DE STAAT VAN HET THEATER (The State of Theatre)
NEDERLANDS THEATER FESTIVAL
Amsterdam, September 3, 2020
WHY THEATRE? MILO RAU
09: Aeschylos was chosen to write the victory celebration of the Greek over the Persians. He instead produced the most heartrendering lamentation for the mothers & widows of the slain Persian warriors. Why? To achieve catharsis. (Bread & Puppet Theater)
79: We must preserve the moments in which we dedicate ourselves to the mysteries. (Tiago Rodrigues)
10: It’s not about producing art, it’s about implementing it. (Tania Bruguera)
34: Will you design sets for plays about refugees when you could design tools to cut through the border fences? (John Jordan)
58: I long for a theatre that makes me feel like a stranger among my people, family, and friends. (Rabih Mroué)
07: How can I trust a choreographer, director, dance or theatre company that contributes to global warming? (Jerôme Bel)
87: Theatre is a powerhouse which produces the energy of its own destruction. (Kirill Serebrennikov)
96: Confusion is a great responsibility. (Yes Men)
22: Theatre is the rehearsal of the revolution. (Douglas Estevam)
These quotes are taken from the book „Why theatre?“ that will be published 1st of October, uniting 106 statements from makers all over the globe. The answers you heard are taken from the statements by the New York Bread & Puppet Theater, the Portuguese director Tiago Rodrigues, the Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera, the British artist and activist John Jordan, the Lebanese performer Rabih Mroué, the French choreographer Jérôme Bel, the Russian director Kiryll Serebrennikov, the American activist group The Yes Men and the dramaturge and member of the Brazilian Landless Movement Douglas Estevam.
Some of them are friends, other colleagues, others I didn’t know even by name and they were recommended to me by people I trust. The idea for the „Why theatre?“ book came to me end of March. I just came back from rehearsing in the Brazilian Amazon region with indigenous activist and activists of the Landless Movement, a movement uniting 2 million families occupying lands.
Our idea was simple: we would restage the „Antigone“ of Sophocles by occupying the Transamazonica, the road that was constructed during the military dictatorship in the 60ies to split the biggest forrest of the world in 2 pieces – the beginning of the end of the indigenous cultures. We would have played this new „Antigone“ exactly at the place where 25 years ago a big massacre against the Landless Movement happened. All the members of our choir are survivors of this massacre.
But in mid-March, after 2 weeks of rehearsals, the first Covid-19 cases were reported in Brazil. We decided to stop and continue later. The indigenous activists retreated into the woods, the Landless activist to their occuypied lands all over Brazil. And I flew back to Europe.
For days and weeks, I was at home, reading, preparing projects I didn’t know if they would happen. I was phoning a lot: with Brazil, with many countries. To be honest: I’m not good alone. Theatre for me is the art of creating together, or as the German director René Pollesch writes in his contribution for „Why Theatre?“: „I need somebody to think.“
Yes, I think I became theatre maker because I only understand who I am through the mirror of a common experience. So I called two of my dramaturges, Carmen Hornbostel and Kaatje De Geest, if they wanted to do this „Why Theatre?“ book together with me – and they agreed. Spring started on the Northern part of the Globe, and we started to collect statements from more than 100 activists, performers, directors, writers, doctors, guerilleros, polititians.
Presenting them was, as you know, my initial plan for the „State of Theatre“: giving symbolically the stage to the whole world. Not creating my own speech, not highlighting my own „Why?“, but listening what resonates with me, taking from every text a sentence, idea or paragraph to have a „global“, a collective „Why“. Diverse and even chaotic.
But then, coming back to the Dutch speaking scene, reading the Brandbrief to the minister of culture, starting to understand the specific „Why“ in Holland, in times of budget cuts and rampant neoliberalism, I felt that reading out the global outcome of the „Why“-book here in Amsterdam would be a political empty and esthetical vain act. What „State of Theatre“ would that be? So I decided to repeat the gesture itself: asking a number of makers to answer the question „Why Theatre?“, as concrete & personal as possible. Live on stage. Connected to their own situation as makers, here and now.
