Share this Article

(IN)FORMAL FRISSON: ANOTHER CONVERSATION | Syowia Kyambi, Kijo Agacu & Sibonelo Gumede

14th June 2021

This work is part of the performingborders 2021 commission Recipes for Autonomy by Syowia Kyambi.


Revisited on May 28th 2021

Our continued conversation is in parenthesis within this original conversation, which took place in September 2020

The following is part of an ongoing conservation, casually named (In)Formal Frisson, between Syowia Kyambi, Kijo Agacuand Sibonelo Gumede. They first met each other in January of 2020 in Kenya during the weeklong De/Archive East Africa research residency, organized by CAD+SR and hosted by Untethered Magic, an event series held at the home Kyambi built herself just outside of Nairobi National Park. Later that July, the group rejoined the center for its annual Commonplaces and Entanglements residency with a special focus on imagining the futurity of Blackness in the midst of continued global anti-blackness. From their individual positions connecting them to Southern Africa, the three saw a potential for further thinking together about themes of architecture, embodiment, and movement in time. For this specific conversation, they chose to anchor some of their thoughts in sites that already figure in their respective practices: the Nyayo House in Nairobi, Kenya (Kyambi); the Livingstone-Stanley monument in Mugere, Burundi (Agacu); the nature of South African public spaces that carry the vestiges of apartheid (Gumede). The conversation comes back to ideas of borders and opacity, as theorized by thinkers Achille Mbembe and Edouard Glissant respectively. 


 In his lecture The Idea of a World Without Borders Achille Mbembe asks“where do we go looking for new concepts, notions, and categories to imagine a world that would be opened, inhabited and shared by all?”. He urges us to think beyond xenophobic doctrines that have governed much of the modern world. The (In)Formal Frisson three take to heart Mbembe’s suggestion that, in order to forge forward in radical ways, one perhaps ought to look into archives of pre-colonial Africa that emphasize a fundamental permeability of borders available to everyone—a concept that would be misunderstood as anarchic in today’s formulations of geography. In the West,“space creates movement”, a complete reversal of the pre-colonial African view that “movement creates space”. Porous edges allow flows—in trade, family ties, religion, ideas. With this insight in mind, the group sees Edouard Glissant’s Right to Opacity for its potential uses for new kinds of space navigation that grant autonomy to people under constant surveillance and study. Opacity is the refusal to be a spectacle; it is an embodiment of useful illegibility.


Syowia Kyambi based in Nairobi is an interdisciplinary artist and curator who works across photography, video, drawing, sound, sculpture and performance installation. She holds an MFA from Transart Institute (2020) and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2002). In Kyambi’s artistic practice history collapses into the contemporary through the interventions of mischievous and disruptive interlocutory agents who interrogate the legacy of hurt inflicted by colonial projects that still frame the wider political conjuncture of now. syowiakyambi.com

Kijo Agacu is a Burundian American artist based in New York City. She holds a degree in architecture and is finishing her MFA in sculpture at Bard College in New York.

Sibonelo Gumede is a South African urbanist and researcher who is interested in the intersection of citizenship and city making processes in post-colonial urban environments. He holds a Masters in Development Studies from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and he is currently pursuing a MPhil in Southern Urbanism at the University of Cape Town. @hlangananigumede


 A bench that is situated at the Dalton hostel, Durban, Sibonelo Gumede, 2020

Sibonelo:

Maybe we can start by stating our set of questions about the devastating legacies of colonial and postcolonial histories, which are vast, and still unfolding. Is it vital to fully contend with such legacies—to get to the bottom of it, so to speak? The question also extends to ask if retribution is possible, especially since we are all held in tight entanglement with these histories. How do we envision retributions or corrections through the study of public architecture? We also asked ourselves how to forge ways forward, or backward, if we’re talking about speculative histories, in radical departures from the colonial trajectory.  

