraine Masiya Mponela and Harriet Tubman.
Now open your eyes.
**** This text is about some of the things within the capacity of arts organisations and artists that could be done. It does not include strikes, protests, vigils and any other ways to challenge the ruling orders. i personally support transformation by any means necessary. i think of radical transformation as an assemblage of actions to (re)claim the right to live well beyond the imperialist, racial capitalist, white cis non-disabled heteropatriachal fiction.****
sharing the love:
Who decides supporting lived experience leadership, Refugee week: https://refugeeweek.org.uk/who-decides-supporting-lived-experience-leadership/
Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Saidiya Hartman
Guide to use of language and terminology, City of Sanctuary:
Revolutionary Mothering: love on the frontline edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams • Preface by Loretta J. Ross