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BLACK ATLANTIC EVENT 2004 - THE REPORT

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

BLACK ATLANTIC EVENT 2004

 
 
 

THE REPORT

 
 
 
 

AFRITOPIC

www.afritopic.com

All rights reserved

 
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CONTENT

 

Preface                                                                                                                               3

The Basics of Black Atlantic                                                                                     3

Opening Ceremony of the Black Atlantic Event                                   3

Platforms of the Black Atlantic Event                                                               4

Platform I: 17-26 September 2004

Crossings (How do/don’t we remember)

Platform II: 15-23 October 2004

Congo Square (Music, Resistance, Encounters)

Platform III: 11-14 November 2004

Another Modernity (Racial Terror and Human Rights)

Snapshot of a Discussion Panel                                                                             5

Black Europe

Featuring Lily Golden, Gloria Wekker, Lena Sawyer and Sheila Mysorekar

Snapshot of a Literature Session                                                                        6

Women Writers of the Black Atlantic

Literature featuring Jackie Kay and Marie-Hélène

Art Exhibition                                                                                                                   8

Isaac Julien

Keith Piper          

Tim Sharp

Lisl Ponger

Music Concerts                                                                                                               9

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Berimbrown

Virginia Rodrigues

Orchestre Baobab

Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Jazz Jamaica

DJ MJ Cole

DJ Grace Kelly

DJ Jah Shaka

Films Program                                                                                                                 10

Theater/Dance Performance                                                                                11

Babel

Black Berlin Bus Tour / Poesie des Unsichtbares (Poetry of the Invisible)

Intercultural Youth Program                                                                                  11

Performance Workshop with Ismael Ivo

Art Workshop

Hip Hop Workshop

Radio Workshop

Organizers, Project Team and Curators                                                         12

The House of World Cultures

The Black Atlantic Project Team

The Curators

Paul Gilroy

Fatima El-Tayeb

Tina Campt

Shaheen Merali

Jean-Paul Bourelly

Ismael Ivo

Interviews                                                                                                                        16

Jean-Paul Bourelly 

Photo Impressions                                                                                                       19

Linton Kwesi Johnson concert

Berimbrown concert

Congo Square

DJ Grace Kelly

Discussion Panel; Black Europe

Literature Session: Women Writers of the Black Atlantic

Conclusion                                                                                                                        19

 
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Preface

The House of World Cultures (Haus der Kulturen der Welt) in Berlin, Germany carried out a project titled “Black Atlantic” in partnership or cooperation with several organizations, institutions, academics, artists and individuals of African descent. The project incorporated virtual art exhibitions, audio, movies, literature presentations, discussion podiums as well as music and dance performances into a colourful series of events that began on 17 September 2004 and ended on 15 November 2004. In this report, AFRITOPIC intends to give a general view of the initiatives leading to the project, the topics discussed and the opinions expressed in the conferences, entertainment and infotainment provided as well as probable future developments. This report is definitely not intended to cover all aspects of the project and does not claim to give a comprehensive account of all programs of the events. AFRITOPIC hopes that the reader would be able to imagine how elaborate the project was, gather some useful information, make his/her own judgement and be inspired to indulge in constructive discussions and actions relating to African Diaspora and the Black culture.

The Basics of Black Atlantic

The basics of Black Atlantic are found in the book titled “The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness” written by Paul Gilroy and published in 1993. In a highly intellectual manner, Paul Gilroy explains his thoughts, ideas, arguments and theory about the African Diaspora and Black culture. To illustrate his model of Black Atlantic, Gilroy uses the image of ships in motion, moving in space across Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe. Though, the Black Atlantic is not confined to a defined region or period, the starting point of the movements is the slave trade era, which Gilroy calls the “middle passage”. The arguments and theories presented by Gilroy in his book are too complex to be discussed within the scope of this report. In its simplest form, beginning from the slave trade era, these movements represent the transportation of African slaves to the “new world”, travels across all boundaries and consequently the various developments as well as the flow of what is known today as the Black culture.

The slave trade caused terror, pains, sufferings, trauma and death of millions of Africans. In other to survive hardships and atrocities in the “new world”, African slaves had to develop means of communicating with each other. They were forbidden to write. The only means they could use to communicate was to make sound. And the sound, they made and developed into music. The movements of African descendants in multiple directions, termed the African Diaspora, result amongst others in the development of different types of music, which is used in the Black Atlantic not only to depict the richness and diversity of Black culture but also to trace Black history. The Black Atlantic hence tackles the historical, political aspect as well as the impact of Black movement on the socio-economic status of America and the modern Europe.

Opening Ceremony of the Black Atlantic Event

On the 16th of September 2004, a gathering of decorated Black intellectuals, renowned artists, officials from German institutions and guests from the Black as well as the German communities marked the opening ceremony of the Black Atlantic event at the House of Cultures in Berlin. The agenda of the ceremony consisted of speeches, discussion panel, music and dance performances. Among the respectable personalities present at the ceremony were Paul Gilroy, Édouard Glissant, Keith Piper, Ismael Ivo and Othella Dallas. In his speech, Gilroy called for fight against discrimination and racism and a combined effort to build a truly multicultural society. He explained his model of the Black Atlantic and the theory of “double consciousness” in comparison with the work of Dubois. In this relation, he referred to African-American perception of the African continent as a continent entangled in chaos and violence. Gilroy then moved on to discuss how his Black Atlantic, with its model of culture beyond race could be helpful in the Africa/African-American discourse in Europe.

Édouard Glissant, the philosopher, novelist and poet, born in Sainte-Marie, Martinique presented his creolization theory. According to Glissant, the most distinctive symbol of
 
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creolization is a creole language open to Multilanguage influence. Creolization embeds multilingualism combined with diverse cultures and values. In his speech, Gissant moved on to discuss double consciousness, white dominance and hegemony in reference to the USA, while comparing the situation in Germany/Europe.

The visual artist Keith Piper presented a visual interpretation of the Black Atlantic in his exhibited work “Synthetic Geographies I&II”. Commenting on the issues of transculturalization and creolization, he noted that these terminologies are not totally specific to the Black Atlantic. In his opinion, the Black Atlantic serves as a conceptional tool that helps to describe the aesthetics and resiliency of globalization.

Ismael Ivo, the Brazilian dancer and choreograph, presented the commissioned work “Olhos d’Agua”, which he developed for the Black Atlantic event. In the work, 3 elderly Black women, each approximately 70 years old, form the nucleus of the dance performance. The women included Mãe Beata from Bahia, who is a priest of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé, the renowned jazz singer and dancer Othella Dallas and the actress and film director Tereza Santos, who was actively involved in fights against military dictatorship in different regions of the world, from Brazil to Angola. The life histories of the 3 women personified lively remembrance that provided the starting point for the dancing performance, which showcased the African slaves crossing the ocean and their traumatic experience in the new world.

