Decolonial Encounters

Yesterday was warmer than today (2021 – ongoing)

The division of Ossetia into two parts, North and South, during the early years of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent assignment of these parts to Soviet Russia and Georgia respectfully, laid the basis for the Georgian-Ossetian ongoing conflict. But when official diplomatic protocols fail, artists from the region took upon themselves to establish roads towards mutual understanding and peacemaking in Ossetia. Through various artistic vehicles, Hæshtæg (a self-organization of contemporary Ossetian artists) and Bouillon (an artists’ group from Georgia) will tell the stories of Ossetians who found themselves calling Georgia their homeland and the stories of Georgians living in Ossetia.

The project Yesterday was warmer than today touches on the migration context of representations between the once fraternal peoples, but the main focus lies on the issue of mixed identities – when it is difficult for individuals, some of whom were born and raised in mixed families, to clearly and unequivocally determine who they are and where their real home is. The aim of the project is to overcome national stigmatizing attitudes, born as a result of Russia’s colonial conquests, in the context of war through cultural diplomacy, art and other soft power tools.

Project team

Ossetia

Anna Kabisova, Eugeny Ivanov, Anton Valkovsky, Olga Unasheva (organization of contemporary Ossetian artists “Hæshtæg”)

Georgia

Art-group “Bouillon”

Places in the Sun: Post-colonial dialogues in Europe and beyond (2021 – ongoing)

Through a publication that will include a collection of essays, auto-ethnographic pieces and conversations with diaspora members, the project Places in the Sun will interrogate Western Europe’s (failed) decolonization efforts from within and beyond – to include the voices of Central and Eastern European thinkers and their relationship to Europeanness through the language of decolonization and the subsequent feeling of subalternity. In a series of pieces involving fresh accounts and perspectives, in an area still dominated by institutional powers and hegemonic voices, the publication will explore the very idea of Europe by merging these two strands into a wider postcolonial dialogue. Apart from the book, the project team will also organize various events and conferences in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe, open to the wider public.

Project team  

Philippe Lefevre, Valentin Luntumbue, Stephan Raab, Ruxandra Seniuc, Nadya Kamenkovic, Adrian Waters (Institute for a Greater Europe, Belgium).

Bodies Unbound: Liberating women of colour through docupoetry performance (2021 – ongoing)

Laws regulating women’s labour or sexuality have curtailed freedom and maintained patterns of racism, fetishism, and surveillance from Europe’s colonial past to the present day. For instance, a German 1871 law enabled police to arrest and subject to medical exam anyone suspected of selling sex. Such laws, ostensibly aimed at stopping disease, served to control the bodies of women of colour and the working class. Until we reckon with this racist and sexist history, authorities will continue to enact harmful policies, such as raids on nail salons, brothels, and restaurants across Europe. These raids often harm women from East and Southeast Asia rather than addressing the economic precarity, itself a vestige of colonialism, that leads them to work in exploitative conditions.

The project Bodies Unbound will confront the colonialist history of sexual regulation through poetry and performance. By implementing methods from docupoetry, the project team will create lyrical works that illuminate and transcend trauma and then interpret them through live (or recorded) performances. These performances will bring the language of colonialism into embodied reality, while also giving voice to those silenced by history, linguistic barriers, or fear of the state. Live performances will take place in centres known for female labour, such as Amsterdam’s De Wallen. The project will also include a bilingual website (English and Dutch), accessible to schools, writers, and advocacy organisations, containing a contextualising introduction, pre-recorded performances, and historical citations.

Project team

April Lee (United Kingdom), Lena Chen (Germany), Elise Hanrahan (Germany).