Public programme

To end the month of activities of The Diasporic Schools Kunstenfestivaldesarts organises an online public program: three days of lectures, conversations with the artists, and screenings, on the diaspora as a model of circulation of knowledge. Three days for a polyphony of voices, looking at the distance not as a gap between two spaces, but as a space in itself. Achille Mbembe will share an open lecture on the political dispositive of the diaspora. Bouchra Khalili will reflect with Abdellali Hajjat on sonic archives as a central element of the Maghreb-descendant diaspora. Otobong Nkanga and Sandrine Honliasso will share a reflection about Ikọ, their new platform created at this occasion. Some conversation will be the final moments of paths that took place during the whole month of October. Yael Bartana will present the collective school she opened for the month, embedded in the Jewish practice of blowing the shofar, and as a tool to rethink rituals beyond their normative codes. Christian Nyampeta will also share the result of École du soir, a collective re-writing of the history of Rwanda from the diaspora. The program ends with an evening around the work of the young Filipino director and writer Miko Revereza. Raised in Los Angeles, Revereza works on the relation between diaspora and cinema. For Kunstenfestivaldesarts he conceived a night bringing together the reading of his own texts (A Relational Here and There: Towards a Stateless Cinema) and the exclusive online screening of some of his works, in which the cinematographic language becomes a metaphor for the very idea of distance. The public program is the final act of The Diasporic Schools reflecting on the history, politics and future of distant conversations.

30.10

18:00 – 19:00 CET
Samah Hijawi et Reem Shilleh, The Ramallah Club Network - Epidode 5

Samah Hijawi and Reem Shilleh took the Ramallah Clubs Network (of the Palestinian diaspora in the USA) as a starting point to reflect on the intricacies and complexities of the Palestianian diaspora and their manifestations. They will explore the experience of being in diaspora and exile and how this formulates one’s relationship to home and homeland. Often, members of the diaspora reconnect through community centres, festivals and events in order to continue their cultural practices, and keep the community connected. But beyond sharing food, dance and conversation, what intangible elements do these gatherings transmit? What are the other forms and tools that are used to understand this convoluted relationship between here and there? In the face of Palestine’s settler colonial reality how have they contributed to direct and indirect forms of resistance, narrative formations and acts of remembering? In a series of conversations broadcast online on Radio Al Hara every Thursday of the month of October, Hijawi and Shilleh will be speaking with colleagues, artists, filmmakers, social activists, and friends from different geographies, whose work is connected to or influenced by their diasporic/exilic experience and desire to reconnect. On Friday 30.10, the episode 5 of The Ramallah Club Network will be broadcasted live on Facebook.

19:30 — 20:30 CET
Denise Ferreira da Silva in conversation with Natasha Ginwala

An academic and practicing artist, Dr. Denise Ferreira da Silva’s work addresses the ethico-political challenges of the global present. She is the author of Toward a Global Idea of Race (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), A Dívida Impagavel (Oficina da Imaginaçāo Política and Living Commons, 2019), Unpayable Debt (Stenberg/MIT Press, forthcoming) and co-editor (with Paula Chakravartty) of Race, Empire, and the Crisis of the Subprime (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). Her several articles have been published in leading interdisciplinary journals, such as Social Text, Theory, Culture & Society, Social Identities, PhiloSOPHIA, Griffith Law Review, Theory & Event, The Black Scholar, to name a few. Her artistic works includes the films Serpent Rain (2016) and 4Waters-Deep Implicancy (2018), in collaboration with Arjuna Neuman; and the relational art practices Poethical Readings and Sensing Salon, in collaboration with Valentina Desideri. She has exhibited and lectured at major art venues, such as the Pompidou Center (Paris), Whitechapel Gallery (London), MASP (Sāo Paulo), Guggenheim (New York), and MoMa (New York). She has also written for publications for major art events (Liverpool Biennale, 2017; Sao Paulo Biennale, 2016, Venice Biennale, 2017, and documenta 14) and published in art venues, such as Canadian Art, Texte Zur Kunst, and E-Flux.  

She is a member of several boards including Haus de Kulturen de Welt (Berlin), International Consortium for Critical Theory Programs and the journals Postmodern Culture, Social Identities, and Dark Matter.

