Antebellum & the
This page is specially designed for the online publishing of my thesis essay for my bachelor's degree "Artist Educator in Theatre" at ArtEZ Academy of Art.
I decided to upload it to my website to make my research accessible to everyone who would like to acquire knowledge of the process of decolonising a form of art in an interactive, confrontational manner.
The interactive part of my thesis essay is in a video-documentary interview where I ask some detailed questions and ponder for a real, honest answer. Consider this essay more of a "where I now stand" rather than a "hard and unchangeable statement".
Pompadó Z.R. Martha
A short introduction of my thesis essay
Every thesis has its antithesis, and those two procreates a synthesis; the synthesis is on its own a thesis again, which will have an antithesis that will reproduce a synthesis, again. This process is a continuous movement in which, if that merger keeps procreating, a revolution can be born out of it.
And this thesis was born out of that revolution because I noticed that I did not have the luxury of being naive as a black person. Throughout ArtEZ Academy of Art, I have encountered countless times where I could not bring over my knowledge, expectations and ideologies, merely based on the fact that I - as a foreigner - do not share the same values as they have. Everything I was doing must come from a critical, ethnographic and reflective optic, even trying to follow my dreams.
When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was be "HAPPY", and no other book quite intrigued me to find a description other than the giant A0 format book of our solar system I sometimes use as a tent to separate me from the outside world.
Those books have let my imagination run wild, like the horse of the film 'Spirit', and I might have - or not - fallen asleep within this horizon of knowledge a seven-year-old could bear -or conquer- from the giant book with even bigger letters. To this day, I use long sentences to describe the labyrinth my thoughts and feelings might be, trying to find new ways to describe the space between what 'matters' in chronological timing.
As I grew up, I found a new love; "The thin line between science and art". I signed up to be a facilitator for the 'why' and the 'why not' and got enrolled into the paradox of time, space, and matter with each decision made. I created new universes of possibilities to be admitted into being a candidate of "HOPE"; I aspired to be an Artist.
As an artist, I wanted to transcend knowledge from one entity to another, but to transcend knowledge, I first need to know what I know and what I don't know, which is only possible if I weigh my ethos and logos on gold. Along the way, I found out that an educator not only gives knowledge, but they received it as well. That it should be a dialogue; and how better to have a dialogue than to be a leading learner. to be open to it, while practising ethnography.
And by that thought trail I found out something fascinating, scary, and problematic; I found out that as a black person, I do not have the luxury of being naive. As a black person, I found myself in a position in which I am constantly proving myself. I can perform according to standards, that I am smart enough, that I am capable enough, that I am worth investing in, and that I cannot make art and be seen as just art. The history is a crucial part of why I do stuff and how I came to the inspiration to make it, etc. I found myself in a position where everything I do has to be a conscious choice.
Not because it is required, but rather to be aware that I need to be able to defend and justify my choices and my "why's". This hances my search to find who I am within this society and how others see me, my work, and everything I stand for.
What would your answer be if I asked you: "who am I, a black artist, or just an artist?" How would you see me, the art I make/do, and everything I stand for? Ponder that question a little harder because that is exactly what I will ask within this thesis.
I already know the answer to that question because my art is decolonised, queer, non-dual, Afro-Caribbean, toxic-masculinity-repellant, confrontational, interactive, and a search for equity. My name is Zaërick, and this is my antebellum.
Sources & Literature
A motto of mine, which I also say out loud whenever I am educating someone is that I do not support mental laziness. This comes out of the urgency of the Chinese proverb; Only when the student is ready will the teacher appear.
What I love about literature is that they are always connected to one's perspective, roots, ideologies, and norms, but sometimes people tend to get lost in the drift of creativity and find themselves in a new genre of knowledge; and that is beautiful.
Throughout this thesis essay, I read over 15 books regarding the topics of decolonization, emancipation, non-dualism, and afro-futurism/philosophy, which helped me forge the why of my search; I was researching how to use my art to reach equity... and this is the video with the explanation of the why's... I also have some of these books (free of charge) online so you can also cultivate more knowledge. Consider this my way of educating and nourishing you as well.
Am I a "BLACK" artist, or an Artist?
I consider teaching a great power, and with great power, there must also be a greater responsibility in knowing what you are transcending to the other one. I believe that teaching means tapping into your inner meliorist, a state full of hope for a brighter future, and investing in passing knowledge to another entity.
While practising ethnography during my educational program on how to transcend knowledge didactically, I bumped into something I thought wouldn't disturb the "cultural learning space"; my ethnicity was something to be aware of.
To be a theatre teacher, you must also be a performer; know how to do drama, act, and sometimes sing, which I don't sing.
While standing in front of classes, I noticed that students of colour got hyped whenever they saw a person of colour in the teacher's position. Their joy gave me more motivation and enthusiasm to make their time with me even more pleasant. Then it hit me; why is my race such a joy for the coloured kids? Does it have something to do with representation? What would their struggles be? Are they mines alike? And if so, does that define who they are in the future? I felt like it was like looking into a mirror.
