With everything happening in the news that frightens me about the future of this country and world, I turn back again to the importance of the archive, storytelling and truth-telling for marginalized communities. Last month, I went to archivist and writer Joyce LeeAnn and researcher and writer Akeema-Zane’s workshop In the Middle of Things: The Poetics of Archival Praxis, which was part of Pioneer Works’ series Fact Craft.
The Arch. The Ark. The Archive. The Arcane. The Archon. The Architect. The Archangel. The ArchAndroid.
The Chief Holder of a Culture’s Knowledge for Future Recollection.
The Cybernetic Helms(wo)man of the Ship Sailing to a New Horizon.
Last weekend, I attendedSummoning the Archiveat NYU. Attending it inspired me to think of the “archive” in relation to communities of color and Afrofuturism. A few archivists/librarians/curators of color have existed in speculative fiction. For example, remember the bluesman Peter Wheatstraw from Ellison’s Invisible Man who carried discarded blueprints in his cart? How about Akomfrah’s data thief in the Last Angel of History? Or the Puerto-Rican librarian at Columbia University, Nydia Ochoa, who helps Sierra (breaking the rules of the institution as Sierra is not a student) find out more about her cultural heritage in Daniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper? Or Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi, which follows a museum curator who braves the outside world because of her dreams that life can exist out there?
It’s not that often today that I come to witness an artist who reminds me of some of my favorite musical artists and excites me because of the force of the creativity that they bring to their performance and musical work. One of them is artist, choreographer and DJ, Daví
I first saw him at a Brooklyn Museum Off The Wall tribute to Wangechi Mutu’s Fantastic Journey exhibition, where he put together a multi-media performance incorporating Mutu’s short film, The End of eating Everything. His performance, The Beginning of Everything eating, is an inverted extension to the spiraling cycle of metamorphosis giving a musical and poetic voice to Mutu’s work about self-destruction and self-indulgence turning into transformation and hope.
Dressed in an angelic outfit and unicorn-like headdress, the performance involved throughout the narrator (Joyce LeeAnn) who acts as an archivist/writer introducing each scene of the show with her words that expand on the opening lines from Mutu’s film, “Hungry, Alone and Together.” With each scene, Daví, along with LeeAnn, his accompanying background vocalists (Julie Brown and Jasmine Burems), Go: Organic Choir, background dancers (Crystal Craigen and Ernest Baker), and animated videos, goes on a Orphic journey of a spirit descending and striving to survive in the madness of physical/social tyranny around them until they find an opening for transcendence. Daví glued together the entire performance with his dynamic moves and soulful covers of well-known songs like “Mothership Connection,” “Space Oddity,” and Fela Kuti’s “Gentleman,” in addition to his own, like “Great Beyond.”