A panel discussion on topics ranging from creating awareness of the German colonial past to the situation of Black Germans during the NS-period and at present followed the individual presentations and speeches. Entertainment with music performance by Othella Dallas rounded up the opening ceremony of the Black Atlantic event.

Platforms of the Black Atlantic Event

The concept of platforms was used in the Black Atlantic project to focus on specific themes. Each platform consisted of a series of programs that deal with diverse aspects of the theme in focus from different perspectives. Creative art forms in particular music played dominant roles in expressing the message of the Black Atlantic events. Under headings such as CROSSINGS, SOUNDINGS, HISTORY (HISTORICITY, COUNTER-HISTORY, MEMORY), DIASPORA AND IMPROVISATION and EUROPEAN FUTURES themes of the Black Atlantic were highlighted. The 3 platforms of the project were:

Platform I: 17-26 September 2004

Crossings (How do/don’t we remember)

The theme of this platform focused on Black history, beginning from the “Middle Passage” with African slaves enforced into slave ships crossing the Atlantic. The questions about what is remembered, what is forgotten and what is refused to be remembered were raised. The theme looked into diverse aspects of trans-national and trans-cultural processes of the colonial history to the present day of globalization and worldwide migration movements. The programs consisted of performing arts, literature, presentations, exhibitions as well conferences on topics including the thought, work and life of W.E.B. Dubois, the African-American sociologist and philosopher. There were also discussion panels on German colonial history and Black German history. Commissioned and improvised works of the Brazilian dancer and choreographer, Ismael Ivo, who played a leading role in planning the platform, were shown.

Platform II: 15-23 October 2004

Congo Square (Music, Resistance, Encounters)

In the Black Atlantic, music is of high importance as a means of communication and source of information. The core of this platform was a series of concerts conceptualized by the musician/jazz guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly. Bourelly brought over 25 musicians from different nations and music genre together to interact and perform spontaneously. The spontaneous jam-sessions and concerts were aimed at signifying the universality of music irrespective of cultural background. Some of the famous musicians that performed included the keyboarder and vocalist Cheick Tidiane Seck, the Afrobeat drummer and composer Tony Allen, the Funk musician Joseph Bowie, the great musician Archie Shepp, the percussionist Doudou N’Diaye
 
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Rose, pianist Omar Sosa, the fantastic band Ayibobo and the founder of the NYC’s Black Rock Coalition Marque Gilmore. Symposia and discussion panels on the history of jazz and the impact of new technologies on music gave an insight to the development of Black music and future trends in relation to music and culture.

Platform III: 11-14 November 2004

Another Modernity (Racial Terror and Human Rights)

Colonialism and imperialism were the main focus of the numerous conferences in this platform. The discussion panels investigated the impact of colonialism and imperialism on political decisions and discussions within the society in Europe. Literature presentations, visual arts, science, music, film series and youth programs were also part of the events in this platform. The art exhibitions included installations by acclaimed artists Isaac Julien, Keith Piper and Lisl Ponger amongst others. As part of the youth program, a radio studio was made available at the House of Cultures, Berlin. The youths met with music stars, writers, artists, researched African-German colonial history and carried out interviews, which they aired on the “Radio Black Atlantic”.

Snapshot of a Discussion Panel

Black Europe

The historian Fatima El-Tayeb conceptualized a discussion panel with the topic “Black Europe” on the 19 September. The discussion was intended to look into the awareness of Black history, Black experience, the situation and the political status of the Black community in Europe as well as the impact of postcolonial power-structures. Members of the panel and the moderator included:

Lily Golden, Afro-Russian Anthropologist, has lectured across the former Soviet Union, Russia, Africa, Europe and the United States. Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in the former Soviet Union to an African-American father and a Polish-American mother of Jewish descent, she moved to Moscow in 1952 to become the first person of African ancestry to study at the Moscow State University and later received her doctorate from the Soviet Academy of Science. She served as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Chicago State University, the President of the International Institute of Black Women Affairs at the United Nations and apart from her autobiography, has authored books including Africans in Russia, African Music and the African Encyclopedia Directory

Gloria Wekker, professor of Women’s Studies in the Arts at the Institute for Media and Representation at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. She migrated to Amsterdam from Suriname, where she was born and has served on governmental and social advisory boards including the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment as well as the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Culture to mention a few. She also co-founded a Black lesbian women’s literary circle in Amsterdam called “Sister Outsider”.

Lena Sawyer, lecturer at the Mid-Sweden University, Östersund. The anthropologist has presented academic papers on race and African diasporic issues in Sweden and has served as academic adviser to government institutions.

Sheila Mysorekar, a journalist from Cologne moderated the discussion.

Lily Golden presented a lecture on the historical presence of Blacks in The former Soviet Union and the perception of Blacks in the Russian society today. Talking about her life, she said that many people in Uzbekistan were darker than herself and her skin colour was not a problematic issue. She and her daughter speak better Russian than most Russians. Golden noted that foreign scholars with excellent command of the Russian language contributed a great deal to Russian literature and motivating Russians to learn the language. According to her, racism exists in Russia and the government is doing nothing against it. Almost every week a Black is murdered in Russia. She mentioned an incident in which an African diplomat was brutally beating up by Russian racists.

In her presentation Gloria Wekker explained the many forms of race and gender in The Netherlands, which tries to forget her colonial past. According to her, Black history is not known and is not on the curricula in The Netherlands. She was lucky to have a grandfather
 
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who thought her some elements and rituals of the African culture. Wekker noted that despite the fact that Black immigrants from different nations live in The Netherlands, an organized Black community does not exist.

The situation of people of African descent and the sensitivity surrounding race discourse in Sweden was bought to light by Lena Sawyer in her presentation. Sawyer pointed out that public discussion on racism is still a taboo in Sweden. Foreign immigrants are referred to with insulting and degrading names. She however expressed her hope that appropriate measures against racism in Sweden could be implemented with the funding now made available by the government to research racism.