Together with my colleague, the curator Lara Staal, we wrote an email to a number of makers:
„What’s the future of life arts? Why do WE, YOU need it and produce it? Our State of Theatre“, we wrote, „is constructed as a staffett: everybody gives her or his speech, without connecting to the others. Like in the „Why Theatre?“ book, the maximum is around 6000 signs which is 6 minutes. It does not have to be a political speech or a manifesto. It can be a poem, a memory, a letter. It is a moment to be honest. You don’t need to make big political statements, but you can!“
We are very happy and proud that these six wonderful makers and a director accepted: exposing themselves to this question, nearly impossible to answer. Some of theme I met before, others not, like in the „Why Theatre?“ book. So, thank you, Ernestine, Edit, Jan Joris, Gable and Lester to join me and Lara today.
As you all now, there is only one question more difficult than the „why?“-question. It is: How to end? So, how to conclude my 6 minutes? Last week-end, Douglas Estebam, dramaturge of our Brazilian „Antigone“, arrived in Europe. If the situation was dramatic before Covid-19, he explained me, it is tragic now. Every day 1000 people die in Brazil, and the Amazonian forrest burns like never. But the Landless Movement continues to fight for land and freedom, or as Douglas says: „Not even the dead will be safe it the enemy wins.“
I know, dear friends, your time to prepare your speech was short. But this is perhaps the only thing I learned from theatre: entering a place, might it be a street in the Amazon or a stage in Amsterdam, just to see what happens. Doing this together. Yes, this strange, eternally repeated risk of jumping together in the void exactly is why I do theatre.
Or as the Swedis theatre and filmmaker Suzanne Osten puts it in her contribution to the „Why Theatre?“ book:
„In our dreams we are always on stage / Yes, we are nacked and unprepared / Curtain up“
WHY THEATRE? BY LARA STAAL
There is something about this moment. This moment of watching and listening. This moment of anticipation. There is something about this arrangement: on one side people sit and listen. They are quiet. On the other side people are making an attempt. Something is said, shown, revealed, built, composed, choreographed… Although we are still used to thinking the theatre is on one side and reality on the other, I’d say the theatre takes place on both sides, or that both sides are equally real.
What is at stake is the reality we are shaping here and now. It is the script we are all executing, jointly, simultaneously. The script called The State of the Theatre. The annual moment, the season’s opening, when we set the focus for a new year with new shows, ideas, talks, developments, makers and audiences…
The expectations surrounding The State. Who’s been invited? And what will this person say? Will their words help, inspire, criticize, mobilize? Will they be an injection to the field? To politics? Will it shake someone out of their stupor?
Or will it be a rehashing of something we’ve all heard somewhere before? Will it bore us, numb us, limit us?
This is it. This is the situation I love so deeply and so intrinsically. That you are giving us a stage. Or better still: that you are creating a stage. By sitting there. By being quiet. Or by doing the opposite and intervene and having the courage to break the silence. By writing a furious opinion piece afterwards. By starting a petition. Or by occupying the theatre. In short, by being here and responding.
And that there are people on this side who have the guts to get on stage. Who want to try and do something that might be meaningful. It is this joint attempt that makes the theatre. Without you and without us this building would be an empty shell. We are shaping the theatre. We are making it. Here and now.
And it is this agreement to engage, commit, respect, where someone is trying to make something and someone else is willing to watch it, listen to it, and act upon it, that I love to no end. It’s the creating of ideas, of stories, of fiction, of meaning, and expressing these in front of an audience. It’s taking seriously our imagination that brings us together, that gives a voice to what it means to be a human being, tries to broaden our horizon, scrupulously questions us and calls us to order. It’s having the guts to be infected by another person. To allow their words, images, thoughts and energies to possess you, and perhaps to walk away from the auditorium changed.
