Afro-Atlantic Cultural Diaspora Project

2019 Cultural Diaspora Fellows
2019 Cultural Diaspora Fellows

About the Cultural Diaspora Residency

The Cultural Diaspora residency was conceived by acclaimed African-American playwright Carlyle Brown and the Camargo Foundation to support accomplished Black playwrights with diverse cultural backgrounds, and to spark a dialogue about the disparate ways in which the African Diaspora experience has shaped their perspectives and creative output.

Led by co-curators Brown and Nigeria’s celebrated theater director Chuck Mike, eight accomplished Black playwrights—four from Africa and four from the United States—convened at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis in the South of France in June 2018 to take part in the pilot edition of the Cultural Diaspora playwrights’ residency. As expressed by Brown, “The idea for the residency was to bring together African and African-American text-based theater artists from opposite ends of the Africanist Diaspora to share work, ideas and strategies for surviving as Black artists, without the veil of a white/western filter, without having to explain themselves, without having to represent an entire group of people, but to explore
their craft, their voice, and their African-ness in a beautiful, safe, supportive environment with likeminded individuals who express an interest in the African Diaspora as an influence on and factor in their craft, the content they create, their thinking, and world view.”

The Camargo Foundation offers Fellows an isolated retreat for the soul, nurtured by the natural beauty of it grounds and surrounding environment, to escape and create. Selected participants will be invited at Camargo to explore, experiment, write, and exchange. There will be weekly work sharing sessions of works-in-progress, two scheduled topical discussions on craft or the business or politics of writing facilitated by Brown and Mike, the possibility of staged readings of works-in-progress in partnership with acting students of Marseille, and networking opportunities with European theater professionals. And most importantly a clean, well-lighted place to work.

Curatorial Statement

There is a word in Yoruba, Ashe’ as in Amen or so be it. It means the power to make things happen, the capacity to make change, to transform dreams into reality. It is that mysterious force that fuels the connection between all people of African descent, particularly those whose ancestors survived the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Those whose songs of lament became the blues and whose dances of joy in the face of despair have displayed their grace from the ballet to the boogie-woogie to Hip-Hop and beyond. Those whose suffering and labor financed the western world and whose art making, subversive and rebellious, created in oppressive, subjugating atmospheres shaped and transformed itself into one of
the major cultural inf luences in the world.

The Atlantic Ocean is a cultural lake whose principal port is the West Coast of Africa from where it has been exporting its African-ness aesthetic for hundreds of years, spreading across the Western Ocean in slave ships running before the trade winds through the Caribbean Islands to ports like Havana, Cuba, where it disperses its human cargo throughout the Americas. Torn away from their ancestral homeland, to be dislocated and rootless body and soul forever, they are the ancestors of every Black person born in the new world. To heal their psychic wounds, they mixed together their disparate ideas and beliefs and made a common culture. The manifestation of that common culture is the African Diaspora.

This kinship and connection, this expanded sense of space, geography, history, and the imagination are the ingredients of the African-ness that shapes art making on all sides of the Atlantic basin, creating art in opposition to dominate cultures saturated in racism and colonialism. As Africana scholar Maboula Soumahoro notes “Africana studies, the academic discipline specializing in the systematic study of peoples of African descent globally through the prism of history, geography, and culture has emerged as a specific field rather recently… is an attempt to place the African continent at the center of all preoccupations… acknowledges Africa as the locale of all departures and ultimate returns.”

Today this spiritual, resilient, ethereal aesthetic is like a restless virus seeking out welcoming hosts in places like Bahia, London, Accra, Toronto, Lagos, and Brooklyn. Born out of suffering and nurtured in oppression, it makes itself from the improvisational complexity and multiplicities of a collectively lived experience. We are seeking out storytellers, the New Griots who make their narratives out of an Afro-Atlantic point of view. New, intricate, expansive narratives that do not simply explain who we are but celebrate our return to ourselves. That explore and discover our African-ness. Narratives that are for ourselves as well as others, narratives where Black Lives don’t simply matter, but are essential.

Ashe’.

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