After the presentations, an interactive discussion with the audience began in which a lot of questions were raised. The substantial issues highlighted during the discussion may be summarized as follow: 

  • Doest the concept of Black European really exist?
  • If Blacks use the term, does the European Union recognize, accept and include Black European its community agenda?
  • Assuming that the Black European is included in the EU community agenda, on which basis?   The Black European agitates for and expects equality, respect, deconstruction white supremacy, privileges and power structures.
  • The price Blacks are paying to stay in Europe is very high; disproportionately high numbers of Blacks are in mental homes, jails and are unemployed. A high percentage of Black women suffer depression and are mentally ill.
  • It is necessary to publish a list of Black achievers/achievements for recognition. Referring to the issue of recognition, a German woman in the audience, who said she lived in Africa for 26 years, asked the question, “Is it necessary to fight for recognition by listing Black achievers and achievements? Why not just fight for acceptance as human beings”?
  • Prejudice, discrimination and racism are rampart in Germany. Black Germans/Afro-Germans are still not accepted as Germans. It is difficult for Blacks to finance well organized Black community. Blacks/Black organizations in Germany generally have difficulties in obtaining government funds.
  • What is to be done? What could Blacks do? Is there a need for a Pan European Black movement?

Concluding the discussion, there was a call for the over 18 million Blacks in Europe to join forces and form a network that would lead to establishing a formal institution in Europe.

Snapshot of a Literature Session

Women Writers of the Black Atlantic. Literature featuring Jackie Kay and Marie-Hélène Laforest.

A series of literature sessions with discussions accompanied the Black Atlantic project. Acclaimed Black authors from around the globe gave the public some insights to their literary works. On 26 September 2004, the authors Jackie Kay and Marie-Hélène Laforest read passages from their books and discussed with the audience. Ekpenyong Ani moderated the session.

Jackie Kay was born in Edingburgh, Scotland to a Nigerian father and Scottish mother. She grew up within her adoptive white Scottish family in Glasgow, where she attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and later studied English at the Stirling University. The issue of an adopted child searching for cultural identity inspired her to publish her first collection of poetry in 1991 titled “The Adoption Papers”, which won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award, the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award and a commendation by the Forward Poetry Prize judges in 1992. Since then, Jackie Kay has written over a dozen books and won several awards.

At the Black Atlantic, Jackie Kay read from her book Why Don’t You Stop Talking (London 2002). The passage humorously narrates a day’s activities and encounters of a woman; encounters, dispute, prejudice, society, inter-racial conflicts, self-critics, intolerance, fear, mother-child relationships, temper, habits/attitudes, loneliness and lack of self-control.

Marie-Hélène Laforest was born in Haiti but grew up in New York. She is a James Michener Fellow in creative writing and her publications have been featured in several periodicals.
 
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She is the author of Diasporic Encounters. Remapping the Caribbean (Naples , Liguori 2000). Marie-Hélène Laforest is at the time of this writing, professor of postcolonial literature at the University of Naples, Italy. She presented her first fiction book Foreign Shores (Montreal 2002) at the literature session of the Black Atlantic. From the book, she read a passage titled “All His Trouble Gone”, which tells the tragic story of Victor, a member of a Haitian migrant family in New York; colour barriers, rejections, injustice, fight for equality, anger, resentment, resignation, rebellion and guns.

Each author read from her book in a style that reflects her character. Jackie Kay was fascinatingly dramatic while Marie-Hélène Laforest solemnly captivating. Following the readings, which were also translated and read in German, discussion began with the audience. Some of the questions from the audience and respective answers by the authors are as follow:

Audience: Are your stories political?

Jackie Kay: I do not intend to be political in my writings. However, my readers should build their own opinions and decide. I am Black, Scottish and a lesbian. It could be dangerous for me to be political.

Marie-Hélène Laforest: Tony Morrison once said, “Almost everything is political”. In this context, I believe that my book is political in a sence.

Audience: How would you categorize yourself/your work?

Jackie Kay: I find categorization boring.

Marie-Hélène Laforest: People tend to categorize for example as Black authors, Afro-German writer and so on. I am indifferent to categorization.

Audience: Do you have special sources of motivation and inspiration? Who are your favorite writers?

Jackie Kay: Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe are definitely two of my favorite writers and sources of inspiration.

Marie-Hélène Laforest: I admire Tony Morrison and she is a great source of inspiration as well as motivation for me.

Audience: In relation to the Black Atlantic, do you think that Black authors have made an impact on the colonial history?

Jackie Kay: When I started writing, there were only about 12 Black writers in Scotland. So far, there has been visual impact of Black authors through an exhibition in London about Jazz music. At the exhibition, Black writers had the opportunity to meet and exchange views.

Marie-Hélène Laforest: The Black Atlantic reminds us that the Black culture is a movement. Whenever I travel, I try to find a link between Haiti and the country I visit. I was surprised to find out that the Germans landed in Haiti before the First World War. The Black Atlantic project has brought us together. I never thought that this could happen. I am happy to be here.

Audience: How do you develop your stories?

Jackie Kay: I try to create characters that her close to me or my lifestyle. But the stories are mostly imaginative and not autobiographical. I visited Nigeria in June 2004 with the intention and hope of finding my father. The book I am working on now is about this issue.

Marie-Hélène Laforest: I do not have any process or plan for developing my stories. The stories just come to me. The next book I am writing would be about love.

The literature session concluded with both the audience and the authors appealing that more events should be organized to foster interactions between writers and the public.

 

Art Exhibition

The works of four international renowned artists were exhibited within the context of the Black Atlantic under the directorship of Shaheen Merali, who was the Head of Exhibition at the House of World Cultures and curator of the Black Atlantic exhibition. Referring to the artists’ works in his curatorial statement, he wrote, “The works in the exhibition creatively help to modify the way we look at the world – a way of visual comprehension – and to settle differences into a
 
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diasporic formation – which in itself specifies an important cultural formation”. The artists and exhibited works include the following:

Isaac Julien

Issac Julien is a visiting lecturer at Harvard University and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He lives and works in London as a research fellow at the Goldsmiths College University of London and a trustee of the Serpentine Gallery. As an artist, he has participated in major international exhibitions including the Documenta XI in Kassel, Germany. Issac Julien has received awards from the Andy Warhol Foundation as well as from the Kunst Film Bienale in Cologne, Germany. Two of Isaac Julien’s works, Paradise Omeros (2002) and True North (2004) were exhibited. The two film installations were accompanied with photographic works, The True North Series and Before Paradise respectively. Paradise Omeros is a film installation that blends diverse themes of the Caribbean life and culture using fantastic images. The setting of the film was based on some of the poems from Omeros written by the Nobel laureate, Derek Walcotts. In the film installation True North, landscape with ice, sea and a woman is used to symbolize travels, voyages, history, discovery, constant movements, space and time. The work with the accompanying photographic series was inspired by the story of the Black American traveler, Matthew Henson (1866-1955) who was one of the first few people reach the North Pole.