And contrary to what we often think, the theatre in which we perform a reality, like we are doing now, voicing this State of the Theatre, doesn’t exclusively take place here: the theatre is everywhere. It has its home in politics with its codes and rules of conduct about who speaks when and how, it haunts the court room with its mise-en-scene and dramaturgy, and the anti-riot squad with its unmistakeable choreography and costumes. You can see it in the recent demonstrations organised every Friday by young people across the globe. It’s the choreography of kneeling and the composition of silence at the many, many Black Lives Matter demonstrations. It’s the slogans against injustice making the history books. It’s the many statues of colonial rule that have been publicly covered in paint or torn down. It is, in short, the images and mise-en-scenes and words that are changing reality forever, because they prove that a different script is certainly possible.
Every day we are executing scripts that we might change at any moment. This is what the theatre teaches us: that nothing is fixed. That what is true today, may be very different tomorrow. And that if anyone decides to execute the script differently, to disrupt it, to break with it, that this will cause reality to change forever. Because the change, the break from expectations and normal convention, all of a sudden reveals the THEATRE. The theatre that is everywhere, all the time. All of a sudden, we can see the script, the roles and the costumes. All of a sudden, we can see how everyone is performing the theatre that was to be expected and foreseen. And all of a sudden, we realise it can be done differently. That we can perform this theatre we call reality in a different way. That when we notice the script isn’t right, the game is thrown, the roles have not been divided fairly and the story is likely to end badly for those who have the least, we need new rules. We need to rewrite the script. This is what the theatre teaches us; that the fiction outside it can be practiced in here. That here on the stage we can challenge our imaginations to the fullest, to perform the theatre outside with greater sharpness, versatility, force and fairness.
The State of Theatre, by EDIT KALDOR
Thank you for the invitation. And thank you for the question.
That’s exactly what my mother asked me when I told her that I’m quitting my medical studies because I want to go and study theatre instead.
I’m not sure what I answered her, if anything.
I was 18 at the time, and by then, so it happened, I had already seen a lot.
By then I already went through a political defection from my home country, with the related interrogations and all else that it involves: uncertainty, refugee camp, tumult and confusion, displacement, unfounded hope, and a new life in a big city far, far away, full of grit and glamour. And I’ve seen other things. Things, I deem, even today, to be unspeakable.
They say that what you’ve seen you cannot unsee. Even if you want to. Once you have seen something you cannot ever unsee it.
But you can re-see it. You can see it again. You can look at it again. Take time for it. Review it. Reflect on it.
And if my mother would ask me that question now: Why theatre? I think that’s what I would tell her. Because live performance, theatre is a way to re-see what you cannot unsee. It’s a way to bring it close, To make it concrete. To give it time, to give it attention To look, and look again. And look longer. And look better.
So yes, I have seen a lot. Also since then. And I guess I’m no exception in that.
I guess that many of us have seen a lot. And that we continue to see – and also to live – a lot. Every day. I’m not sure, but it feels like this might be especially true now. These days, these months. We see a lot. Maybe even too much. Often from very close. Because we are also living it. We see extreme precarity, we see mechanisms in place that thrive on exclusion and oppression and we’re confronted daily with the countless concrete manifestations of these mechanisms. We see refusal and denial to reckon with the past and to come clean in the present. We see pain, and we see anger, and we let our pain and anger to be seen.
Time and again we see our collective inability and failure of owning up to our roles in haltng the destruction of our planet, thereby making it unlivable for our children. And yes, especially now, we see illness, we see loss. And we see care and generosity and integrity. (Beyond imagination.) But we also see fear, and a politics of fear and of division on pretty much all levels. And doublespeech, and straight out lies, and misunderstandings and violence.