31.10

16:00 — 17:30 CET
Christian Nyampeta, École du soir
Public talk moderated by Eric Cyuzuzo

Once a week, for the whole month of October, Christian Nyampeta created an École du soir, a study programme about writing and visualising intellectual histories, drawing from the lives and afterlives of the Belgian colonial empire in Rwanda. Through an open call he invited a group of participants –based in different areas of the world– to an online platform where to collectively rethink the writing of History and its relation with coloniality. Together they appreach the possibility of making a timeline of their own lives, and linking these sociographic events to the extended history of Rwanda, a part of which has been written in the wake of the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 when the search for peace and reconciliation required one uniting narrative. Through overviewing works in literature, music, theatre and cinema, this iteration of École du soir locates artistic models that honour and respect this acute social need and still approach history not only as a fixed record of the past but also as a process of cultural assemblage. This public presentation is an occasion to share this process that took part within The Diasporic Schools and reflect on pedagogical platforms and artistic practices in their possibility to challenge the canonical forms of History writing.

18:00 — 19:00 CET
Achille Mbembe in conversation with Ogutu Muraya

Cameroon born professor of political science and history Achille Mbembe teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and is one of the most influential and creative contemporary thinkers. Like no other he has articulated an original critique of race, colonialism and universalism. His most recent work centers on life futures and the emergence of a new planetary consciousness. Are we condemned to become increasingly detached and distanced from each other? Can humankind continue to claim superiority over the living, subduing and dominating “nature” and “the other”? In his online-lecture for the Public Program of The Diasporic Schools, Achille Mbembe will focus on reparative globalism and the possibility of thinking about a common world in the anthropogenic age.

19:30 — 20:30 CET
Bouchra Khalili, An Audio Family Album
Public talk moderated by Joachim Ben Yakoub

Conceived for the Diasporic Schools, with An Audio Family Album Bouchra Khalili starts from the legacy of Al Assifa, a theatre group active between 1972 and 1978 that consisted of a group of North African workers – all born colonised – and their French student allies, and whose shows were mainly performed in striking factories and community spaces. Al Assifa also published a newspaper, Al Assifa: The Voice of Arab Workers. In those years, members of the group used to read the newspaper in Arab cafes in Paris to allow illiterate members of the community to access the information as well; audio cassettes were also used to circulate this content among Maghreb-descendent communities in several French cities, reaffirming oral narration as a powerful practice of resistance to the official discourse and to dominant knowledge. During the last ten days of October, and collaborating with a younger generation of members of the same communities living nowadays in Europe, Bouchra Khalili constructs a growing archive of voices, accessible online on the website of the festival, and bringing together stories of emancipation that have helped shape the memories and contemporary strategies of diaspora struggles. Across geographies and generations, these stories form a collective family album where, as in the Al-halqa tradition, the voices embody the living and nomadic memory of people’s struggles for collective emancipation. As part of the final public program, Bouchra Khalili will be in conversation with Abdellali Hajjat on this sonic archive, initiated at the occasion of The Diasporic Schools, and that will continue after it.

01.11

16:00 — 17:30 CET
Yael Bartana, The Shofar Schools
Public talk moderated by David Bernstein

Once a week, for the whole month of October, Yael Bartana created a Shofar School. Made from a ram’s horn, the shofar is an instrument played at different moments in the Jewish calendar, and almost an iconic element in Judaism and among its diasporic communities. The very history of the shofar is linked to the need for communication from a distance: it was used to communicate between remote mountain villages, to warn of the sighting of the new moon and to mark the beginning of the new month. Its loud sound is also strongly bound up in the history of the diaspora, and the fact that in several circumstances and for centuries Jewish people risked their lives to exit the obligation of listening to the loud call of the shofar. The person who is able to blow the shofar is seen as one of the most honourable members of the community. However, both historically and nowadays, learning to play the shofar is subject to normative criteria, and although women are not prohibited from playing the instrument, it is an honour reserved for men. In her work, Yael Bartana explores the imagery of identity, delves into the complexity of the Jewish diaspora and often confronts political and feminist issues by exploring rituals. For The Diasporic Schools, Bartana created an online platform to connect people in the Jewish diaspora, regardless of gender, to learn together how to blow the shofar. Selected through an open call, and based in different regions of the world, the participants meet online once a week in the month of October to learn to play the shofar, to share stories, and to discuss the shofar through the topics of diaspora, identity, animal rights or sexuality. Above all, for one month, a group of people in different parts of the world will simultaneously blow the horn as a collective call to challenge and reimagine new forms of identity. This public presentation with Yael Bartana is an occasion to share the process and the material emerging from it.