Keith Piper          

Keith Piper’s art works have been diplayed in both solo and group exhibitions in Europe and the USA. Born in Malta, Piper is a lecturer at the University of East London in Media production at the School of Cultural and Innovation Studies. One of his works exhibited at the Black Atlantic is a multi media installation Synthetic Geographies I & II (2004). In both videos, Keith Piper tackles history, imperialism, geographical boundaries and space from complementary perspectives. In one video installation changing images of plantations, parks, signs, architectures, framed portrait of the German Chancellor from 1862 to 1890, Otto von Bismark are integrated with texts like:

I established this parkland

I structured this landscape

I sculptured this terrain

(Das ist mein Land)

I managed this plantation

I fenced these boundaries

I walled this city

(Das ist mein Land)

I projected these boarders

I policed these frontiers

In the second video installation, Berlin City is zoomed in from a map with recurring texts; scanning the city for ghosts, here are new voices, strangers, global, immigrants and visitors.

Keith Piper’s second work in collaboration with Tina Campt, who provided the historical concept, is the Sounding Gallery (2004). The Sounding Gallery was conceived as an audio-historical gallery where visitors could listen to recollections and experiences of Black Germans during the mid-twentieth century. These recollections/experiences, read by younger generation of Black Germans, are excerpts from interviews with Black men and women who survived the Nazi Regime.

The third exhibited work of Keith Piper is a series of 6 photographic prints Untitled/A Black Atlantic I-VI. The photographic collages mix images of precious/semi precious stones, Egyptian sculpture, sea/ocean, Ife/Nigerian bronze head, Black Madona, book titled To be Sold- Negro, currencies, coins, fingers, saxophone, Aretha Franklin, kings and crowns.
 
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Tim Sharp

Tim Sharp’s recent work Traveler’s Tales (2004) has been exhibited in at the Iowa City International Film Festival, USA, Winsdor International Festival of Experimental Film and Video Art, Canada, 50th International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen, Germany and the DIAGONALE 04 in Graz, Austria. Tim Sharp was born in Perth, Scotland and has participated in several group and solo exhibitions.

At the Black Atlantic, Tim Sharp exhibited three of his works namely I_D_Entities/SCRAM, Dar-el-Beida and Traveller’s Tales. I_D_Entities/SCRAM is a remake of a series of hand-colored tourist photographs from Hegoland, Germany and Venice, Italy at the end of 19th century. The photos are inserted with the picture of a young North African woman taken from the work Das Weib im Leben der Volker (1910) by Albert Friedenthal. Quotations and short textual captions as footnotes further illustrates the message of the work; history, identity, importance of travel, movement, desire to start anew, pleasure and economic wealth. Dar-el-Beida is a film installation that deals with ethnic issues as exemplified with images from North Africa. Traveller’s Tale is a film installation developed from fragments of 35mm film found at a flea market. The film titled Tuareg was probably made in 1970. Tim Sharp’s modification of the sequences, scenes and reproduction of the film raises questions about the Taureg reality and general perception of a culture by an outsider. 

Lisl Ponger

Lisl Ponger received the prestigious Austrian National prize for Film Art in 1994 and in 2003 the Visual Arts Prize. She was born in Nürenberg, Germany but lives and works in Vienna, Austria as a professor for Art Photography at the University of Applied Arts. Her works have been shown in many exhibitions including the Documenta XI in Kassel, Germany.

Three works of Lisl Ponger were exhibited at the Black Atlantic. Phantom Foreign Vienna (2004) is a film installation that documents the multi-cultural scenery in Vienna, Austria in terms of weddings, celebrations and dances between 1991 and 1992. The work deals with ethnicity and the issue of foreigners including diversity, movements, cultural/traditional clothing, ceremonies, dances and masks. Passages is a film installation describing the brutal impact of Nazi terror in Austria causing refugees to flee and Jews to emigrate from Austria. Remembrance, imprisonment, agony, torture, history and present day stories told by asylum seekers in Vienna make up the content of the installation. The third work Déjà Vu is a film installation which takes the viewer on a journey to distant picturesque places. The moving images of people, tropical scenery and events are combined with eleven languages, indicating the theme of the installation; cultural perceptions, travel, economics and political power.

 

Music Concerts

Pop, Soul, Blues, Hip Hop and other variants of these music genres are popular today worldwide. But many people, especially among the younger generation seem to forget or do not have any knowledge about the origin of these music arts. The popularity of Hip Hop, for example, is growing daily and the evolving lifestyle in terms of fashion is creating a cultural and economic revolution. Apart from the music platform Congo Square developed by Jean-Paul Bourelly for the Black Atlantic project, the curators Paul Gilroy and Jean-Paul Bourelly conceptualized a program of music concerts involving acclaimed music artists from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, North and South America as well as popular DJs that have demonstrated exceptional artistic skills in remixing rhythms and implementing the latest computer technology to produce fantastic dancing tunes. The program is aimed at informing/educating the public about the African origin, the history and the instrumental elements that form the basis of what is generally termed today as Black Music. The program included disco jam sessions and concerts with the following DJs and music artists:

Linton Kwesi Johnson: Appearing with his Reggae-Formation band, the Jamaican poet and vocalist, Linton Kwesi Johnson LKJ, delivered blends of Reggae, Rap and Hip Hop rhythms
 
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with some political messages against discrimination, racism and injustice. The audience acknowledged the inspiring lyrics and the beats that prompted everyone to dance with many rounds of applause. Photo impressions of LKJ concert are presented here>

Berimbrown: The Brazilian music artist, Berimbrown, combined Soul, Funk, Rap, Samba-Reggae with traditional instruments as well as the Afro-Brazilian Capoeira and Maculele dances to thrill the audience at the Black Atlantic. Photo impressions of Berimbrown concert are presented here>

Virginia Rodrigues: Virginia Rodrigues, a Brazilian vocalist, is proud to be of African descent and initiated member of the Candomblé cult. According to her, she sings for Orixás, the Gods of Candomblé religion, for the earth, water, air, for herself and for all. With experience in the church quire, she creates temperamental music by mixing Samba-Reggae and Afro-Samba with Bossa Nova. Elements from Afro-Brazilian religions Xango, Ossain, and Yemanja are found the lyrics and rhythm of her music.

Orchestre Baobab: The Senegalese band is popular for creative music with rhythms ranging from Salsa, Morna, Cha Cha Cha, Pachanga, reggae, Rumba and Highlife combined with Griot melody. The cosmopolitan band synthesizes diverse music influences from the Caribbean, Americas and Africa to keep the audience fascinated throughout its concerts.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Gonzalo Rubalcaba is a Jazz-Pianist of Cuban origin living in New York. In cooperation with the popular band Label Blue Note, he won two Grammies in 2002. His music has the feel of lively traditional Cuban rhythm that inspires its audience to move gracefully dancing to the jazzy tune. He is arguably the best Latin-Jazz-Pianist at the present time.

