/ DECOLOZING SITES OF MEMORY
_masquerade etude II
'Time lives in the landscape. It can be seen there, read there. Before memory there is the view. To remember is literally to see the physical traces left on the body of a place by the events of the past. Life itself has to be “embodied” so it can be recognized as real.’ (Achille Mbembe, Critic of the Black Reason)
Reality is a geological construction, a living membrane, where layers of (hi)stories from uncountable human perspectives add up, interact, merge, compete and (re)generate each other over time to create the present, the landscape at the surface. What we see of reality is the landscape. The landscape, the present, consists of sites of memories (such as bodies, objects, public spaces, colonial monuments…) on which reality is written, materialised, embodied over time. The present should always maintain the polyvocal and multi-layered characteristics of the membrane, but most of all the landscape should always be a critical reaction to present human conditions seen through a critical framework of the past.
The permanent removal or unrepairable destruction of sites of memories (such as colonial monuments) in the landscape, as demanded by some members of the present decolization movement, can have a seismic effect, damaging and fragilizing the membrane as it changes the layer of origin of these sites of memories and thus their (hi)stories. Wouldn’t it be better to add a new critical layer on top to prevent unrepairable damage to the membrane that ultimately can lead to (in)voluntary isolation, misinterpretation, forgetting, falsification, damage to or destruction of past (hi)stories. The past must leave traces in the landscape, so that reality can be read correctly.
Kwanga offers an alternative to the permanent destruction and removal of sites of memories (such as colonial monuments) in the landscape. It also works on the molecular level of reality as on the surface, the landscape. Kwanga can produce a rubbery top layer, a (fore)skin, covering any site of memory to reveal, question and correct our (hi)stories.
Kwanga is written onto the landscape, following a tradition of the Mbole, the Luba and Yombe people in Congo of marking sites of memories with geometrical designs to embody reality with its social, political and cultural complexities. It creates a three-dimensional landscape of scarifications, whose vertical and horizontal carvings create an ocean of fluidity, symbolising the interconnecting flux between top and bottom layers. These sites of memories, such as colonial monuments, become spaces of correlation, communion and production of a trans-cultural, -national, and -gender past and future reality inspired by Afropeanism. Kwanga can be used as a strategy to decolonise sites of memories.
The Kwanga skin can always be removed to reveal the past, the original colonial monument, so the past isn't forgotten, hidden, misinterpreted or manipulated….
A Kwanga skin can also be applied on African objects circulating through the commercial, scientific and artistic spheres to decolonise them. This is an act of revealing, questioning and correcting African (hi)stories and their commodification. Objects and narratives are reactivated, from being commodities back to their spiritual, therapeutical and social function. They become power figures, containers of power/concepts to heal or strengthen communities.
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