His body isn’t even cold yet and the New York times has already put out a shameful article declaring Nelson Mandela to be an “icon of peaceful resistance”. News outlets around the Western world are hurrying to publish obituaries that celebrate his electoral victory while erasing the protracted and fierce guerrilla struggle that he and his party were forced to fight in order to make that victory possible. Don’t let racist, imperialist liberalism co-opt the legacy of another radical. Nelson Mandela used peaceful means when he could, and violent means when he couldn’t. For this, during his life they called him a terrorist, and after his death they’ll call him a pacifist — all to neutralize the revolutionary potential of his legacy, and the lessons to be drawn from it.
Don’t fucking let them.
Paintings by British-Ghanaian artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye depicting subjects in a state of rest or recline.
The concept and act of lounging and leisure, repose and retirement are all very important factors for me. Having the space - both literally and figuratively speaking - to suspend and shrug off your responsibilities and guiltlessly drown oneself in a passionate state of tranquility and solitude seems to be more of a luxury than an essential part of ones well-being that one is allowed to take as a form of self-care.
Many of us who carry the burden of oppression are often systematically denied these pleasures and in addition, the taboo surrounding mental and emotional health in many African communities makes the challenges we face as a result of this denial even more difficult to address.
One of the most important lessons I have acquired in my lifetime is that one must ALWAYS stay close to their truth. If you can’t speak it, make sure you can feel it. If you can’t feel it, make sure you pause until you find it. When you finally can, make sure you be it. It will never let you down and you will remain free, no matter the consequences.
For Nona Faustine the restitution of her sense of wholeness as an African American woman and artist manifests in the guise of a restoration of the past, emphasis on guise. Although we see her marching up the steps of City Hall in Manhattan with nothing on but her white Sunday shoes and a pair of shackles in her left hand…she is not really trying to restore anything. It took me a while to realize it.
Her on-going photography and installation project Reconstructions is precisely that – reconstructions that attempt to replace something that was lost in the history of Blacks in America. This should not be confused with an attempt to relive the past through reenactment. Faustine’s images are more are like markers that indicate a place, an institution, an event or a person so that with her presence on that spot she does not merely remember them for the sake of remembering, she rewrites a new history for them. There on the steps of City Hall’s Renaissance Revival facade that abuts a slave burial ground or standing on her soap box at the intersection of Water and Wall Streets where a market once trafficked in humans, she is the fearless daughter of them all, the new Venus of Willendorf reborn to reconstruct a history, the ultimate act of fecundity.
Faustine easily acknowledges the impossibility of getting at what is essential with this task she has set for herself, because to reconstruct a history is an altogether different action than to restore one. Hers is not an attempt to historicize the present but to re-write the past. She did the research, discovered who bought and sold black slaves in colonial New York, and where, and how they were transported in and out of the city. But there is no Aushwitz or Treblinka for the victims of slavery in America despite the common knowledge that an estimated 10-12 million Africans died in the Middle Passage alone, and countless others succumbed to starvation, physical abuse and disease once on these shores. In a way the images function as memorials that she makes herself, one at a time, with her body, the naked truth of its blackness braced against a cold city, reconstructing a narrative where the enslaved has dignity and is not afraid.
Just read this quote by Paulo Freire: “We cannot enter the struggle as objects, to later become subjects.”, and it automatically reminded me of a quote by Audre Lorde: “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”.. Lately there has been a lot of talk about change, and I feel that a lot of people really believe that they can change ‘the system’ from the inside out, which is NOT true! No one will give you the power to take them out of the fight, to defeat them.. that’s just their propaganda. If you want what’s yours, you need to enter the struggle as a subject, you need to build your own tools.