Syowia:

I often ask myself if it’s possible to radically not be in the colonial trajectory. I also question the word retribution because it leads me into this eye-for-an-eye type of thinking which is not my mode of operating. I don’t feel it’s necessary for me to depart from the colonial trajectory; that gives it too much power. On a very personal level, as a mixed-race person of German and Kenyan heritage, it’s extremely difficult for me to take that position because it would be an omission of an entire part of my family tree. In my practice, same as in my living philosophy, I’m constantly dealing with navigating negotiations. 

In terms of architecture, I’m interested in creating interventions, which is what the Kaspale project2 is about. It manifests as varying forms of interventions that don’t only deal with colonial history. In terms of the environments we engage and live in, architecture is domineering, in that it’s a way of designing and of policing public space. Architecture is just one tool that’s used to condition movement. In Kenya, I find it to be more about where you’re allowed to step and where you’re not allowed to step in the street. Some of the architecture is heavily influenced by Soviet Russia, especially government buildings. There’s an overbearing nature to the structures, but then you have these makeshift counter structures that come and go as needed for daily interactions. like the market sellers in the evenings. So I find the question quite black and white. Since we are entangled, it’s hard to read it in this yes-or-no way or to have one sufficient radical answer.

Kijo:

It is hard to untangle ourselves from these histories. Incidentally, Germany was the first European power in Burundi3. The way I first learned how to formally approach the world is tied to colonial ideas that continue to influence how the country functions. It’s embedded in our school systems. What we understand as future is tied to an education that was forced upon us, first by missionaries and later by the colonialists. For the last several years, I’ve had an urgent desire to undermine that indoctrination, which is what it is. It still is delusional to think that I can completely detach myself. 

In a recent seminar for my MFA, we read the work of critical theorist Denise Ferreira da Silva. In one of her books, Unpayable Debt, she digs into the ethical dimension between coloniality, raciality, and value. It’s related to our question of retribution. She uses the example of Dana, the woman in Octavia Butler’s book Kindred who finds herself time traveling to an antebellum plantation where she meets her ancestors, a slave woman and her enslaver. For most of the novel, Dana begrudgingly keeps saving her enslaver ancestor from being killed. She knows that if he dies back in time she cannot exist in her own 1970s California future. We’re back again to the idea of being made of these histories. Syowia, in your writing about the Kaspale project, you mention a public interest to access colonial and pre-colonial archives that remain locked away. This is very important and, for me, I also fantasize about how we move up even if we are unable to see such material. Is there a point where we cut through the thick fabric and open it into a totally different imaginary? It’s related to something else de Silva talked about—a making of a new underground through which we move toward alternate futures. I find it useful because contending with history is so daunting that I feel trapped. I want to imagine a tear through which I can go somewhere else. 

Sibonelo:

I’m thinking about these colonial histories and I link them to what architect Lesley Lokko sees as a problem with the heritage industry4 in her text African Space Magicians. She talks about built spaces of remembrance, like museums, which fail to properly account for histories that run counter to their “official” narratives. She revisits an experience she had in the town of Port Elizabeth in South Africa while she was visiting a local museum dedicated to the memory of apartheid. She asked one of the security personnel what a museum is called in the IsiXhosa language. The security guard was baffled. It was a question that maybe they had never encountered before. The guard called a friend to try to engage the question. It turned out that there’s no such word. Lokko then asked if, as Black people, they had their own buildings where they go to remember. The guard’s response was that they don’t need a building for that; in other words saying, “We remember”. We feel with our histories and we move with them. They attached museum space to whiteness, evoking the Nguni phrase “Indawo yabelungu”—“It’s for white people”.

By the way, “space magician” is one way to translate “umqambi wesino”, the Zulu word for architect. The other way, according to Lokko, is “maker of a situation” or “maker of a sensation” which I find incredibly beautiful because they hint at an orchestration of feeling or of connection which complements Mbembe referring to space-making as networks of flows. 

