National Congress of Black Women Foundation Event
The Djavad Mowfaghian World Art Centre, School for the Contemporary Arts, SFU
February 20th, 2011. Welcome on the Drums: Albert St. Albert Smith Faculty with the School for the Contemporary Arts, SFU &
Director of The Ghana Field School
Three very different pieces from the Contemporary Performing Arts were shown:
A brand new piece of choreography by Marion Landers on four actor/dancers to the music of Nina Simone’s “Four Women”. A piece full of visual memories, Ms. Landers worked to annunciate the trials and tribulations as explained by Simone – that go along with being ‘black, yellow, tan and brown’. The choreography is at once painful and victorious – moving through ‘the eldest elders, the rape, the lash of the whip and the comfortable sexual exploitation’ that underscore a North American sense of Black History. Performers: Marion Landers, Marsha Regis, Suzanne Bastien, Alana Husband
The opening scene: Prologue and opening monologue of Marion Landers’ MA Thesis/Play “Lost Lesotho Princess”. The play unveils the relationship between a very light-skinned granddaughter and her dark-skinned grandmother; the unfaltering loyalty she feels towards her oldest African ancestor and the pain her grandmother has always felt about ‘being black’ – having been born and raised in South Africa and having lived through apartheid. The play is an African Canadian story that chronicles a 100-year life, the legacy of apartheid and the hardships faced by inter-racial families and children. Performers: Marion Landers, Constance Barnes, Albert St. Albert Smith
“Kulu” – an award-winning animated dance film created, danced and acted in by Chancz Perry. This multi-faceted artist has merged social science and performance to create a truly sensory experience for its’ audience. The story and its’ affect is urban, Black: a chronicle of ‘the everyday’ and the ‘once in a lifetime’. An African Canadian man and woman make their way through the urban jungle, navigating the streets, love, life and work; amidst an alienating environment whose only solace comes from heart-thumping jazz notes and the potential to connect with each other. Will it happen, or will they both continue to dream?
A panel discussion followed with:
An opening address/poem by Shauntay Grant, Poet Laureate of Halifax
Selwyn Jacob, film maker with the National Film Board of Canada
Albert St. Albert Smith
• Myths and Narratives surrounding skin colour in Black Communities
• The affect on the audience of the artwork shown. How does art work to shape our identity?
• Where do the artists on the panel see themselves and their work by the year 2020?
• Do members of the African Diaspora use the arts – music, dance, theatre, film to ‘rescue’ themselves/as a form of healing?
Selwyn Jacob opened discussion with an account of his time making films for the National Film Board of Canada; particularly about how the only subject material for many years was the role of the ‘sleeping car porter’ on the trains. And how this, and that of a shoe-shiner, were the only jobs open to Blacks in Canada for many years. There was talk of how this reality and its’ subjectivity with the National Film Board created a symbiotic sychosis of perpetuity within the Black Community and mainstream White Society.
Talk of how Mr. Jacob and others have been trying to open up other opportunities of subjectivity for the Black Community, including modes for representation, (film being one).
This segwayed into testimonials from audience members: one young woman’s journey to educate herself on Black History; buying books for sale/distribution at public schools and universities – and the adversities she has faced in trying to do so.
A call for Black History Education in the Public School system at the Primary Level; thereby legitimizing the real history of Blacks in BC and Canada and making it possible for non-Black members of society to be able to accept that Black people are and have been part of World History and capable of greatness.
Next, an open inquest into the reality of mixed heritage within Black Communities. One audience member asked: Why, when Blacks and non-Blacks have been inter-marrying for over a hundred years – do interracial couples and children still face such harsh treatment from Black and White communities, societies and institutions? What is it that makes us so afraid of changing our gene pool? This question was probed from the viewpoint of Black members of the Diaspora upon interaction with their African brothers and sisters – as addressed by Chancz Perry regarding his trip to Ghana with Albert Smith during the Field School; as well as light-skinned members of the Black Community here in BC in their attempt to ‘make sense where there’s none’ out of a physically present and psycologically denied South African heritage.
Altogether, a very moving day.
Synopsis by: Marion Landers