18:00 — 19:00 CET
Otobong Nkanga and Sandrine Honliasso, Ikọ
Public talk moderated by Diana Campbell Betancourt

As part of the final public program of The Diasporic Schools artist Otobong Nkanga and curator Sandrine Honliasso will share an online public conversation starting from Ikọ. Initiated in the frame of The DIasporic Schools, Ikọ is a podcast conceived by Otobong Nkanga and Sandrine Honliasso in the framework of Nkanga’s ongoing work Carved to flow, started in 2017 and acting as a support structure for initiatives engaged in nurturing social, cultural and economic life in distant and connected geographies. Bringing together a wide range of voices intermingling with various audio proposal, Ikọ seeks to expand approaches to contemporary cultural and artistic practices and to allow a plurality of voices to be heard. Every Wednesday during the month of October, Ikọ releases a podcast episode, assembling soundscapes as it gathers a multitude of voices in the form of conversations, poetry, interviews and music. Episode after episode, Ikọ accompanies the listeners in the mobility of idea, people and goods, and within a reflection on forms of circulation, economy and care. Sound is a way to dig in the inherent complexities of material elements and their potential value, and to disclose how land and its natural resources are entwined with emotions, memories and knowledge.

19:30 — 21:00 CET
Miko Revereza, A Relational Here and There: Towards a Stateless Cinema
Film screenings and conversations with Daniel Blanga Gubbay

Born in Manila and raised in Los Angeles Miko Revereza is an emerging voice of experimental cinema. In his short movies he discloses the complex landscape of the diasporic experience, and he does so not only through the choice of the subject, but also through a reflection on cinematographic language as a metaphor of distance: an unbridgeable gap between the position of the body and the desire to be elsewhere. He recently wrote a manifesto, A Relational Here and There: Toward a Stateless Cinema, disclosing the entanglement of cinema and migration (in being both manifestations of human movement in itself), the use of the zoom as mimicking the gesture of reaching out, and how moving images mediated distance and separation in Filipino American diasporic consciousness, and how the circulation of electronic images from the US to the Philippines has inspired waves of migration to the States including his own family. The final evening of the public program of The Diasporic Schools hosts Miko Revereza online for an evening composed of reading of his texts, screenings of a selection of his short movies, and conversations on cinema and distance. “A diasporic consciousness becomes less defined by where its origins are located than the reality that there is distance from it”.

Dia Spore

By Cecilia Vicuña

It feels as if those of us who have been dia-spored out of our lands, by military coups, war and famine, or through our own seeking, have been extracted, pulled out of the embrace of the whole (or hole) and yet, we weave back our being to an imaginary whole.

A weaving sustained only by a longing, a need for completion, the desire to belong that drives us all, from bacteria to mammals. All of us hanging from a meta tit, a mother the ancient Vedas called “udder”: ‘the thought leaps to its mother’s udder; Like a wide river it milks the tip of its course’ (Rig Veda 9th Mandala Hymn). The Amazonian Shipibo call it Ronin, The cosmic serpent, Mother Boa. In the Andes, she is Mayu, the river of stars: the Milky Way. A living web that clings and trembles with entanglement, communication and transmission, like education does. Not in the sense of an imposed structure, created by a government or dominant power, but as emergence; all processes teach themselves how to proceed and change. The word education carries that potential, if we see what it says. In Latin it meant “to lead out” with the “e” being the exit, and “duc” the root of duct and ductile, all sharing the fluidity of transmission, that may lead to a con-duct (channel with). A double potential that can serve to oppress or liberate, depending on the intent, the direction and equality of the exchange.  

Diasporic education dreams like slime mold does, as a response of the loners, separated by violence or disease.   When your invitation came, I wrote “we all come from Africa, humanity is a diaspora, a spore of itself seeking to survive.” Given the extreme danger of extinction we face, I noticed the spore within the word, “diaspora” speaking in spores, telling us we can learn from our pain to behave like mushrooms and slime mold. They were the first colonizers of new lands.  

In slime mold language, we are the fruiting body that sends out its spores to fertilize the earth for future growth, or perhaps we are the spores, dreaming life can go on, despite bodies, land and spores being under attack. Slime mold has a strategy that helps them endure when all seems lost. They climb onto each other, becoming a dead stick, for the last one to go up and jump into the unknown, for the continuation of the species. What matters to the slime is the sacrifice of love, the diaspora that disperses them across the worlds.  