Syowia:

You speak about something so important that we have been circumventing every time we’ve been meeting. Art is a lived experience; it’s not separate from living. Kijo, I wanted to talk about this access or gathering of pre-colonial information that’s so limited. I find it really difficult to find sources that go back to that pre-colonial marker. Like Sibonelo says, there’s a whole other kind of system of institutions in place that is not interested in such material and therefore their marker of the continent starts with colonialism. Between this point and what you’re saying, Sibonelo, it brings me back to Mbembe’s lecture where he’s talking about how the pre-colonial idea around space and movement was completely different to the West’s way of thinking. Here, space-making was a practice of movement. We don’t have those archives readily available; I mean I rarely hear anything that references this. 

I’m now actively looking to non-western thinkers in my research approach and in my public talks to give a wider breadth. I feel like the things that they reference make more sense to me. In terms of entanglement, we are constantly navigating spaces that are built by others for us or about us. This doesn’t actually facilitate a way of thinking that suits most of us. So it’s a funny constant navigation. I do feel radical rejection is stupid. These are the tools available to us; we just have to use them. And then if we dig and get reference points from people like Mbembe or Glissant, then it’s a different kind of fabric we’re building.

Kijo:

I think about that old knowledge being for the most part embodied. We have our own ways of archiving and sharing. “The record” was of a different nature. These ways of knowing were systematically destroyed. By colonial ethnocide, generations of would-be record holders were wiped out.

Mbembe’s words really helped me understand some of my existing thoughts, especially with regard to the Livingstone-Stanley monument, or what I simply refer to as the boulder. It started with an obsession about how the two eponymous white men found themselves at the site. The story goes that David Livingstone, a Christian missionary, got lost in the woods of central East Africa for six years during one of his last missions. Some American company then sent the explorer Henry Morton Stanley to search for him. He landed on the continent in early1871 and, through word-of-mouth and intense foot traveling with guides, finally found a sickly Livingstone later that year. 

(The vested involvement of early American industry in the search for David Livingstone refutes the inaccurate understanding that the early stages of African colonization was mainly a European endeavor.)   

Contrary to local Burundian legend, the boulder is not where they had their storied first meeting. This took place in what is now Tanzania a few weeks before. Together they later traveled up Lake Tanganyika to Mugere, spending two nights near the lake where the boulder sits. It’s now a tourist attraction. The place marks an actual historical event but also a mythic one. Even official history works like that, I think. The colonizers effectively mythologized themselves into our histories. Given its supposed importance, I had imagined they had a whole operation in the placement of the boulder. It clearly doesn’t naturally fit where it’s carefully propped up. I’ve come to realize that they couldn’t have extracted and erected it in two days. They must have found it already there. Relics of colonial architecture or public spaces are not always built, sometimes they are found. You just put your name on a land feature and call it a discovery. That’s what the explorers did with the boulder; they etched their names on it and, all of a sudden, it’s their monument. Similar things were done to our rivers and lakes. I also find myself thinking of whoever thought to move a giant rock at some point prior to this episode. I wonder why. Is it art? Is it religious? Both?

Livingstone and Stanley took advantage of an existing system of free movement—Mbembe’s movement as space-making—and ultimately used it to survey the land. Their travel journals became some of the foundational texts for European powers who came back to set up colonies. A porous system of exchange turned into a way to eventually map the rigid borders that we now have.

  The Livingstone-Stanley monument in Mugere, Burundi

Sibonelo:

Can you further tell us about your own relationship to the boulder? If you could travel back home to Burundi and be in front of it, how would you relate to it?

Kijo:

I don’t know the next time I’ll go to Burundi. It feels removed from what is possible at the moment so it’s hard to answer this question directly. For now I turn to memory and research to inhabit that space. I have been thinking of colonial space making that isn’t about erecting walls. Two white dudes writing their names on a rock, turned its site into an architectural one to me. Or they turned a land into a landscape with that gesture. I believe that earth, land and landscape imprint on us especially in childhood. In my searching for Burundi, I return to specific geological features that I carry with me. The boulder is one of many. 

