Bats to skulls
Boot soles to backs
Feathers for hair
Bottles for drums
You taught me how to spill blood and then you called me a savage. You exchanged harmony for pollution and then you said I lived in filth. You divided and tried to conquer- man from stone, body from essence, tongue from memory. Trading lyrics for lashes and dancing feet for dead too soon.
Mother’s screams to mass graves.
Civilization to barbarism.
History to myth.
Can you tell me, who the barbarians were?
In forgetting, we don’t reclaim our humanity, nor do we patch up the gaping wounds or re-attach limbs dangling by a tendon. It takes practice and skill to forget successfully, to lose yourself in the swamp of history, emerging only once in a while to steal a lungful of air, or smoke, or one syringe’s worth of hope. And so we forget…
“You can turn anything into an art form. This is what brings my people together- the art of forgetfulness”. -Aila
If you’ve never heard of writer/director/producer/visual artist/composer Jeff Barnaby or seen any of his work, hop on over to Google right now and start digging around. The same goes to anyone who isn’t familiar with the amazing actress Devery Jacobs who plays the biggest badass/firecracker/ultimate girl power lead role in Jeff Barnaby’s first feature-length film Rhymes for Young Ghouls. My Quebec film class went to see it on Saturday night at the National Museum of the American Indian. And Georgetown being the place that it is, it wasn’t enough for us to just watch the movie. The director and the star came to our class yesterday to talk about the film and to answer more of our questions! We also watched his short film “File Under Miscellaneous” which you basically can’t watch anywhere else unless you have access to the museum’s copy. Like I said, Georgetown. Jeff and Devery talked about anything and everything, and they were so irreverent and unapologetic while doing it, two of the qualities that I admire most in artists.
A lot of the themes seemed oddly familiar: destroying identity starting with language, erasing millions of people from earth and the history books, suggesting that history only started when European “civilization” arrived, the legacy of violence and brokenness left after brutal European rule, the list goes on. Then I realized that a lot of postcolonial African writers have talked about similar crises albeit in a totally different setting. You’ll be surprised the parallels I found between motifs in Quebec cinema and *insert pretty much any African Writer’s Series book here*. Still, I’m hesitant to make a big deal out of these similarities only because it feels as though I’m implying “Oh, I’m a postcolonial African, I understand the struggle” because I definitely don’t. But that’s another post for another day…
Homework for today: If you haven’t heard about the residential schools that native children were forced to attend, it’s time to do some research. I thought I was unfamiliar with this piece of history just because I didn’t grow up in the US, but apparently a study showed that a shocking 80% of Americans were not aware that this ever happened. I’m not sure how reliable that statistic is, but I can safely say that almost my entire class had never heard of these atrocities. Residential schools were basically prison camps where native children suffered unimaginable atrocities, all in the name of assimilation and civilization. I don’t want to say much more than that, because I’m hoping you’ll look further into the topic. The one thing I will say is that it reminded me of the book Richard in Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun starts working on: “The world was silent while we died.”
Here’s to the un-forgetting…