I wonder if the many forms of “diasporic schools” we now see sprouting, have existed from the beginning of time, 6 billion years ago, when the slime began its work. I remember as a kid, playing in the forest, we created our own “schools” away from adults to teach ourselves, creating a little school with my friends, which disappeared when we were called home.     

Cecilia Vicuña New York, 27 October 2020

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Yael Bartana, The Shofar School

Yael Bartana is a visual artist born in Israel in 1970. Her films, installations and photographs explore the imagery of identity through political imagination. Taking as a starting point national consciousness and traditions, in her work she focuses on ceremonies, public rituals and social diversions that are intended to reaffirm the collective identity of the nation state. Bartana investigates these through the realisation of “pre-enactments” that comment on our reality by suggesting alternative presents and possible futures, juxtaposing real life and fiction, and confronting her audiences with their personal and collective responsibilities. Bartana represented Poland in the 54th International Art Exhibition in Venice (2011) with the trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned. The trilogy was followed by major commissions realised across the globe, such as Inferno (2013), True Finn (2014) and Tashlikh (cast off, 2017). In recent years Bartana has been expanding her artistic practice and experimenting with various forms, such as sound, sculpture and theatre. Her latest work is the ongoing project What If Women Ruled the World (2016-) which combines fictional settings and real life participants, setting up a particular forum for action while exploring possible alternatives to a world dominated by men and traditional perception of power. The Undertaker (2019) and Two Minutes to Midnight (2020) both emerged from this survey.

Samah Hijawi et Reem Shilleh, The Ramallah Club Network

Samah Hijawi is an artist and researcher currently doing her PhD in Art Practice at Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Académie Royale Des Beaux Art de Bruxelles, in Belgium. In her multi-media works she is exploring the aesthetics of representation in artworks that allude to the histories of Palestine. Her works have been shown in The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Museum M, The Hayward Gallery, BOZAR, Beurscchouwburg, Bureau Europa, MoMa, Apex Art, Darat al Funun, among others. She previously collaborated with Ola El-Khalidi and Diala Khasawneh in directing Makan Art Space (2003-2016), an independent space for contemporary art in Amman. And together with Shuruq Harb and Toleen Touq she co-curated the platform The River has Two Banks (2012-2017), initiated to address the growing distance between Jordan and Palestine.

Reem Shilleh is researcher, curator, editor, and on occasion writer. She lives and works in Brussels and Ramallah. 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, its effects and reverberations on imaginations. Reem Shilleh is a recipient of the BAK Fellowship for 2019-2020.

Bouchra Khalili, An Audio Family Album

Bouchra Khalili is a Moroccan-born (1975, Casablanca) and Berlin-based artist. She studied Film History at Sorbonne Nouvelle and Visual Arts at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Arts de Paris. Encompassing film, video, installation, photography, printmaking, and publishing, Khalili's practice explores imperial and colonial continuums as epitomized by contemporary forced illegal migrations and the politics of memory of anti-colonial struggles and international solidarity. At the intersection of history and micro-narratives, her work combines documentary strategies and conceptual practice to investigate questions of self-representation, autonomous agency, and forms of resistance of suppressed communities. Deeply informed by the legacy of post-independence avant-gardes and the vernacular traditions of her native Morocco, Khalili's approach combine performative strategies of storytelling and the old tradition of Northern Africa storytelling to develops civic platforms for first person accounts eventually forming collective stories of resistance and emancipation. Khalili's work has been subject to numerous solo exhibitions, such as at Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Museum Folkwang (Essen), Jeu de Paume (Paris), MAXXI Museum (Roma), Museum of Modern Art (New York). She also participated to several international exhibitions such as at the 12th Bamako Biennial, BienalSur (Buenos Aires), Documenta 14th Kassel, 55th Venice Biennale, among others. As a cultural activist, she’s a co-founder of the Cinémathèque de Tanger, Northern Morocco's first cultural center dedicated to the preservation and promotion of film culture in the region.