What we see we cannot unsee. But, we can re-see it. We can stay with it. We can give it attention, we can reflect it in ways that are tangible for us. That’s something that live performance is good at that: making things tangible and experienceable. It’s an apparatus that enables us to re-see and also to re-imagine what we cannot unsee. Because it works that way as well. It allows us not only to re-see, but also to pre-see, – so to speak, – to preview, to pre-configure what we have not yet seen. To imagine it and to rehearse it. It gives us time and concentration, which in turn allows for complexity. And it gives us each others’ presences. It gives us togetherness, so we can become aware of our own accountability.
In one of my favorite novels, Fateless by Imre Kertesz, the protagonist, a 13 year old boy, who survives the concentration camps, upon his return tries to explain to those who stayed behind how it was possible for something like what happened to him, to happen. He tells them: “It’s about the steps. Everyone took steps as long as he was able to take a step; I too took my own steps, and not just in the queue at Birkenau, but even before that, here, at home…. As we pass one step, and as we recognize it as being behind us, the next one already rises up before us.” We’re in it, and there is never a moment to stop and to consider what it is that we’re in.
What I’m suggesting here is that theatre is one way to stop and consider. To take the time and re-see – and reflect – before a next step is made. To reckon with things we cannot unsee, to rehearse thinking together and acting together. And to practice accountability.
Live performance, theatre can let us do that. This is its potential. And just to clarify. I’m not suggesting that all theatre actually does that. For theatre and performance to do this it needs to be aware both of the world and of itself, it needs to be fierce in continually reexamining and reinventing itself and going to what it does not yet know. And it needs a context that understands, appreciates and supports boldness, experimentation and risk taking.
The potential is there. For theatre to be a place where we re-see what we cannot unsee. Where we review and reflect the last step we took. And where we re-imagine and rehearse the next ones.
Level Up! by Ernestine Comvalius
The future of the performing arts
We are not begging for recognition
We are the ignition of new beginnings
We don’t fight prejudice asking for acceptance We just rise
Using the wisdom of our ancestors
The stories brought to the Netherlands
From all continents
Our performers are highly educated
Giving back to society, lifting up others inspiring little sisters and brothers
We don’t wait for admission
We change the conditions
Enrich the world of the performing arts
With new forms, new rhythms, new moves Sprinkling the diaspora spices
Coating the art with our multi layered groove We are not afraid of others who judge us
Our fame will transcend the nation
Our performers will keep winning prizes
No future of the arts without us
We are part of the equation
The world will embrace us
Cause we have it all
From where I was born
I am the Dutch conscience The anti-colonial thorn
I am their conscience, you know The Black Pete thorn in the flesh You know it.
stories forbidden stories well hidden Pulling down heroes
They, begging for a break: Be patient
Don‘t confront our mind Wait till we are ready
To take it
To forsake it
Our innocent privilege
However you name it
You know what I mean
They are Not ready to come clean. They denounce what’s over there Turning a blind eye over here
I am sharing their history
Knowing both sides of the story Embodying the stolen part
of the glory
Let us all
Keep on scratching and pounding Revealing, reversing stories forbidden stories well hidden
We can’t wait till later, Hope they`ll awaken From where I was born The Netherlands
The Performing Arts They need
that anti-colonial thorn!
Don’t we need to change the frames and the narratives?
Can we deconstruct the structural powers which divide us?
Shouldn’t we care not only because we need a beautiful performance, but because the art can’t be neutral in the case of social injustice and violation of human rights?
Can we reshape , redream, re-invent the world?
Everyday my granddaughter sings Ciara’s song: Level Up Level Up! Level Up!
WHY THEATRE? by Lester Arias
In my country we say something:
If the coat fits you, make well use of it, if it doesn’t: leave it to others. So I’m gonna be very general and throw some pearls,
pick up the ones that belong to you.
A production house doesn’t honour my work properly, selectively decides
to stop answering some of my emails. Some months later I receive an email
from the same production house. Saying their future was in danger, and with
them the future of young and new makers in the field, that they needed my signature, for a document that they didn’t even take the time to translate for me,
A future I sign for which I have no real voice.