(If I were to answer Sibonelo’s question now, I would add that I have an interest in earth and earth sciences that emerged from the inability to revisit my country. For a time, when the nostalgia got too strong, I would spend time on Google Earth virtually gliding on the streets of my childhood, trying to see if it feels like how I remember it. It doesn’t. The technology’s multiple perspectives induce a vertigo. Earth can be seen at once as a planet in space, as a collection of mountains and oceans, and as a strange theater of street life that is both intimate and alienating. From my bed, I can fly to a distant remote place in a matter of seconds. The vertical perspective of hovering over land—like a bird or a surveillance drone—has given a geological dimension to my longing for home. I miss the mountains just as much as I miss playing hopscotch with my friends. At least  I can zoom in and gaze at the mountains with the click of a button. They feel so small when I am a bird. But even smaller is the boulder and its historical (in)significance.)

Sibonelo:

It’s interesting that you’re not sure if you’ll go back to Burundi in the foreseeable future. I think that statement reaffirms Mbembe’s position about how our relation to movement and borders has changed. The notion of the creation of rigid borders is achieved by you thinking in that particular sense. 

Kijo:

It’s very much related, even to the reason why I’m in the US in the first place. I wouldn’t be a refugee if it weren’t for the 1993 civil war which was in itself related to colonial ideas of who belongs to what ethnic group; theories that were crystalized by anthropologists and then weaponized to turn Burundians against each other5. In this sense, my place in the world is defined and constricted by war which builds its own type of borders. I think about forced displacement a lot, mine or even that of objects like the boulder. I speculate that there’s a hole in the shape of the boulder not too far from the site. Such cavities are their own different architecture; whether it’s the hole created by being uprooted by war, holes made by all manner of extraction, or even gaps made by an earth in constant motion. I want to fill them up with stories or, absurdly, attempt to sew them back together. But I digress.

Sibonelo:

In South Africa there’s growing nationalist rhetoric about who belongs here and who doesn’t. This links to the postcolonial nature of South Africa that sees other African migrants as imposters involved in forms of illegality, whereas white immigrants aren’t perceived in that manner. During the Nairobi residency, casual conversations I would have with Uber drivers would inevitably lead to the topic of xenophobia in my country. They would cite all the strides other countries had made for my home country. Yet, there are many South Africans who have turned against that sacrifice. Some colleagues and I started a participatory project called Africa As Us, looking at the futurity of non-otherness. We worked with a primary school that has the largest population of migrant children in the Durban inner-city. We were interested to learn about their idea of home. We knew that even at their young age, they had a good understanding of xenophobia because there had been cycles of it in the previous years. We wanted to unpack the conversation, beyond what happens at the local political scale, by looking at white supremacy as a concept, for example, and how it disrupts and divides. The conversations also introduced the kids to topics of colonisation like the Scramble for Africa6. Very interesting conversations started to take shape. We were supposed to continue with the project in 2020 but unfortunately we couldn’t

because of the pandemic. So when I’m thinking around ideas of borders, I’m also thinking about these contestations within South Africa which are not going to be ending soon, given that local elections will take place this year in October. Political parties have already started canvasing with xenophobic rethoric—with hashtags such as #PutSouthAfricaFirst which perpetuates anti-blackness sentiments. 

Kijo:

Mbembe talks about that too—how we’ve internalized a xenophobic way of understanding space and Africa. We’ve naturalized the idea of rigid borders and nationalisms. He asks how we can give Africa back to itself.   

Syowia:

Both of your stories take us back to the question of violence. The moving of the boulder seems quite a violent act. How you, Kijo, are positioned in the States came from violent acts and with the reference you Sibonelo made about xenophobia. I guess I’m trying to formulate a question around violence and entanglement. It might be the right moment to talk about opacity. With this understanding of historical and present violence, is it necessary for us as practitioners to utilize opacity? What does it do for us, if anything? 

Kijo:

Before we go there, could you talk about your site of interest and how it relates to movement?

