creative technology For Ethnologists
Using Fiction to Explore Social Facts; presented at American Association of Anthropologists, 2014
Fuck rationality. Ours is an afrodiasporic, afrofuturistic ethic of beyond-whiteness that materializes the now and the then and the yet-to-come as full of color, craft and technology, spiritful and ripe with. Afrodiasporic peoples were abducted by aliens. Therefore, they are the first and original pioneers of space travel. The future is us, all of us, and we are here now making it, ayi bobo. We are travelers who ride the trains and some people recognize us for what we are. Others are charmed. Some fear us. They see our surfaces, we are cocooned inside, communicating with covered gestures, flicks of fringe. Our bodies are our language, but our skin betrays no secrets. Old identities zipped away, we float. It is a new form of weightlessness, a social fact-in-the-making. Are we freed from what we were? Sometimes. Here is a rhythm we can share, a fleeting syncopated friendship. Do we become something better? Perhaps not. Here, it comes together. Rasanble. The journey is us, we wear it upon ourselves, it is our second skin.
Here in my hand is a microphone, I cup my palm to your face, you can whisper ever so quietly and still you will be captured gently. What will you say? The color of your jacket, see how my face lights up in the same shade to show my solidarity with your solidity? Let me explore you, it won’t hurt. There’s no need for touch, light moves in waves from you to me. We are recording, we make records, we collect, we preserve, we consider, cut and recut, making narratives out of the journeys that some think are nothing. They are our treasures.
Fuck empathy. We are self trackers cutting new paths. Our data is our own, we cede nothing to Nike, seeding sites and sights. Our GPS trails are blazing as we cruise the rails, run on roads, dancing when the white man in the crosswalk sign beckons. Our choreographies move to cyberspace, our footsteps scale up and up and with this timestamp what is us is caught, a digital moment of forever. We are not here for you but we are here with you. In your time we are now.
We wear our stories head to toe. Stories of generations, crossing continents and sou lanme we travel from Ginen to new worlds. Let us quilt them together. The waves rise and fall above us, our footfalls land in sand beneath the depths. They train astronauts for weightlessness in the deep sea. They learn to be aliens by diving down. In this print, onlays of Indonesian wax, color by color by color, designed in Nairobi for a British company and displayed in Kampala in an Asian-owned shop. The pattern is pinked up versions of the British monarch’s crown. Real English Wax. Real Dutch Wax. Whose Real Africa is this? Whose Real African is this? Stripped of history and marketed as tradition. Our national dress was invented by missionaries. Muslim conglomerates supply our silks.
The Spirit Lives On
M'pa gen anyen pou bay ou/I don't have anything to give you M'ap bay ou kouray mwen/I'll give you my courage
Take courage. When you look into my face you see yourself.
Gravity holds us to the earth.
Sou lanme we go.
I face you face my face you see you face yourself.
Pick a bale of cotton.
The triangle of trade is the global geometry of capital.
Pick a bale a day.
M'ap bay ou kouray mwen.
Ogou Ezili Damballah Yemanja Osanyin Xango Dantor
I can touch you from here.
M'ap navige/I'm finding my way