Who’s there to say what the future of art is but me, who more than me that I’m theatre made flesh, that I have tasted that blood and dig my claws in that very flesh.
I’m the definition of avangard, of high art,
and what proves you that, is that you lack tools to brake down what me and my work I create in you.
You want to advocate for the disappearing of experimental theatre,
yet you are afraid of the unknown, you hold to your education, to an inherited gaze. You keep indoctrinating yourself, and us, on how to look at theatre, you force the newcomers to fit through the the eye of your needle,
to domesticate themselves.
Experimentation is key to the development of theatre as long as it is Dutch of Flemish enough, as long as it is white enough. When experimentation is black, or brown, or indigenous, but overall coming from a less civilised country, where you feel very lucky not to live in, or you feel pity for, experimentation becomes baroque, naive, unfinished, unpolished, extreme, inaccessible, less articulated, emotional, exotic.
These are not labels to my work.
These are labels to you’re own incapacity to face the unknown.
to your failure to befriend whatever feels or looks alien to your mind.
These are labels that I’ve heard a lot during these years developing my work in the lowlands, producing a work that successfully wins awards abroad and that tours around the world more than in the place that gave birth to it.
But anyhow: is always convenient to have a brown, queer latino, for the palate of colours that you get founding for.
for your two decolonisation festivals every year, for the page of basisinfrastructuur 2020- 2024. Our works premiere at your houses but don’t tour because your audiences wont click with it / wont understand it, right?
No, the truth is that you lack of tools to sell it, because it goes beyond your learned language and education, and you are not open to learn about something that moves outside of your own limits, your borders, your frontiers, your peages, your controls and policies.
Anyhow, who’s your audience? I see the colour and the privilege of your audience. And I see in the streets, in packed music venues, the people that won’t ever come to your theatres.
I see who your audience is: your colleagues, art students, people that wanna play in your theatres.
In my last show I had a couple of Dutch ladies, beyond 60 years old, that came to see opera and ended up dancing reggaeton with me on stage and opening an Instagram account so they could follow me and support me.
After the show I get a programmer saying that my work is unfinished. Programmers stopped long time ago listening to the room, to that very audience. My work/our work, isn’t inaccessible. You’re simply stock and very afraid of getting fired by your own community, or someone with a higher institutional rank.
I tell you my dad had cancer last year and a dutch person, a complete stranger, that saw performing at Motel Mozaiq in 2018, following me on facebook, lend me 4000 Euros because the Kickstarter of my dad wasn’t working and he was dying. She did something for me that nobody in this scene did. And I’m here, offering you to tap in this power that I behold, that we behold, and that is the real future of performance art: people coming together and supporting each other beyond all differences, sharing privileges to make a better world.
I have more Instagram followers than any production house that has produced me. I have managed by myself, not even with a producer, to get to Canada, to Iceland, to Spain, Switzerland, Moscow. So, what am I doing here? Seems that I could do this without you.
Well, no. I need you, cause I have a mission in this country, here is where I need to tour and my work needs to be seen more than ever. Because I know, that my voice, my presence is needed here more than ever.
You all talk about extreme right wing, about neoliberalism movements, but are the same ones that become the gatekeepers to whatever doesn’t resemble your understanding of theatre.
You’re the unconscious reflection of what you fear so much. A niche reflection.
Shame on you.
Now, can you continue doing what you do without us? I don’t think so.
Times are shifting, pressure becomes bigger and bigger, I see you full of fear, anxiety; there seems to be less steps in the pyramid but just a top and a bottom.
And, oh, my beloved ones, I see you rolling down ungracefully to that same bottom, where we have been always: migrants, artists, bodies of color; the others.
In this deep and low space that you’ve never experience so far, in this space of precariousness and constriction,
we engender our ideas, we create with our sweat, Dreams that become true,
theatre that you curate, feast with; the reason you have a salary.