Syowia:

First I should say that the Kaspale character came about as a tool for me to intervene inside an ethnographic museum7 in Germany. I wasn’t willing to work by using Tanzania’s material inside of that museum which was a major part of how the project was formulated. At the time I was struggling with my practice being so much about colonial material so I wanted to intervene in a new way, not only about colonial archives but also with something closer to the present. 

My focus for the last year has been on Nyayo House, located right opposite of Uhuru Park here in Nairobi. I just finished Kaspale’s Playground, a video installation and performance where the Kaspale character and their puppet infiltrate Nyayo House to tear it down. The house was and is the place where you get your immigration papers, passports and such. At one point it was also a state-sanctioned torture chamber in addition to being an immigration place, which is a pretty strange combination. Kaspale’s Playground was an acknowledgement to the history of torture and also the 1992 Mothers Protests that took place in the adjacent park. The point of the protests was a creation of multi-partism in the country that used to be a one-party state. 

The new body of work has to do with the architecture in that area and the conditioning of how we move through it. Going forward, I’m not sure what kind of sculptural explorations will take place in connection to the building. In the two years spent working with Kaspale, it became imperative that the character is not alone; that they come from a specific place. I picked the mangroves as the location of their origin because they can only be found in the south, along the equator line. Mangroves have murky waters; it’s a place of life and death. They’re also environmentally significant because they protect the land. I started creating Kaspale’s ancestors in ceramic figures. I wanted to bring in the ancestors because it speaks to speculative histories. It was my way of giving power to the myth and the character I created. Through Kaspale, I’m using mythology and fiction to tackle issues around dictatorship and censorship, and historical situations that affect our contemporary existence. This loops back as a response to my own question about how to navigate historical entanglement and violence. Kaspale is my method for trying to cope. 

It was maybe a year ago in the middle of discovering what I was trying to make with Kaspale, I was often asked to define the character. I found it such a weird request. I was in the middle of my process; I didn’t have the answer to what it was yet. Now that the work is where it’s at, I don’t feel the need to answer that question. I started using Glissant’s right to opacity as a tool for myself to feel comfortable not having a clear response. The elusiveness of Kaspale is integral to the character. Western art school teaches you to constantly explain what you’re doing. There’s a hyperfixation to understanding people of color through existing dominant structures of worth making. In the Glissant film8 where he is speaking about opacity, creolization and multitude, he recalls getting shut down at some conference the first time he presented his ideas. Transparency, which is a very Western construct, is not always so useful. Not everything has to be transparent because not everything can be. 

 Kaspale’s Playground, Syowia Kyambi, Video Still, 2020 

Sibonelo:

I would like the right to opacity, as a concept, to be extended and applied to embodied feelings unique to Black people moving through space in South African post-colonial cities, especially in suburban areas which were predominantly white in the apartheid era. There is a sense of anxieties about changing identities and socio-economic landscapes of these cities. These anxieties fuel euphemistic positions of how these cities should develop and what public life ought to be. There is high contention around the country about this, as these ideologies manifest in a form of policing who is a legitimate member of a particular community. 

(Syowia, your sentiments about the violence of Western education also reminds me of a recent experience that I had where I was subjected to work with a methodology that I felt was extractive and lacked an understanding of how positionality and power operates.) 

Architect and researcher Mpho Matsipa, in an episode of The Funambulist podcast9, talks about how people of color are always being studied. Since colonialism, we’ve always been a subject of study. That subjectivity continues to this day. There is a constant gaze on subaltern communities, and a lack of willingness or space for the academy to study hegemonic processes. The West is always presented with an opportunity to speculate about African futurities but we don’t get to speculate much about their futures. I also think about government-designed township communities, which were built during apartheid, with single entry and exit points. Doors face one another, for instance, which result in consistent surveillance with a sense of loss in independence, even in our basic being. So I’m thinking about how we negotiate our right to opaqueness in every aspect.

