Tabita Rezaire, Dilo (Detail), 2017. Courtesy of the artist und Goodman Gallery, South Africa
Gaps, holes, erasures are spectral wounds in the flesh of history. In the context of the Black Atlantic and African history, how can repair – beyond material reparation – acknowledge that former and future memories, relations and possibilities can never be fully restituted? Is it possible to heal the colonial wound and what haunts the present time, in the social body and collective consciousness, retrieving missing voices, unveiled stories and reclaiming other ways of knowing, being and relating?
This edition of the New Alphabet School will focus on afro-diasporic or folk healing practices, therapeutic or shamanistic modes of cure and restoration and Indigenous, decolonial and feminist practices that hold a transformative power. What is their role in the maintenance of personal and social well-being? The lens will be on sacredness, spirituality, connection with the land and the ancestors, with the human and more-than-human elements, through dance, sound, orality and ritual ceremonies. “Healing” and the Wolof term “Faju” here are understood as a process of repairing traumatic relationships through non-Western epistemologies and cosmovisions. It is about unlearning hegemonic and Western-centric patterns, including extractivist forms of knowledge appropriation. Thus the #Healing edition is an offering to investigate the potential for “healing” society from systemic forms of oppression like colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy and modernity.
#Healing (Faju) will bring together healers, artists, practitioners and scholars to share healing traditions and technologies grounded in Indigenous and ancestral knowledge systems. Workshops und divinatory sessions will be convened online by participants of the New Alphabet School.
Convened by Alessandra Pomarico, Esther Poppe, Yayra Sumah and Maya V. El Zanaty
In cooperation with RAW Material Company, École de Sables, Bibliothèque Terme Sud and Goethe-Institut Senegal:
Day 1: Thursday, Feb 04
6pm Our Songs, Our Medicines
Curatorial introduction by Alessandra Pomarico, Esther Poppe, Yayra Sumah and Maya V. El Zanaty
What does it mean to be healed? The spirit of colonial, capitalist and patriarchal exploitation continues to haunt contemporary societies. It is a poison and a parasite feeding on the pain, trauma, anxiety and depression it causes in people’s minds and bodies. This introduction is a gateway for the participants’ minds and spirits to connect with this program’s collective journey: It is an invocation and an invitation to tune into the frequencies of the ancestors and spirit guides through ritual practices in order to gravitate towards a vibration of healing.
6.30pm Mamelles Ancestrales
D: Tabita Rezaire, Senegal 2019, 62 min, in French with English Subtitles
In Mamelles Ancestrales Tabita Rezaire investigates the quest of our ancestors and the methods they used to understand and connect to the celestial realms in the face of a contemporary drive for spatial conquest. Drawing inspiration from the megalithic landscapes of Senegal and The Gambia, space debris, archaeology, astronomy, numerology, theology and African understandings of the cosmos, Mamelles Ancestrales strives to establish pathways between heaven and earth, between the living and the dead, in a world where celestial bodies, mineral life and spirits sing together.
The video is the result of the artist’s research and expeditions to the stone circles of Sine Ngayene and Wanar in Senegal and Wassu and Kerbatch in The Gambia. Gathering stories from the guardians of the sites, local populations and other understandings from astronomers, archeologists and theologians to unfold the mysteries of the thousands of stones circles scattered across Senegambia, Mamelles Ancestrales goes in pursuit of an ancient African Megalithic civilization so as to better understand our own. From petrified brides to burial sites, ancient observatories, ceremonial ground, haunted places, or energy device, for Rezaire the stone circles become the center of a scientific, mystic and cosmologic research.
7.30–10.30pm, with registration Transatlantic Sounds: “What would you say if I told you that Black history has been denied?”
Sound marathon by Tomás Espinosa, Jorge Gómez, Carina Madsius and Linda-Philomène Tsoungui with Laeïla Adjovi, Margarita Ariza, Corinna Fiora, Mario Henao, Christian Howard Hooker, Ibaaku, Muhammed Lamin Jadama, LoMaasBello, Macú, Daba Makourejah, Daniela Maldonado (Red Comunitaria Trans), Johan Mijail, Yos Piña Narvaez, Ariel Palacios, Fundación Cultural Pilón, Abdulah Sow
The African diaspora carries pain but also embraces transformation. Against the backdrop of trauma and violence, diasporic movements turned the Atlantic into a tunnel of cultural exchanges, where different Africas met the Caribbean, the Atlantic and the Pacific coast of Abya Yala as Indigenous people call the pre-colonized territory of what today is referred to as the American continent. They have been laying the foundations of a mestizaje that is reflected in dance, ritual practices, popular religiosity, musical instruments, drums, percussion. These manifestations have been undervalued, diluted and racialized by colonial structures of power, generating disconnections between afro-diasporic communities and a part of history – the history of the Black Atlantic.
