Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Afroeuropean conference in Lisbon; Black In/Visibilities Contested. The conference is a platform for transdisciplinary research on racism, Black cultures and identities in Europe, widening networks between scholars, activists and artists. For myself, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet academics and practitioners from across the world, whilst putting the perspective of people from the European African and African Caribbean Diaspora centre stage as a unique and valid experience.
A particular highlight was the keynote speech by Stephen Small Hidden in Plain Sight: Institutional Racism, Cultural Resistance and Knowledge Production in Black Europe. The three-day conference was filled with insightful discussion and debate.
Often when discussing Black presence we look to the US, and to a certain extent within Europe, it is Black British perspectives that take precedence, albeit often not given the full spotlight. As the conference literature described “[B]lack bodies continue to be invoked as either tolerated guests at best, or threatening intruders at worst.” However, there is a legacy of presence, of long established Black communities across Europe, such as Germany, Portugal, Spain and Norway. From the West African influence on Flamenco in Spain, through to the migration of Africans to German in the early nineteenth century for education and African and Caribbean contribution to the war effort in world war one.
This is something that we are attempting to acknowledge and unpack with Archiving the Past, Reflecting the Future. In order to move forward, need to go back and recognise what has come before. During the exhibition in October, we will be reflecting on over a century of hidden histories both in the East Midlands and the UK as a whole. Find out more here.
Keeping on the theme of Afroeuropean, we welcome Tabanka Dance Ensemble from Norway to launch Black History Month. Led by Thomas Prestø, the company are reflective of contemporary Europe. Thomas’ Talawa technique is a uniquely codified technique, seamlessly merges ancestral movements, culturally contextualised vocabulary and contemporary movement sensibilities. It bridges the gap between “urban freestyling”, traditional and contemporary dance.
With these events ahead of us, I am keen to continue what it means to be Afroeuropean today and in the future especially in light of the changing politics of the UK as we navigate Brexit and Windrush.