Kijo:I sometimes interpret Glissant’s idea of opacity as an invitation to invent ways of hiding in plain sight when you are constantly being watched. In the same process, it’s infantilizing and dehumanizing. This comes back to a question that you, Sibonelo, once asked about being human or restoring our humanity. I don’t see the humanity that would be restored to. My problem with the whole humaning project (the act of turning some people into humans while denying that category to others) is that it’s a modernist one which, for its own purposes, sets degrees to which one is or can be human. The struggle for inclusion has been going on since the time the West decided to see Black people as tools. Yet we are repeatedly never allowed to be fully human. And those who have full humanity don’t inspire me to be them, so I’m personally not interested in that pursuit anymore. I wonder what else I can aspire to be other than human—that’s why I actually look at soil and rocks.  Da Silva draws parallels between blackness and land in her film Serpent Rain, in that they are both extracted in not dissimilar ways. The end of the film asks what becomes of the human if expressed by the elements?  I’m invested in this wild line of questioning. I want to dematerialize to be even more illegible to the people who surveil me. Can I too

become an element? What is the usefulness of being like wind or soil? There’s an impossibility to the question of practiced opacity but it is exciting to hurtle towards it. 

Syowia:

Yes. Glissant talks about the horizon; only you can imagine your horizon. The imagination of your horizon is the only thing that can’t be controlled. I think it’s also important to go beyond this dichotomy, this black and white way of thinking. I wonder if it is a western psyche that we are dealing with or is it just human nature to abuse and extract from the other? 

Sibonelo:

It’s intrinsically related to capital being such a corrosive tool. Coloniality makes us want proximity to civility with a sense and we think about in relation to escalation, like an accelerating train. When we move in that direction, we do anything to belong and be seen. That’s also a moving horizon because whiteness will never acknowledge us as full beings. It’s a horizon because you can only try to assimilate. Like I’ve said before during the last residency’s presentation, all the Western hyper-visibilities that are still present in post-colonial cities shape our psyche; for example about what architecture ought to be or what learning ought to be. It’s linked to what we wear, what we say, to the entirety of our aspirations. 

Syowia:

Referencing Westernness and whiteness is referencing a system of oppression. I think it’s important to put that out there because the temperature in the world is becoming so devastating. We are in extremely violent systems. None of us have figured out how to navigate outside of that because imperialism, nationalism and capitalism are the structures that we are functioning within regardless of where we are in the world. 

Kijo:

It’s something we have to approach on many scales. Systems would be the macro perspective but then there are other gestures we can do at much smaller scales, even microscopically. We have to think about it from all angles because it permeates everything. Even right now we are talking about opacity while talking on Zoom, potentially a surveillance tool. It can feel inescapable. Again I return to making holes or tears in the system. A tear is doubled edged; it is both destructive and a creation of a portal. This sounds too fantastical but for example there’s a whole conversation here in the US about looting or vandalizing in the ongoing uprisings for Black life. There are those who think that you should protest without destroying property and I, like many others, cannot think of a more effective tear in a system that values property above actual lives. In my opinion, looting is a portal. 

How do you two imagine beyond? Can we think beyond while still being in the system?

Sibonelo:

I was having a conversation with another research fellow from the Kenya residency, and we were talking about the Dagoz10 group, which was started, on WhatsApp for those of us who wanted to go clubbing during the Kenya residency. We all came from different localities but in this informal way, we were united by something that was not too defined. We easily clicked, we went out and it was a jovial night—it was so natural. When I think of futures, those are the glimpses of moments of possibilities. 

Syowia:

For me, the fact that people were braiding each other’s hair during the residency was like a fucking portal. It wasn’t on the agenda; it was just a natural thing to do. It’s this completely Black cultural thing, a deeply caring act. It happened two or three times and the fact that it was during an activity of deep thinking was such a powerful way of saying this space is actually ours. 

Sibonelo:

It also demystified gender and hair. 

Syowia:

I’m thinking about shaving my hair, a box cut like the men do. I want to fade it with a line and another line, you know, a design.

(By the way I didn’t do that …. now with a short afro))

Sibonelo:

Like Kendrick Lamar’s hairstyle?