I start asking myself how big of an impact my colour has on my art? And as a performing artist, does that affect what kind of art I do? Does all my art automatically become a political statement?
Part of being an educator is knowing what knowledge you know or don't and being open to learning new things. And I believe in the non-duality that can bring people closer without the fear of whether it is good or bad. I am asking people how they perceive me so I can have a better approach to dialogue because how people see me defines how they can be taught and interact with me. And for I know how they see me, I'd know what tools to use to inspire them (and myself).
I asked others how they perceived me and my art throughout this video. The reason, therefore, was that to have a dialogue where both parties exchange knowledge, both parties must first have the core of the conversation in sync. This is thus an essential aspect of having a dialogue because it helps clarify and avoid miscommunication; without having a joint agreement, both parties end up not transferring knowledge to one another.
And because the colour is also a massive part of my research -the diversification of perspective within the spectrum of heteronormativity- I must acknowledge that my colour has a significant impact on how people see me, my art, and what I stand for.
So I asked people, "Am I a black artist, or an artist?" and these are their answers.
Am I "Accepted" or "Tolerated"?
I came to the Netherlands in pursuit of a dream; to excel myself in a way that would make me proud in the present; that present, and I was really happy when I got admitted and enrolled on this course. To be honest, I was admitted to 4 different art disciplines at ArtEZ; dance, theatre, creative writing, and fine art in education (DBKV), I had to choose which course I wanted to be part of at the end of the intro camp. I remember this day because it was one of the - not that much - moments during my experience at ArtEZ that I felt genuinely wanted without any holdback. I chose the Theater educator part because it was broad enough to practice all the other disciplines in it.
I was a young gentleman, trying to find my course in this interesting new world, and building relationships that would significant and prosperous, till the moment I was called "Nigger" - and I cannot emphasise this enough; if you are white, please don't say it out loud, thus this is an abuse of your privileges - by a white boy; at ArtEZ - an institution that was all about creative people co-living with each other and trying to make it. - 3 weeks in the school year just started. And that made me more aware of my colour. Among commentaries on my way of doing things that are not common, that I am too solitary and that it was particularly difficult to go along with most of the other students of white ethnicity, even though I always gave it my hundred; "I was complicated to work with because I always do thing my way; in a way that they are not familiar with." Made me ponder the question of whether I am being accepted or tolerated even more.
This was not just a concern of only a few weeks alone, but rather a systematic encounter I had throughout my whole academic years; which I have brought up countless times -and some time in a belligerent way, in order to make my discomfort noticeable.
Here in the Netherlands, I found out that my colour does have a massive impact on how I would experience things, and how people would react to me. And for me, an artist, I am my art; I feel like I was stripped from the luxury of being naive. I started making art out of the need to educate people about the concept I've learned; the concept was decolonisation. And if I teach you, and you let yourself be educated, we unite and make this place a better place. Just because we carry a different ethnicity, does not mean we are not equal. To try to surpass all the pain and hurt we caused each other consciously and unconsciously; If I respect you, we unify and stop the society from discriminating us. But I don't know, I'm no oppressor; maybe I am just decolonization.
I created the opportunity to ask people if I am being accepted or tolerated with the sole intention to have an honest open conversation without spreading fear or guilt. Because only if I know how people tend to see me, I'd be able to be part of a dialogue that will inspire people to learn more about our differences. There is an Ubuntu proverb that states; "We need to learn to love our differences as much as we love our similarities, otherwise it would be a meal without its seasoning". If you'd had the opportunity to have a dialogue with me, I ask you this question; what would your answer be? And would your answer be the same if you were black?
What do I need to do
to maintain being a
There is a difference between decolonising your mindset and emancipating yourself from mental slavery because none but ourselves can free our minds, and to be an old bell in the desert does have a narrow line in between.
And to be honest, sometimes I lost my path, and felt shitty about it. There was a time in my education at ArtEZ when I chose to sit still and be quiet, due to too many complaints about me going off rails. And for example; I did not have an active input in the semester where we, as a collective, had to create something based on one of the greatest influencers of theatre; Pina Bausch.
I chose to be more in the background because I was really tired of always having to fight to be considered seriously or to be constantly well-articulated about my thought trails, merely because I did not share the same values as my colleagues. Theatre is a self-evident entity, and if you go astray, as a non-dutch-raised person, it would be particularly difficult to be back on track without causing a disturbance. And I hated every little part of it, even though we made something really amazing; it did not feel like mine as well.
I do find myself - really often - in a position in which I need to either restrain myself from expressing what I truly think of certain things, or whitewash the commentation or explanations. And because this happens a lot, I found myself asking myself - on multiple occasions - "How to maintain being myself?". In fact, this was the first theatrical play I made, which was the first instalment of my colour-reels-performances: "What I need to do to maintain my MAGENTA."
This question was the first real question I asked during this 5 years course and is also the last one I am going to ask as well, for I am this is no antebellum anymore as soon as I graduate as an Artist Educator in Theatre.