So, it is time for you to feel our fear, to feel how your future is hanging from a thin thread welcome to our home, the place where theatre; the experimentation that you seem to advocate for, truly starts.
Now you think I’m nasty, that I’m populist; you say inside, “oh, how much anger and irony, so violent”.
I become your enemy and therefor now you have more reasons to not program my work in your venues, cause I’m very dangerous… you feel threatened.
Because you wanted me to be political but domesticated and well behaved enough, you wanted me to be brave and speak out the words that you don’t dear to say,
to perform my truth to simply say that I’m wrong, that it isn’t real.
But I didn’t come here to make you feel that you’re doing the right job.
I came here to be your biggest fear yet to challenge you to see the light in me,
to honour it, and to open the doors of your house so I can step in, shine,
we bring that crowd that is missing, we make some “money honey”, cause we got the skills for it,
and we make theatre together.
My future within your circuit, within the niche you belong to, it’s obviously on your hands. And I’m offering you that future on a golden plate today. The risk is worth it, because after all I don’t make theatre for you, but for the world that is at the periphery of this very context.
I hope my brave attempt can rather inspire you and also answer for me the question “why theatre?”.
But when I see the way you do things, how you engage in conversation only when your privilege and founding are endangered, when I see how you perform “wanting to make a change” only in context, how you create these evening(ephemeral performances of politics to feel you’re doing the work), and just right after you go back to your habits and outdated practice, of making a theatre that doesn’t want to have a conversation with the world in suffering that you don’t experience, I wonder:
Why theatre for you? Why theatre for you? Why theatre for you? Why theatre for you? Why theatre for you? Why theatre for you? Why theatre for you? Why theatre for you? Why theatre for you? Why theatre for you?
ALLERGIC TO NOSTALGIA by Gable Roelofsen
A little less than a year ago this is where we commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of ‘Actie Tomaat’. In 1969 the first intervention took place during a performance of Toller by De Nederlandse Comedie. Last year’s commemorations were equally turbulent. This time, because of the dominant themes of our times and because of the blind spots that were apparent in the set-up of the celebrations. Even before it all started, I sensed a growing allergy within myself to this commemoration. I was allergic to the nostalgia. Especially the nostalgia among people who hadn’t been there when it happened.
Luckily I was asked to moderate a talk during a teach-in, a brainstorm session held in another legendary theatre down the road from here. At the university theatre we, a group of theatre students and a group of Tomato activists, listened to the sound recordings from 1969. I was struck by a film clip that showed visitors to the Nederlandse Comedie talking agitatedly with the activists in the Stadsschouwburg rotunda. It’s a motley crew of representatives from the various socio-political denominations in the Netherlands. Class is clearly defined in the film. A communist looks like a labourer and the theatregoers in the clip look decidedly bourgeois. What hit me, though, were two Indisch people diametrically opposed to each other. A young female Indisch student is told off by an elderly Indisch gentleman. And suddenly, I no longer felt like an outsider at some nostalgic get-together. This made it my history too, and with that, this clip offers me an opportunity to testify that my history concerns us all.
The reason why the clip hit home for me is that I have learned so much from a group of students at the OSB Bijlmer secondary school this last year. I co-created a play with them that dealt with their perspectives on the colonial past. With adolescent psychiatrist and all-round hero Glenn Helberg as our coach, the process proved therapeutic. Watching young 14-year-olds write and come to grips with the way colonial societies are organized and continue to echo within us, worked as a mirror. It was a healing experience. Divide and conquer was not a general, colour-blind policy. Divide and conquer in the former Dutch East Indies was the way to rule effectively and efficiently. You’d appoint a class of foremen and construct a social hierarchy in which access to social and cultural capital went hand in hand with gradations of colour. An elderly gentleman inside a cultural palace tearing into a young Indisch student for disrupting the peace, in 1969. The Indisch story and the balance of power and dynamics that go with that, have been ours for centuries. Every section of our history harbours people and elements that reflect it. And yet, the average Dutch person doesn’t see it that way. Not even adjusted Indos do, or perhaps they especially don’t. (On a side note, we are almost 2 million, the people in this country with roots in the former archipelago.) Because the adjusted Indo follows the rules and has internalized the logic of the pecking order. We are the good immigrants, the informed firsts.