Otobong Nkanga et Sandrine Honliasso, Ikọ

Otobong Nkanga (*1974, Kano, Nigeria) began her art studies at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and later continued her studies in Paris at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. She has been artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam (2002-2004) and she finished her Masters in the Performing Arts at Dasarts, Advanced Research in Theatre and Dance studies, Amsterdam (2005-2008). Furthermore she has been artist-in-residence at the DAAD, Berlin (2014) and Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin in 2019. Interweaving media such as installation, textile, performance, painting, drawing, texts and stories to create multi-sensory encounters, Nkanga’s work is often based on a period of intensive research, teasing out the many-layered intersections between objects and actions and the relationship between care and repair. By exploring the notion of land as a place of non-belonging, Nkanga provides an alternative meaning to the social ideas of identity. Paradoxically, she brings to light the memories and historical impacts provoked by humans and nature. She lays out the inherent complexities of resources like soil and earth and their potential values in order to provoke narratives and stories connected to land. Nkanga has exhibited widely in exhibitions around the world, including Documenta 14 (Greece and Germany), Biennale di Venezia (Italy), Sharjah Biennial (UAE) as well as solo presentations at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (USA), Tate Modern (UK). Her most recent solo exhibitions took place at Zeitz Mocaa, Cape Town (RSA), and Tate St. Ives in England. The latter exhibition, From Where I Stand, is currently on show at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Nkanga was the 2019 artist-in-residence at Gropius Bau in Berlin, Germany, where she further developed the project Carved to Flow, culminating in her current solo exhibition There's No Such Thing as Solid Ground. In 2019, Nkanga received the inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award and a Special Mention Award at the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, she was named winner of the 2019 Sharjah Biennial Prize and won the prestigious Peter-Weiss-Preis, and she was also the recipient of the Ultimas-Flemish Prize for Culture. In 2017, she was awarded the Belgian Art Prize and, in 2015, the Yanghyun Prize.

Sandrine Honliasso is an independent curator and critic. She has worked as an assistant in production and mediation at the Fondation Kadist (Paris) and as a communication officer at the Institut d'art contemporain/Villeurbanne. She is the author of Monologues, a digital space dedicated to contemporary artistic creation. She was co-curator of the exhibitions Partout, mais pas pour très longtemps (2018, Lyon); Germination (2018, Dakar); Tongue on tongue, nos salives dans ton oreille (2019, Paris) and curator of the exhibition Baptiste Fertillet, Cutting/Slasher (2020, Nantes). She was twice resident in the research programme RAW Académie (Germination, 2018; CURA, 2019) at the art centre RAW Material Company (Dakar). She is currently collaborating with Ariane Leblanc on the exhibition D'ailleurs je viens d'ici which will be presented in spring 2021 at La Comédie de Caen.

Christian Nyampeta, École du soir

Artist Christian Nyampeta (born 1981) organises programmes, exhibitions, screenings, performances, pedagogical experiments and publications, conceived as hosting structures for collective feeling, cooperative thinking, and mutual action, with the support of and alongside a chorus of fellow artists, institutions, and networks. Recent activities include collective iterations of École du soir at SculptureCenter in New York, at e-flux Film & Video, and at Keleketla! Library alongside other spaces of learning and sites of knowledge production and speculation in Johannesburg. Nyampeta was awarded The Art Prize Future of Europe 2019 at the Museum of Contemporary Art GfZK in Leipzig, and the European Union Prize at the 12th Bamako Encounters—African Biennial of Photography.

Natasha Ginwala

Natasha Ginwala is a curator and writer. She is co-director of the 13th Gwangju Biennale, Associate Curator at Gropius Bau, Berlin and artistic director of COLOMBOSCOPE, Colombo. Ginwala has curated Contour Biennale 8, Polyphonic Worlds: Justice as Medium and was part of the curatorial team of documenta14, 2017. Other recent projects include Arrival, Incision. Indian Modernism as Peripatetic Itinerary in the framework of Hello World. Revising a Collection at Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, 2018; Riots: Slow Cancellation of the Future at ifa Gallery Berlin and Stuttgart, 2018; My East is Your West at the 56th Venice Biennale, 2015; and Corruption: Everybody Knows… with e-flux, New York, 2015. Ginwala was a member of the artistic team for the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, 2014, and co-curated The Museum of Rhythm at Taipei Biennial 2012 and at Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, 2016–2017. From 2013–2015, in collaboration with Vivian Ziherl, she led the multi-part curatorial project Landings presented at various partner organizations. Ginwala writes on contemporary art and visual culture in various periodicals and has contributed to numerous publications. She is a recipient of the 2018 visual arts research grant from the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe.

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