Jazz Jamaica: Jazz Jamaica is a band consisting of music artist of different backgrounds and generations between the ages of 24 and 72. The band’s music is a mixture of Reggae, Mento and Ska drawing from the Jazz beats of the 1940s and 1950s. Each member of the band is acclaimed specialist in his field and in the position to improvise whenever the situation arises to keep the audience grooving.

DJ MJ Cole: DJ MJ Cole is at home in London’s Garage-Scene. He has worked with great artists including Mariah Carey and De La Soul. With two vocalists and his remix-skill, he provided a funky session at the Black Atlantic.

DJ Grace Kelly: DJ Grace Kelly from Salvador da Bahia lives in Berlin. She kept the dancing floor filled with Brazilian, Oriental, Latin and World music.

DJ Jah Shaka: The British-Jamaican called The Dub Warrior is one of the most creative sound technicians/artists in London. His rhythm kept the party alive.

 

Films Program

Moving pictures have played a major role in stereotyping Blacks. The character-roles given to Blacks in the early films were predominantly that of individuals at the bottom of the social scale. Documentary films and their commentaries tend to present Blacks as outcasts. The impact of films was quickly identified by some Black talents like Spike Lee, Oscar Micheaux and Julie Dash who became film producers and used the medium to present different image of Blacks. The Black Atlantic project presented a film program that gives an insight into Black lifestyle/culture, experience/life story and historical events across the continents of Europe, Africa and the Americas. The comedy, action and documentary films include the following:

  • Feel Like Going Home (Blues III), Martin Scorsese, USA 2003
  • Black Russians, Kara Lynch, USA 2001
 
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  • Hope In My Heart: The May Ayim Story, Maria Binder, BRD 1997
  • Tal der Ahnungslosen, Branwen Okpako, BRD 2003
  • La Lupe, Ela Troyano, USA 2003
  • Baadassss Cinema, Isaac Julien, USA 2003
  • Gettin’ The Man’s Foot Outta Your Baadassss!, Mario Van Peebles, USA 2003
  • e minha cara / that's my face, Thomas Allen Harris, USA 2001
  • Fala Tu, Guilherme Coelho, Brasilien 2003
  • Weiße Geister, Martin Baer, BRD 2004
  • Politics from a Black Woman’s Insides, Yuko Edwards, GB 1998
  • Hitler’s Forgotten Victims, , David Okuefuna und Moise Shewa, GB 1997

 

Theater/Dance Performance

Babel

Ismael Ivo, the renowned Brazilian dancer and choreograph developed a theater/dance performance art titled Babel for Platform I of the Black Atlantic project. The performance combines oral history and dance movements to interpret cultural flows entailed in the Black Atlantic. Three distinguished elderly Black women, each about 70 years old, namely Mae Beata, Othella Dallas and Tereza Santos form a strong source of remembrance and inspiration for the improvised dance performance. Mae Beata is a priest of the Afro/Brazilian syncretist Candomblé religion living in Bahia. Othella Dallas is an accomplished Jazz vocalist and dancer that had performed with Sammy Davis jr., and Josephine Baker. Tereza Santos is a film director and actress engaged in fight against dictatorship in South America and Africa. The 8 dancers with dancing-backgrounds ranging from Classics, Hip Hop to Copoeira were brought together to perform by Ivo and the Brazilian film director Maria Thais. With the three honorable elderly women commenting scenes of the dance performance, the dancers gracefully interpreted the themes of the Black Atlantic; concealed remembrance, fear, darkness, resiliency, communication, cultural identity, religion/spirituality and revolution.

Black Berlin Bus Tour / Poesie des Unsichtbares (Poetry of the Invisible)

A bus tour of Berlin with Ismael Ivo and his company offered participants the chance to visit places historically relevant to Black German life experience in Berlin as well as the African-German colonial history. These places included the Mohrenstrasse, around where the historic Congo Conference took place, which led to the territorial division and control of Africa by the colonial powers, the Hererostein at Garnisonsfriedhof (Garnison Cemetery), the afrikanische Viertel (African Neighbourhood) in an area of Berlin called Wedding and the Olympiastadion (Olympia Stadium). During the tour Ismael Ivo and members of his company combined textual captions and music in their performance to present Afro-German and colonial history. As part of the program, the participants and the result of the youth dance performance workshop Dance of the Freed were presented.

 

Intercultural Youth Program

For youths especially in Europe, the Black culture is synonymous with Soul, Rap, Hip Hop music, fashion, modern dance and artistic expressions. The intercultural youth program of the Black Atlantic project gave the youths the opportunity to discover places relevant to Black German history in Berlin and learn about Black history by participating in workshops. The workshops include the following:

Performance Workshop with Ismael Ivo

The Brazilian dancer and choreograph, Ismael Ivo organized three events with youths that combine narratives and dance performance to trace the Black German history in Berlin. In the main performance Babel three women narrated Black historical experience and the Black Berlin City Bus Tour followed Black German history spots in Berlin. The event The Making Of gave an insight into how Ivo’s performance arts Black Babylon and Bus Tour are developed. The event Haltestelle Zoologischer Garten presented an improvised performance at an important place in Black German history. The performance is used as a prolog to the Bus Tour. The third event Dance of the Freed included Breakdance, Copoeira and New Yorker Street dance performances.
 
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Art Workshop

An art workshop Afrikanisches Viertel (The African Neighborhood) with the Nigerian photographer, Akinbode Akinbiyi and the installation artist Moshekwa Langa reflected African–German colonial history in visual art forms.

Hip Hop Workshop

In a workshop Puppetmastaz, youths in cooperation with a puppets producer from Berlin created puppets representing Pop/Hip Hip stars including including Jay-Z, Africa Bambaataa, Missy Elliott and Sylvia Robinson. The figures were then used in a puppet show with Rap, Pop and Hip Hop music to present the story of the youth culture; the Hip Hop/Rap culture.

Radio Workshop

A radio studio was made available at the House of World Cultures in which youths organized, produced and aired programs relevant to the Black Atlantic themes for over 2 months. The youths researched African-German colonial history and interviewed authors, music stars and artists around Berlin to learn about Black culture.

 

Organizers, Project Team and Curators

The House of World Cultures

The House of World Cultures is a non-profit organization of the Federal republic of Germany. The duty of the House of World Cultures is to exhibit non-European cultures in the area of visual arts, dance, theatre, literature, music, film and media in comparison to European cultures and present a platform for public discussions. The programs of the House of World Cultures focus on contemporary arts, the current cultural developments in Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as the impact of globalisation on arts and cultures. Projects that enable the investigation of intercultural cooperation and presentation constitute the focal point of the programs.