Syowia:

Like the footballers. What do you guys think? I’m really tempted to do it.

Kijo:

Now we’re getting to the meat of this conversation; this is where it gets good. I think you should do it; you can do whatever. 

Syowia:

One aside thought I want to say is that I get very happy on my Zoom calls when everybody has concrete buildings and I’m in my corrugated metal sheets [laughs]; I get super happy about it, I can’t even begin to describe it. I’m like “yes, yes, yes!” I think it does play on people’s psyche. If I don’t know them very well, they don’t dare ask me where I am. But once I’ve talked to them a couple of times, they do ask. It just fits into our earlier conversation, what Sibonelo said about architecture and what you’re expected to live in. Sorry that was derailing.

Kijo:

Derailing is good. 

Sibonelo:

The conversation that we had about the considerations that you took when building your house, has stayed with me for so long. It got me thinking so deeply about what type of structure I would want to construct in a similar environment. By the way, there is also a shift in my home country, where people move to and build in rural settings, but what’s been interesting to observe is that most of this growth resembles modernist architectural forms. 

Kijo:

I think South Africa does this, but in Kenya, do you build by making your own bricks from the earth right outside the structure being built? 

Syowia:

Kenya has that too. That was my initial idea but there’s no soil around here. They build like that where my dad comes from. My gran was 110 when she died in 2016. The living room section of her house was as old as she was. There are old bricks cooked using clay. It’s a beautiful method but to do it here would be ten times more expensive because I’d be carrying in the soil.  

Kijo:

There are other ways of making the bricks without firing them; they’re dried by the sun. You just patch them over the years where there are holes. I’m into the idea of a living house that erodes and is rebuilt over and over. It ebbs and flows. 

Sibonelo:

I was having a conversation with a friend who did her Masters on Maasai architecture. She was telling me about the tribe’s tradition of demolishing your hut when you pass on. They build you a house when you are still on earth and when you depart, they take it down. I thought that was so philosophical in the sense that you are made one with the soil that houses you.

Syowia:

There is a lot to be learned from that. We are nowhere near that yet. 

Kijo:

But we can move toward that horizon. 


End notes:

1 Achille Mbembe: The Idea of a World Without Borders lecture at The European Graduate School / EGS. Saas-Fee, Switzerland. EGS, October 19th, 2018.
2 Kaspale is a character Syowia has created to intervene in spaces charged with colonial histories and postcolonial activities. They are generally a playful trickster who engages in social satire. They have the task and ability to call out authority when needed. They speak up when others cannot.
3 Burundi officially became part of German East Africa in 1899. Belgian troops stormed and took over the area in 1916 during WWI. In 1923, the League of Nations mandated to Belgium the territory of Ruanda-Urundi, encompassing modern-day Rwanda and Burundi. The territory was annexed to the larger Belgian Congo.
4 In African Space Magicians, Leslie Lokko defines the heritage “industry” as the system that” packages and contains the formal and culturally approved version of events through museums, archives, exhibitions, texts, and so on”
5 The Burundian Civil War was the result of long-held antagonisms between mainly the country’s two largest ethnic groups, the Hutus and Tutsis. The war which erupted in 1993 is generally thought to have ended in 2005, though its devastating repercussions are still felt in the country and in the resulting diaspora.  
6 The Scramble for Africa’ was a process that started at the Berlin conference of 1884-1885, where Europeans subdivided into spheres of influence and colonies (Michalopoulos and Papaioannou, 2016).
7 September 2019 – April 2020 exhibition titled AMANI, on the Trail of a Colonial Research Station, at the MARKK Museum, Hamburg, Germany
8  Edouard Glissant: One World In Relation, documentary film directed by Manthia Diawara, 2009
9 Funambulist podcast is a podcast about the politics of Bodies and Space.


This commission is a part of the performingborders 2021 programme, supported by Arts Council England. The full commission by Syowia Kyambi can be seen here: Recipes for Autonomy

Featured image credits: Syowia Kyambi