Arts + Culture
Photo courtesy of Performa and The Nest Collective.

Performa 17: The Nest Collective Explores Afrofuturism, Black Silence & Protest in Film

The Kenyan collective's short film program at Performa 17 is an emphasis on the strength of black presence.

"White people love Afrofuturism," says artist Patricia Kihoro, as she throws extension cords on top of her head in The Nest Collective's new short film, We Need Prayers: This One Went to Market.


In the film, which debuted at Performa 17 in New York this Sunday, Kihoro plays an artist who has resorted to "performing" African-ness in order to sell her work. Her original creative voice is silenced; in its place are the ideals of a capitalist, white supremacist art market, in which Afrofuturism is just one more reductive label used to flatten the complexity of black artists. As Kihoro poses with a telephone receiver across her eyes (to "see into the future"), her photographer protests. But Kihoro snaps back: If this photograph sells for $3,000, do you really care what the work means?

Silence is a powerful theme in The Nest Collective's short-film collection for Performa's AFROGLOSSIA film program. What happens when we black folk lose our voice—or refuse to use it? In This One Went to Market, Kihoro is in on the joke. She sails into art-world success by pandering to white people's clichés about Africa—isolation, conflict, and strife—and lands BuzzFeed worthy headlines like "Meet the African Artist Who Is Re-Examining Afrofuturism." But what has she lost in the process of selling her culture to market?

Photo courtesy of Performa and The Nest Collective.

The film mirrors the scene from Get Out when one of the white bidders tells Daniel Kaluuya's Chris, "Black is in fashion." The aesthetic of the African diaspora is in high demand today—from the global influence of Lagos Fashion and Design Week to Marvel's anticipated cash out with Black Panther. And The Nest Collective—those arbiters of Kenyan cool—provide us with a lens to reconsider our own agency in making sure our culture and our voices are not appropriated.

This One Went to Market was commissioned for Performa 17, but it is a continuation of The Nest Collective's We Need Prayers: This One Stayed Home, which debuted earlier this summer. Here, a married couple awakens to their neighbors being robbed in Nairobi, Kenya. The film is funny and light, as the couple bicker about how to protect themselves best ("Let's post on Facebook: ANNOUNCEMENT, ANNOUNCEMENT, ANNOUNCEMENT!") while deciding early on that their neighbors are on their own. Using "Nairobbery" as the setting, This One Stayed Home reveals the way post-colonial forces—for example, a widening wage gap and poor infrastructure that have led to increased crime—have alienated us from each other.

The series also includes two of Nest Collective's previous fashion films: the moody Dinka Translation (2013), a video look book of designer Katungulu Mwendwa's pre-fall 2013 collection, and To Catch a Dream (2015), a stunning, surreal tale of love and loss that features eight Kenyan designers, including Mwendwa and Adèle Dejak.

Photo courtesy of Performa and The Nest Collective.

But the most powerful short film is When We Are/When We Are Not (2016), a series of beautiful, silent shots of black bodies in repose. A man lying in a truck tire's tread; a woman in a lush, green forest; a hand hanging over the side of a bathtub with candles lit in the background. The film explores public black silence and stillness as it relates to methods of protest. It is especially relevant as Colin Kaepernick's silent protest against police brutality continues to polarize white and black populations. The mostly white owners thought banning Kaepernick from playing in the NFL would smolder his dissent; instead, its fanned the flames, inspiring a global movement.

When We Are/When We Are Not emphasizes this point: even when black bodies are still, our presence alone speaks volumes. If The Nest Collective is telling us anything, it's that our voices, whether figurative or literal, are more powerful than we realize.
News Brief

The Trailer for Faraday Okoro's Tribeca Film 'Nigerian Prince' Is Here

The film is due to hit U.S. theaters October 19.

The trailer for Nigerian filmmaker Faraday Okoro's debut feature Nigerian Prince is here, Shadow and Act reports.

We're a month away from the film landing in U.S. theaters and On-Demand since the film got acquired by Vertical Entertainment.

Revisit the synopsis below.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
(From left to right) Stéphane Bak and Marc Zinga in 'The Mercy of the Jungle.' Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Congolese Actor Stéphane Bak on His Intense Experience Shooting 'The Mercy of the Jungle' In Uganda

We catch up with the actor after the film made its North American premiere at TIFF.

When actor Stéphane Bak first got the script for The Mercy of the Jungle (La Miséricorde de la Jungle), he knew there was one person he had to consult: his father. "My dad did school me about this," he says. While Bak was born and raised in France, his parents had emigrated from what was then Zaire in the 1980s—before the events of the movie, and not exactly in the same area, but close enough to be able to pass on firsthand knowledge of the simmering ethnic tensions that underpin the action.

The story takes place in 1998, just after the outbreak of the Second Congo War—which came hot on the heels of the First Congo War. Two Rwandan soldiers find themselves separated from their company and have to make a harrowing trek through the jungle to link back up with their regiment. Bak plays Private Faustin, the young recruit hunting Hutu rebels to avenge his murdered family, a foil to Marc Zinga's seasoned Sergeant Xavier. As a Congolese militia swarms the area, and it becomes increasingly difficult to tell enemies from friends, the two are forced off the road and into the thick vegetation.

Their journey is physically difficult, but the jungle also nurtures them, providing food, water, and shelter. "The title is very explicit in a way," says Bak. It is the human beings they encounter, from rival soldiers and militiamen to the hostile security forces guarding illegal gold mining operations, who bring sudden danger and violence. The challenges are conveyed as much through the actors' physicality as through the minimal dialogue. As for the strain on his face, Bak says it was all real. "To be honest, it was very difficult," he says of the shoot, which took him 25 days. "I had to learn my accent in two weeks." Prior to commencing, there was training with the Ugandan army for realism. Due to the ongoing conflicts in the DRC, the movie itself was shot in Uganda.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Brazil Has Made Yoruba an Official Language

The language will also be incorporated into primary and secondary school curriculum in the country, says the Minister of Culture.

Yoruba history and culture has an undeniably strong presence in Brazilian society, due of course, to the Transatlantic slave trade which brought millions of enslaved West Africans to the Americas. Despite the inhumanity they faced, many managed to keep their ancestral culture and traditions alive.

Centuries have passed, and Yoruba influences still continue to thrive in various regions of the country, as many Brazilians maintain a strong relationship with the language and religion. Its influence can be seen through the music, food and spiritual practices of various communities. Last month the Ooni of Ife—the spiritual leader of the Yoruba people—visited the country, where he was met by crowds of Black Brazilians who turned up to pay their respects.

This connection will likely remain strong for future generations, as the language has now become an official foreign language in the country.

WATCH: How Ilê Aiyê Brought Blackness Back to Carnival

Brazil's Minister of Culture, Dr. Sérgio Sá Leitão, has said that the language will now be incorporated into primary and secondary school curriculum, reports the Nigerian Voice.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.