Aligning with the onset of the new year in the Yoruba calendar, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) re-opens from 2 to 4 June 2023 with Acts of Opening Again series of blessings, concerts, lectures, performances, processions, readings, and rituals as well as the launch of the exhibition project O Quilombismo: Of Resisting and Insisting. Of Flight as Fight. Of Other Democratic Egalitarian Political Philosophies. Taking a cue from the history of the institution as a Kongresshalle (Congress Hall) inaugurated in 1957 before becoming HKW in 1989, the institution brings to the fore cultures of congressing—etymologically, cultures of walking together—implying practices of communality, hospitality, and the values of plurality.
Acts of Opening Again is thus a set of offerings and considerations of what needs to be surrendered and what needs to be upheld for to thrive together in ‘la casa grande’ (the big house, the planet). It is a welcoming of those holding cultural and community wisdoms, as well as an unlocking of the gates for the spirits, the ancestors, bodies and souls to come in and inhabit the space. It is granting room for laughter, dancing, flirting, eating, getting upset, or sad—room to move and be moved. A space of opening up to each other, to perfect imperfection, to the vulnerability and power of our presence. A house in which hope is practiced together, as much as radical respect, humility, and love.
Acts of Opening Again begins by invoking Papa Legba, the door opener, guardian of crossroads, intermediary between the spirit and human worlds, convened by Haitian Vodou Houngan Jean-Daniel Lafontant. Over the course of three days, HKW presents performances in the tradition of rituals of renewal by artist María Magdalena Campos Pons and Ilê Obá Sileké, the Afro Brazilian Candomblé House in Berlin. And in the manner of el medán—a celebratory practice of pre-colonial origin centred around reciprocity—artist Bernardo Oyarzún invites audiences to express their support and participation in the making of this house with symbolic offerings.
In the spirit of orchestration, Hwati Masimba convenes invites to a breaking bread ceremony imagined from the history of Chimurenga, the Shona and Ndebele war of liberation in former Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Bread Scores is a performative creation inspired by the smuggling of bread to political prisoners—fellow activists, relatives, and loved ones used to send hidden newspaper clippings, information about the ongoing struggle, words of solidarity and support, and love letters to ease the solitude of those behind bars. Masimba hides musical scores inspired by traditional Chimurenga chants of resistance in loaves of bread and invites the musicians to create sonic interpretations thereof.
In the central rotunda of HKW, artist Tanka Fonta painted a circular score, an emerging mural work and picto-sonic composition of nine thematic movements, orchestrated in evocative languages as visual, sonic, and poetic imprints. These visual scores constitute a departure point for an anthem orchestrated by musicians of Fulani, Dioula, Bambara, and Wolof origins who have made a home in Berlin.
Quilombismo is also experienced through the relationality and mutual awareness alive in African and Afro-diasporic improvisatory practices of collective music making and dancing, with formats of call-and-response, storytelling, intergenerational knowledge exchange, and community power and spirituality. In this respect, and shortly after the opening weekend, the practicing of rhythmic communitarianism is set in motion at HKW. Starting with Afro-Colombian bullerengue, Berlin-based members of different migrant communities, feminist, and other advocacy and emancipatory groups are invited to rehearse, in a series of workshops, this ancestral tradition of bailes cantados—sung dances—accompanied with live drumming, channelling realities and emotions that can’t just be expressed with words alone
Knowing that the body is the very first space of sovereignty, on its opening weekend HKW invites all to experience visual, sonic, sensorial, and choreographed narrations of being together and to draw inspiration from the philosophy and practicing of the plural performativities of quilombismo.
Haus der Kulturen der Welt