If that is how you think, it is especially shitty to discover that, when push comes to shove, it’s not enough, and you don’t count, you don’t belong. Gloria Wekker points out that Dutch academia traditionally studies Dutch history and the history of the overseas separately. As if the national borders and our former whiteness were still credible reference points in the story of who we are. Within myself, for instance, the influences and the things that have shaped me wash into one another in pretty limitless waves. These past few years we have seen these waves of confusion wash into our public conversation as well. But technological disruption has allowed more and more people to make their voices heard. Anyone who found themselves alone in the old days, can now find their equals, brothers and sisters, with a single app or hashtag. We are now seeing the larger culture wrestle with this new balance. Riding this wave of change, I have had to admit some heavy truths to myself: in the end, the endless readiness to adjust, to get with the program, and bend to some will leads to a kind of extinction of the self. People who are fragile and quick to take offence, or who are allergic to a difficult conversation, would like you to do exactly that, but it only serves to continue the amnesia.
The Netherlands have been changing colour for far longer than our selective memory wants us to believe. Over the summer, the amnesia prompted a growing group of bicultural theatre makers and performers of colour to set up The Need for Legacy, a foundation that aims, independently but in open-hearted collaboration, to move beyond yet another diversity debate and effect real change in the curriculum of our schools and fill in the gaps in our collective memory and our archives. First and foremost, The Need for Legacy is an open-hearted table where people come together to speak their minds, let off steam and catch their breath. Because certain balances of power and programmed responses go deep, and way back. Gloria Wekker, after Edward Said, calls it a cultural archive. Which is what all these people have come up against. And now I begin to understand the amnesia: once you start remembering along the full width, you will also have to adjust your self-image. And this is what makes these such socially turbulent times. It’s not just people of colour who are living with this cultural archive, among this confusing mess of a toppled bookcase. We, the Dutch theatre, have a wonderful history, but our memory of it is not very good. We need to take a closer look at it, read into it more deeply, and stop mindlessly repeating historic gestures. For nostalgia can mimic old balances of power, and thus reproduce exclusion.
It has been a long hot summer, and these are some bizarre times. In the outcomes of the Raad and FPK subsidy rounds that have touched me and my company personally, I read a head-on collision. Or to phrase it in more positive terms: a transition of viewing traditions, a shift in values. One reason why we ended up not making the cut is because in these committees, too, progressive forces and conservative values are fiercely battling it out.
A few people, here and there, are digging their heels in. They are probably having the same allergic reaction that I feel towards them. Privilege shows itself most blatantly in the fact that many of these people can afford to express their aversion without having to study it and making it productive.
That is a luxury we don’t have.
Your contemporary bicultural fellow human beings do have a head start now. These people have had to sharpen their stories repeatedly against the forces resisting them. When I look at the fighting Indisch people from different generations in the 1969 Aktie Tomaat clip, I’m thinking: this struggle is within me, and this conversation is within us.
We don’t remember it, but this building set the stage for it, then as well as now.
The resistance has produced within us knowledge, experience, deftness and maturity. We’re not better, but we’re certainly no worse. We Indo’s ideally become a useful sort of go-betweens, used as we are to switching between codes and ‘recoding’. That is how we help build new environments and try to help people read our shared history from a wider perspective. So, keep your nostalgia in check, your dug-in heels, your allergy. And come let of some steam with us, catch your breath. Because everyone, whether you know it or not, has need of and will benefit from a less reduced Legacy.
Translation texts Lara Staal & Gable Roelofsen: Wendy Lubberding.