An advisory board consisting of international artists and scholars advice the House of World Cultures in developing project themes.  Project ideas are derived from connections to worldwide network of cultural institutions. Taking the advantage of the network and in cooperation with international curators, innovative programs are developed through the process of discussions. The Black Atlantic project was developed through this process and financed by the Federal Cultural Foundation Germany. The whole program was under the patronage of the German UNESCO commission and supported by the Cultural Ministry of Brazil (Ministério da Cultura do Brasil).

The Black Atlantic Project Team

It should be mentioned that the Black Atlantic project became a reality through the input of many people who deserve credits. The organisers and core team members include Hans-Georg Knopp (artistic director, the House of World Cultures), Peter C. Seel (project leader of Black Atlantic, the House of World Cultures), Johannes Odental (responsible for music and dance programs), Paul Gilroy (curator of the Black Atlantic), Fatima El-Tayeb (curator of the film/historical discussions programs), Tina Campt (co-curator of the Black Atlantic), Shaheen Merali (curator of visual art exhibitions), Henrike Grohs (young people workshops), Jean-Paul Bourelly (artistic director/curator of the music platform Congo Square) and Ismael Ivo (artistic director/choreographer of dance performances/young people workshops).

The Curators

The appointed curators of the Black Atlantic project are people whose academic background and research fields reflect in-depth knowledge of African/Black history, cultural and racial
 
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issues as well as contemporary art including music and dance performances. A brief profile of each curator, namely Paul Gilroy, Fatima El-Tayeb, Tina Campt, Shaheen Merali, Jean-Paul Bourelly and Ismael Ivo is presented as follow:

Paul Gilroy, the author of the book from which the title of the project originates is a professor of sociology and African-American studies at Yale University at the time of this report. An African descendant, he was born in London and received his PhD from Birmingham University in 1979. He has written and co-written academic papers and books including the following:

  • Postcolonial Melancholia (2004)
  • After Empire: Multiculture or Postcolonial Melancholia (2004)
  • Blackening Europe: The African American Presence (Crosscurrents in African American History) (2003)
  • Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line (2001)
  • Between Camps (200)
  • Status of Difference: From Epidermalisation to Nano-politics (Critical Urban Studies: Occasional Papers) (1995)
  • Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Cultures (1994)
  • The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993).
  • There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack': The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation (Black Literature & Culture) (1991)

In his curator’s note, Gilroy expresses the aims of the project. According to him, the Black Atlantic is neither a period nor region but conceived as a trans/inter-cultural space. This new space is not defined by places but by flows. Culture crosses the Black Atlantic and flows or moves between Africa, the America and Western Europe. Due to these movements, the formal concept of linking culture with land and territory becomes questionable. Culture can no longer be understood as a settled phenomenon. The project aims to show how art and culture has taken on the challenge to find new forms of capturing the truths of history; the history of slave trade, racial injustice, sufferings and traumas. Since literacy was forbidden, the African slaves and their descendants turned music into a dominant tool that shaped the quality of other forms of art. This historic development is remembered and celebrated in the Black Atlantic project by making music the prevailing form of art. General topics in contemporary art and culture are also addressed while giving room for critique of modernity. The programs of the project also reflect upon the technologies that helped the Black culture in its development and popularity in the framework of globalisation.

In relation to the mass migration to Europe from former colonies, Gilroy says, “Black Atlantic invite us to consider the possibility that trans-culturalisation might provide a host of cultural opportunities and could potentially supply significant resources for the building and enhancing Europe’s multi-cultural democracy”. The project investigates the German colonial history and raises questions about the unrecorded history of the Black presence in Germany, particularly in the city of Berlin. It will remind us that Berlin played a crucial role in defining the geo-political boundaries of colonial territories. In this context, the project provides a discussion platform that explores various problems relating to how Germany and its forgotten colonial past. In all, the Black Atlantic project presents different facets of Black culture and shows the difficulty in re-writing history, which tells us that we are no longer what we were and cannot go back to a fixed root. It is time to move on.

Fatima El-Tayeb studied at the University of Hamburg, Germany where she received her PhD in history. The revised version of her dissertation entitled “Black Germans and German Racism: Oxymoron or Repressed History? African Germans and the discourse on “race”, 1900-1933,” (Schwarze Deutsche. Der Diskurs um »Rasse« und nationale Identität 1890-1933) was published in 2001. Fatima El-Tayeb is an assistant professor of Assistant Professor of African-American Literature and Culture: African American Popular Culture; Diaspora Studies; Film Studies; (Black) European History; Queer Theory at the University of California, San Diego at the time of this report. She is also a film maker. A selected list of her publications includes the following:
 
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  • “Limited Horizons. Queer Identity in Fortress Europe", in: Can the Subaltern speak German? Migration and Postcolonial Criticism, ed. Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez/Hito Steyerl, Muenster: Unrast Verlag 2004: 129-145
  • "'If You Cannot Pronounce My Name, You Can Just Call Me Pride'. Afro-German Activism, Gender, and Hip Hop", Gender & History 15/3 (2003): 459-485
  • "Germans, Foreigners, and German Foreigners. Constructions of National Identity in Early 20th Century Germany", in: Unpacking Europe. Towards a Critical Reading , ed. Salah Hassan/Iftikhar Dadi, Rotterdam: NAI 2001: 70-84
  • Schwarze Deutsche. Der Diskurs um 'Rasse' und nationale Identität 1890 – 1933, Frankfurt/New York: Campus 2001
  • “’Blood Is a Very Special Juice’: Racialized Bodies and Citizenship in 20th Century Germany,” in: Complicating Categories: Gender, Race, Class, and Ethnicity, ed. Eileen Boris, International Review of Social History 44 (1999): 149-169
  • Alles wird gut (Everything will be fine), feature film, Germany 1997 (with Angelina Maccarone)

Fatima El-Tayeb commented in her curator’s note on the influence of film as a medium used for visual presentation and conveying complex stories in the 20th Century; Films influence our perception of the world we are living in and the world too far away for us to be part of. Moreover, movies played pivotal role in constructing Black people as the “Other”. Right from the early days of filming, blackness has always been featured and stereotyped in all types of movies from documentaries to action films. In order to counter the flood of stereotyped images of blackness, Black artists like Oscar Micheaux, Spike Lee or Julie Dash have applied the same medium to create and present their own images. This issue of counter-presentations is a key topic within the Black Atlantic project. The influence of moving images on popular culture is enormous and cannot be neglected. Including a series of films in the project’s programs is therefore imperative. With organized panel discussions following the screenings, the Black Atlantic provides an environment for dialogues between African, Afro-European, African-American artists and others from different ethnical background.