In a digital marathon, an archive of sounds, voices and experiences will be created while the participants exchange ideas, generate discussions and listen to each other. The marathon will bring together musicians, artists and other guests from Senegal, the Caribbean, Colombia and the Senegalese diaspora in Berlin. Through poems, interventions and other means, they will share their experience as members of the diaspora with the participants. This marathon lays the ground for the online transmission on February 6th.
Day 2: Friday, Feb 05
4–6pm, with registration
Online workshop Ancestral Altars
With Yayra Sumah
An altar is a portal. It is a black hole, a wormhole and a nexus place where we give and receive information and where we can meet the inner and outer space of ourselves. In this teach-in on ancestral altars which draws from Kongo spirituality and its culture (“bukongo”), participants are invited to the starting point of the altar. At the altar they will learn how to speak with the dead and hear them to speak back to us: in our minds, our dreams and in every aspect of our lives. At the altar participants will connect to the generations who came before us – to those who are every part of our bodies and so are connected to all the elements of the Earth. “Bukongo” teaches that when we divine we may find out that some of our ancestors are wounded and angry and have been making us sick. But when we do the work to heal our ancestors, our ancestors also work to heal us. Kongo ancestral healing rituals combine colors, geometries and elements on altars which are intended to retrieve, make amends with and ascend those ancestors of our bodies’ pain and trauma.
6.30–9pm, with registration
Online workshop Mending Broken World(s)*
With Mukhtara Yusuf
Trauma lives both at the site of psyches and nations. There is a multiplicity within and outside of a person that mediates this trauma. Trauma is a wordless narrative, a conversation in bodies that builds and grows and changes via interactions. It is through compassionate dialog, commune-ication with the othered parts inside of oneself and the othered ones outside of oneself, that those parts that exist beyond fissure could be uncovered. So it might be possible to find what lives in the place where the spectral wound reveals itself as not a ghost but an ancestor, living inside the very being.
In this workshop, Mukhtara Yusuf asks how it is possible to unburden the ecosystem from its colonial wounds and (re)build our worlds. Can pain itself be understood as resistance to enclosure? What are the internal computations of trauma, of healing? Through multimedia presentation and discussion, the participants will navigate these questions. Yusuf will share how they has used Indigenous and somatic inheritances of Yoruba knowledge and theology as a guide for their personal and communal work. Following a pluralistic approach rather than one that universalizes Indigenous knowledge, they will offer concepts and methods for how participants can carry out their own culturally relevant and specific healing explorations. Persons who identify as Yoruba and those who with familiarity engaging internal healing work are especially welcome.
*Inspired by Wande Abimbola’s Ifa Will Mend Our Broken World
Day 3: Saturday, Feb 06
2–4pm Transatlantic Sounds: “What would you say if I told you that our Black history has been denied?”
Performance ritual by Tomás Espinosa, Jorge Gómez, Carina Madsius and Linda-Philomène Tsoungui with Muhammed Lamin Jadama, Abdulah Sow and Co
To recognize oneself as afro-diasporic is to be aware that identities are the result of ruptures and fragmentations. This reveals that a part of history has been silenced and disconnected. These wounds are not yet repaired but might be healed through sounds and the act of listening to each other. In an audio performance ritual streamed into the digital realm, the contributors will be offering improvisations, live sound interventions and jam sessions based on samples from the sound marathon of February 4. Communicated through a communal radio frequency they will open a portal and connect Tumaco with Dakar, Berlin and other points of the partially disconnected African diaspora. The act of listening and the cathartic power of music and its vibrations permeate the body to heal the traumas of the past, to connect and vibrate together.
4.30pm–6pm, with registration
Online workshop The Body Divines
With Wangũi wa Kamonji
Workshop in three parts:
1st part: Mon, Jan 18, 3pm
2nd part: Mon, Feb 1, 3pm
3rd part: Sat, Feb 6, 4.30pm
Colonial State education systems violently implant and enforce the capacity of knowing in the book and teacher alone, thus robbing the Earth and learners’ bodies and ancestral connections of their recognition, confidence and power as sites of knowledge. The Body Divines is an intervention to heal the harm of colonially inherited state education systems through reclaiming Indigenous ways of being and knowing. In three consecutive workshops, participants are invited to move through grief to desire to questioning and relate to various Indigenous ways of knowing. The first workshop on January 18 is facilitated in the philosophy of a divination. The participants’ wounds are honored as teachers; desires are excavated and questions are uplifted as world opening forces. What follows is a 2-week space of individual co-created experimental interaction; a sacred ceremony of re-awakening relationship with a dimension of life such as wind, water, dreams, plants, animals or movement processes to explore the discerned question. In a second workshop on February 1, the participants will gather online again to share their experiences of reanimated ways of knowing, allowing the possibility of our individual healing becoming communal healing.
The first two workshops especially welcome participants who identify as having been schooled in a colonial state education system. The third part is an online gathering on February 6 open to a wider public. Registration is nevertheless necessary. Participants will witness a presentation of the previously conducted workshops. In the larger round, the group will then share experiences of reanimated knowing, allowing the possibility of our individual healing to become communal healing.