Kitambo, Institut Français, French EmbassyTheme:
Who's the stranger in me?Conductor:
José Daniel Balanta, editorial statement, from the AtWork Catalog.
AtWork Cali Chapter 23 has been implemented by the Moleskine Foundation in partnership with Kitambo. It was the first chapter of the ‘Who is the stranger in me?’ tour and first official AtWork Chapter in Latin America.
AtWork “Who is the stranger in me?” curatorial statement by Simon Njami, AtWork Advisor:
The Fon and the Bakongo cultures share the same type of divinity: Nana Buluku for the first and Mahungu for the second. For the Bakongo, Mahungu was a two headed creature who was split in two parts and gave birth to a male (Lumba) and a female (Muzita). For the Fon, Nana Buluku created the male and the female from its androgynous nature. This stranger in me should not be confused with somebody coming from outside, like the Jewish dibbouk (a demon that haunts its victim’s spirit) or Sosia, Plautus’ character (the slave with many faces). Instead, it is another part of me. That part that activates actions or reflections that I don’t totally master and that, at times, can surprise me, as if I had been daydreaming or had been a victim of a somnambulism period. Neither it is the German doppelgänger, even if that mythological character opens up to a reflection about the duality of human beings. In the African vaudou or certain Latin American ceremonies, the trances allow people to reach another part of their personality and to bring out hidden information that they had no consciousness of. It’s a shout that frees this intangible part of their psyche. It is perhaps the same kind of metaphorical shout developed in Albert Camus novel “La chute”, the story of Jean-Baptiste Clamence (from the latin clamens, which means shouting out, in reference to John the Baptist who preached in the desert) who, at a certain period of his life, becomes his own judge. Until the revealing moment where he did not try to save a drowning young woman who will die, the high idea he had of himself seems to him as a huge lie and he starts his own trial. The question behind this short novel, written as a monologue, addresses the « ego » that we think we are and which might be a social construct rather than an assumed reality. Who are we when we say I am? A fiction or a reality? That is the question we are invited to address and that
might allow us to follow Socrate’s invitation inscribed on the frontispiece of Delphi’s temple: Know thyself.
The workshop took place in Cali, Colombia from March 6th to 10th 2023, and was conducted by Simon Njami at Lugar a Dudas, an independent cultural space in Cali. The group was composed of 24 talented young Colombians coming from various creative fields, such as visual artists, journalists, fashion designers, educators, lyrical singers, anthropologists, architects, photographers, entrepreneurs and more. In Cali, where there is the biggest population of Afrodescendants in Colombia, the topic “Who is a stranger in me?” had a particular resonance, as the participants tried to reconnect with their roots and question their identities. Each single person was invited to identify the stranger in themselves and enrich the collective discussion with their individual perspectives and experiences. The result led to the creation of a personalized notebook that was a revelation of their interpretation of the theme at hand.
José Daniel Balanta, editorial statement, from the AtWork Catalog.
Simon Njami is an independent curator, lecturer, art critic, and writer. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of “Revue Noire.” Previously, Njami was the artistic director of the Bamako Photography Biennial 2000-2010 and co-curator of the first African pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. He has curated a number of contemporary art and photography exhibitions, including Africa Remix (2004-2007) and the first African art fair in Johannesburg in 2008. In 2014, The Divine Comedy exhibition, created and curated by him, started a world tour at the MMK (Museum für Moderne Kunst) in Frankfurt, moving on to the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah and the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. He is the director of the Pan African Master Classes in Photography, a project created in partnership with the Goethe Institute; artistic director of the Donwahi Foundation (Abidjan, Ivory Coast); advisor to the Sindika Dokolo Collection (Luanda, Angola); secretary of the special jury of the World Press Photography Awards; artistic director of the first edition of Off Biennale (Cairo, 2015) and the 2016 and 2018 Dak’Art.
The space of Lugar a Dudas provided multiple workshop settings, from a collective discussion in a circle, to a projection of individual projects on the screen in the backroom to using the blackboard in the main space for various exercises. Every day the participants tried to identify the stranger in them and every day they came back accompanied yet by another “stranger”, in a sort of beautiful schizophrenic dance of evolving identities on a journey of self-discovery. The group grew closer and closer by the day, culminating in collective singing, voguing performances and pantomime shows. Simon Njami’s provocative style finally made the essence of every single individual emerge to the surface. The local writer Javier Ortiz Cassiani observed the process with an external gaze, with the aim of learning AtWork methodology and conducting the workshops in Colombia in the future with Kitambo as the Moleskine Foundation Hub in Bogotá In order to extend the debate to the external audiences, on March 9th, Simon Njami held a keynote speech at Alianza Francesa de Cali, where he elaborated on this year’s theme: ‘Who is the stranger in me?’ The AtWorkers who were invited to attend the conference were able to deepen their reflection on the subject at hand in a different context.
The creative outputs of the workshop were exhibited on March 13th at Alianza Francesa de Cali and were showcased there until April 13th. Under the supervision of Simon Njami, the participants co-curated an immersive exhibition and created a high-quality catalog in 2 days that features 24 interpretations of the theme. The vernissage at Alianza Francesa de Cali was well attended by the local artistic and creative community and was a perfect occasion for the AtWorkers to celebrate the strangers they discovered in themselves.
Carlos Andrés Ampudia Mayona
Diana Isabel Riascos
Diego Luis Mañunga Balanta
Florence Antonia Gómez Quintero
Gus Ra Lux
José Daniel Balanta
María Alejandra Sánchez Machado
María Juliana Jiménez Sierra
Nicolás González Guerrero
Romario Paz Gómez
Partners: Kitambo, Strategos, Institut Français de Colombie, Alianza Francesa de Cali, Lugar a Dudas
Kitambo team: Catherine Dunga Marleen Palmaers Mónica Mosquera Laura Corredor
Translator: Natalia Santiesteban
Observer : Javier Ortiz Cassiani
Photo and video : Las Jaibas Productora