Tina Campt earned her PhD in German History from Cornell University and became a faculty member of Duke University as an Associate Professor and Interim Director of the Women's Studies Program in 2002. In her academic work, she focuses on the history of Afro-German women, gender, memory and racial formation among African descendants in the Diaspora within communities in German and the whole of Europe. Her recent publications include the following:

  • T.M. Campt. ""Diaspora Space, Ethnographic Space -- Writing History Between the Lines"." Globalization Race and Cultural Production  (forthcoming 2005).
  • T.M. Campt and Paul Gilroy in cooperation with the House of World Cultures, Berlin. Der Black Atlantic. , 2004.
  • T.M. Campt. "Schwarze Deutsche Gegenerinnerung: Der Black Atlantic als gegenhistoriografische Praxis." Der Black Atlantic. Edited by Tina Campt and Paul Gilroy in cooperation with the House of World Cultures, Berlin. 2004.
  • T.M. Campt. "Converging Spectres of An Other Within: Race and Gender in Prewar Afro-German History." Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German History and Culture from 1890-2000. Edited by Patricia Mazon and Reinhold Steingroever. 2004.
  • T.M. Campt. Other Germans, Black Germans, and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich.  University of Michigan Press, November, 2003

In her role as a co-curator, Tina Campt helped in developing the concept of the Black Atlantic in particular the historical presentations and discussion podium.

Shaheen Merali, a visual artist of Asian descent joined House of World Cultures, Berlin in 2003 the as the Head of Department for Exhibition, Film and New Media.

Apart from his engagement as a curator, he has worked as a lecturer at Central Saint Martins School of Art and carried out research at the University of Westminster. He co-founded Panchayat Arts Education Resource Unit, a theme based archive currently held at the
 
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University of Westminster. His recent solo and group exhibitions include the following:

  • Kunsthalle Exnergasse, presented at Vienna and Art Exchange, Nottingham.
    Host, Hastings Museum
  • Site+Sight, shown at Earl Lau Gallery, Singapore
  • The Crown Jewels, presented at Kampnagel, Hamburg
  • Musee Imaginaire, presented Museum of Installation, Ubudoda, Metropolitan Gallery, Cape Town ;
  • 'Out of India', shown at Queens Museum, New York
  • 'Transforming The Crown', shown at Bronx Museum, New York
  • Colored Folks, a collaborative performance/ video work, shown at ICA and Centre of Attention in London as well as the National Review of Live Arts, Glasgow.
  • “Far away and long ago”, an exhibition of prints and illustrations shown at Michael Graham-Stewart, New Bond Street, London, March 2000.

In his artistic work, consisting of installation, sculpture and performance, Shaheen Merali deals with race, language and culture in particular colonized culture. In a statement referring to Africa in art contest, Merali said "To show art (as a language) in a different way by itself without the context of geography and a predefined history is in itself a hard task. To show Africa without the parameters of past and present perceptions including it as a defining location of slavery is even a harder task. These permanent imprints that has created strangers and differences, of institutional dehumanisation and destabilised territories- are vital ways to understand modernity and modernism. If it wasn't for the timidity of institutions and curators maybe we could discuss many situations with vigour and agitation." According to Shaheen Merali in his curator’s note, the art works exhibited at the Black Atlantic helps us to modify the way we look at the world. In a creative way, the exhibition gives us a different visual comprehension of the formation of Diaspora, which in itself specifies an important cultural formation.

Jean-Paul Bourelly is a guitarist, composer and conceptualist born in Chicago, USA into a Haitian family of talented musicians. He moved to New York in 1979 as a teenager where he developed his skills as a guitarist and found engagements with great musicians like Muhal Richard Abrams for the release of Blues Forever (Down Beat Record of the Year), worked together with legendary drummers Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones as well as the saxophone visionary Pharoah Sanders. His creative art to play the guitar was noticed in the jazz music community and was acknowledged with several recording opportunities. Over the years, Bourelly’s popularity has grown due to his electrifying live performances not only in the USA but especially in Europe. He has produced/released many Albums including the following:

  • Ayibobo - Stone Voudou : Recorded live in Berlin august 2001
  • TRANCE ATLANTIC - Boom Bop II: Released 29. august 2001 - (Germany)
  • Boom Bop: Released 29. may 2000
  • Vibe Music: Released 1. march 1999
  • Fade to Cacophony – Live: produced 1996
  • Rock the Cathartic Spirits: Vibe Music & The Blues: produced 1995
  • Tribute to Jimi: produced 1994
  • Blackadelic-blue: produced 1994
  • Freestyle (with Ayibobo): produced 1993
  • Saints and Sinners With the The BlueWave Bandits: produced 1993
  • Trippin (with the The BlueWave Bandits): produced 1991
  • Jungle Cowboy: produced 1986-87
For the Black Atlantic, Bourelly conceptualised the “Congo Square” platform. As the artistic director of the platform, Bourelly’s main idea is to show how slavery, industrialisation and the current information age has helped to transport African cultural aesthetics through space and  time by means of writing, language and prominently music to develop into novel contemporary art form. This contemporary art form is exemplified by the Black Atlantic music. By bringing different artists together on the stage, spontaneously composing and creatively improvising to deliver good music, the project would reveal how resiliency and flexibility has helped to survive the terror, isolation and trauma of slavery. Through dialogues/symposia, the Congo Square
 
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would investigate the history of jazz music, the impact of modern technology and the future direction of music within the Black culture.

Ismael Ivo, a Brazilian born in São Paulo, is an international acclaimed dancer and choreographer. He joined the renowned New Yorker "Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre" in 1983 after receiving honours in 1981 and 1982 as the best dancer. He moved to Europe in 1985 as a solo dancer and had since made an impressive career including appointment as the artistic director of the “International Dance Week” in Vienna lasting for over 10 years and the first Brazilian and Black director of the Dance Theatre und Choreography at German National Theatre in Weimar. Ismael Ivo has worked with theatre personalities Johann Kresnik, George Tabori and Takashi Kako. He featured in the commissioned productions "Tristan and Isolde" with Marcia Haydée and "Die Zofen" (The Maids) by Yoshi Oïda at the House of World Cultures. He has his own dance group based at the “Theaterhaus” in Stuttgart, Germany and performs extensively within Europe particularly in Berlin. The following is a shortlist of his dance productions/performances in the late 90 till 2002:

  • Transit (Production / Performance, 2003)
  • Mapplethorpe (Production / Performance, 2002)
  • Die Zofen (Production / Performance, 2001)
  • Ödipus (Production / Performance, 2001)
  • Aura (Production / Performance, 2000)
  • Floresta do Amazonas (Production / Performance, 2000)
  • Faust Teil 1 und 2 (Production / Performance, 1999)
  • Mephisto (Production / Performance, 1999)
  • Das Leichenbegräbnis der Großen Mama (Production / Performance, 1999)
  • Dionysos (Production / Performance, 1999)
  • Tristan und Isolde (Production / Performance, 1999)
  • Medea-Material (Production / Performance, 1998)

Ismael Ivo produced a commissioned work for the Black Atlantic project based on research of the historical transmission of African tradition during the transatlantic slave trade. Drawing from his experience with traditional oral history used by his grandmother, who was born into slavery, Isamael Ivo made oral history the nucleus of the performance. Black women of distinction with average age of 70 years, namely Mãe Beata from Bahia, jazz singer and dancer Othella Dallas and actress and film director Tereza Santos provided the oral history. The power of their remembrance and their lively presence provide the igniting inspiration for the improvised dance performance. Ismael Ivo and the Brazilian film director Maria Thaìs brought together 8 dancers from diverse areas of Copoeira, Hip Hop, classic and modern dance to perform.

 

Interviews

Jean-Paul Bourelly 

Afritopic: Under which category would you list your type of music?

Jean-Paul: In every field of profession, people like to categorize and define. This is also true in the music field. We are breaking the rules of categorization by bringing different musicians from different nations and music backgrounds to produce music. The resulting sound is new with elements ranging from Jazz, Blues, Funk and Soul to Afro Beat. This strategy allows us to grow. It is creative, practicable and functional. We cannot grow if we conform rigorously to a specific music category. It is necessary for us to reinvent and improvise spontaneously. Referring to the music of my band, we hear some people saying, “The music is not pure jazz anymore, not pure soul anymore”. My answer is, “Of course, it is not that anymore. We are moving. We do not want to be stagnant and get stuck to the specifics of a music category. We want to
 
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keep moving. Our music is a continuous movement. This is necessary for us and our music to survive”. 

Afritopic: How did you get involved in the Black Atlantic project and what did you want to achieve with your concept?

Jean-Paul: The contact was established through my involvement as a conceptualist in The Backroom project at the House of Cultures, Berlin. Stars including Dou Dou N’Diaye Rose, Hassan Hakmoun, Southern India’s drum master Palgut Raguand and Voudou group Ayibobo participated in the events of the project. I was approached and asked to conceive an idea focusing on music that would fit into The Black Atlantic project. Due to the success of The Backroom project and my background as a Haitian that grew up in the southern part of the US and with extensive experience in the New York music scene, I was arguably the best choice to develop a music concept for The Black Atlantic project. I decided to develop a music program that would portray the richness and diversity of Black Heritage. I wanted to include different musicians from North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa and around the globe. In different parts of the world, for example in Brazil, different styles of Blues and Jazz are developed by implementing traditional and local instruments. By so doing, the music is brought to another level, another dimension. I was able to bring musicians together who are masters in their own music genre. Following short rehearsal and sound checks, these musicians including me on the guitar delivered music that took all types of Black music to a new dimension. This is a testimony to our creativity. I understand music as a combination of elements. I do not have to be an Afro Beat guitarist, Juju guitarist or a Blues guitarist in order to produce harmonious rhythms in an Afro Beat, Juju or a Blues band. All I need to do is to understand the elements of the music the band is playing and deliver elements of my own music that complement the elements of the band’s type of music. This is why I refrain from categorization of music. The Black music has survived and attained worldwide recognition through changes. It is a big challenge to regularly employ creative changes. But we have to take up this challenge in order to survive. We have to continue to change elements of the music before the main stream or the dominating power understands it enough to take it away from us and capitalize on it. Continuous change is the formula to our survival.

Music was a crucial means of communication for Blacks in the slave trade era. It was a means of survival. Today, Blacks in general are still struggling to survive. For survival, we need to be creative. Our creativity has helped us to keep our identity and cultural heritage. The dominating power keeps promising equality. But we are still waiting to see equality being implemented. We have no option other than to be creative in order to survive.

Afritopic: Music was and is definately a means of communication. In which way do you think we could improve communication between people of African descent?

Jean-Paul: We now have other means of communication. A good example is what you “AFRITOPIC” is doing. You are presenting a means to link us together in a network. That is what the main stream media like CNN is doing. One of our problems is lack of information due the difficulty of making information available to people of African descent in different countries around the world. The internet would definitely help to resolve this problem. People who are curious and thirsty of information may now access the internet for their needs. Hopefully, we would have more people like you providing information on the net.

Afritopic: When did you develop interest in music?

Jean-Paul: While growing up in Chicago, I became a lover of the guitar through the influence of Jimi Hendrix’s music. I told my mother about my interest in playing the guitar. She told me to work and save to buy one. So, I worked, saved, bought a guitar and started playing without any conventional training. I was playing on the streets some of the chords from the music I heard until I got to a point that I felt I needed some formal training. I started private lessons and later received a scholarship to study at the University. I did not stay long at the University. I decided to go to New York because all the music artists that I liked were in New York. In New York, I got into the music business and worked together with various artists in particular Jazz music artists. New York was like a melting point of a variety of Black music with ascents derived from African rhythms and multi-languages. My activities in New York played vital role in my career as a music artist.     Photo>
 
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Photo Impressions

Linton Kwesi Johnson concert

Berimbrown concert

Congo Square

DJ Grace Kelly

Discussion Panel: Black Europe

Literature Session: Women Writers of the Black Atlantic

 

Conclusion

The Black Atlantic event that took place between 17 September and 15 November 2004 at the House of World Cultures in Berlin provided a grand opportunity for everyone to gain an insight to diverse aspects and consequences of the traumatic slave trade era; the resiliency and survival tactics of African slaves in the new world, the innovative communication method of African slaves, which resulted in artistic creativity particularly in the music sector, the transatlantic flow of Black culture, Black History, African Diaspora, African-German colonial history and Afro-German experience from the middle of the 20th century, during the Nazi regime up till the present day. The public could participate in discussion symposia, view visual art exhibitions and movies, listen to authentic Afro-German life experiences, feel and enjoy different forms of music with African origin or elements of African rhythm from Jazz to Hip Hop. Hopefully, the event will create awareness of the Afro-German issues and Black achievements as well as recognize the African-German colonial history as an unforgettable part of German history.
 
  Black Atlantic Event 2004 – The Report by AFRITOPIC. All rights reserved
 

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