Friday, September 19, 2008

The ways of the State of L3

The ways of the State of L3

"No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place." Maya Angelou

When I started to think and write about the L3 project back in 2006, I had no well-defined idea about the status and form of the project two years later. During this two years the L3 project has taken its own direction and still continues developing, due to all the different people and organisations in The Netherlands and abroad that got involved with the project. The project has inspired so many people even before the different foundations have given their final word about the funding. At this moment we are not sure when we will start with L3, the funding is not yet complete and we are still fund raising to make this dream come true. We appreciate all your interest and co-operation during all this months of research, please fell free to send us any new ideas and tips for the project.

With this paper I try to inform you about my travel to Senegal and Brazil, where I went to see the possibilities of organising the L3 project. I contacted different creative organisations involved with African issues and met persons that can help me getting the project started.

The resistance to colonial domination, and racism have been the struggles of the sons and daughters of Africa in the Diaspora since we were taken to the new world. African resistance began on the slave ships and Continues up to the present. The list of martyrs for black liberation are many, and the struggle for complete freedom and self-determination have come in all shapes and forms. One of the most glorious moments of our struggle was during the organisational work of the honourable Marcus Garvey. which linked the effort and the continent of Africa for majority rule, equal rights and justice and the struggles in the Diaspora with the now famous words: "Africa for the Africans, those at home and those abroad. We should move forward also with one God, one aim and one destiny".

During the period of the slave trade (African Diaspora), we people of African descent spread all over the world, carrying the L3 gene with us. We had to redefine a new identity based only partly on our African descent. After the alienation we experienced, It’s important to develop new ways to bring together the community in an international way, acting local and connecting global. This might be a solution to repatriate ourselves to a mental African existence. The L3 project wants to be a stage for this mental repatriation. L3 wants to bring us all close to each others by gathering all the black cultural heritage together in a comprehensive database with all the heroes, leaders, music, inventors and idealists of the Pan African world.

As an African descendant living in different parts of this global community, my life has changed in many ways. In every city and in every surrounding I travel, my colour speaks for itself, generating different reactions to my person by people of African ancestry or Europeans. In general life in Amsterdam as an Afro Panamanian can be amazingly more relaxed than for an Afro-Brazilian living in Brazil ghettos, were police brutality and violence reign in the streets.

I think that in Amsterdam people of African descent are in need of more projects that make them aware of their heritage, history and identity, in for example neighbourhoods like Zuidoost, which has a huge black community.

The history of Amsterdam as the European harbour to the Americas and in general Holland colonialist' past make the African Diaspora here an important issue. Nevertheless, the last decade few projects have been organised about this subject. L3 tends to fill in this gap, on a creative and artistic way.

The reason of this trip to Senegal and Brazil was to see the commitment and vision of both organizations in each sides of the atlantic.

My days in Senegal proved a series of scenarios and circumstances that made me realise the strong connection that we have to Africa and to our ancestors. Since the day I arrived in Dakar, and Artist Oumar Attakoso welcomed me to the continent, I was feeling at home with all the billboards full of African people. A trip to Senegal has since for me become a trip that every African descendant should do once in a lifetime to get to know more of his origins.

I've spend my days in Dakar in the nice neighbourhood of Medina where we had the possibility to interact easily with the real inhabitants of Dakar, and not the middle-class ones with asphalt streets and security in every house. I saw the spirituality of this people and the specific way they carry their Africaness. In the Senegalese media, the relation with the Senegalese ancestry is continually emphasised in radio shows and on television, for example on Diaspora TV.

The first day we visited Goree Island, one of the many places in Africa where thousands of slaves were shipped to the Americas with no return. The atmosphere on the island itself immediately makes you aware of its history: once landed, it is very difficult to forget what happened hundreds of years ago. Goree is a beautiful and paradoxical place; and not comparable to anything I have ever experienced in my life before. The people from Goree welcomed me as a member of their family; they are very conscious of their own history. Several Diaspora related festivals are being held on the island during the year. The visit to the Dutch House of Slaves made me very aware of the history and struggle of my ancestors.

In Goree we had the opportunity to meet one of the important persons of Enda Senegal, an organisation that helps integrating young people to the labour market and realises exchanges with international countries. From Favrizio, who works for this organisation, we learned a lot about his perspective of Senegal and the way to work with the different organisations. Our project needs to consider lots of social aspects in order to be a success. We cannot just pick out persons to join the project, but really have to embed the project in a specific neighbourhood, because this will strengthen the project.

Favrizio's contacts and expertise opens our door to organisations that are linked to Enda, like Ville de Piquena, Bless en Gore and Enda Ecopol, places where the infrastructure and the projects were professional, artistic and social. In these places exists a lot of creativity like the Hip Hop coalition in Piquena, with an amazing and surprising studio and a radio.

Dakar is a vibrant place for the arts. I met Abdoulaye, a Dakar-based artist who recently participated in the Dakar Biennial and would be part of the L3 crew. He told me about the large attention for Diaspora related art at this biennial and we talked about the importance of creating a transatlantic community based on the history of African descendants. We agreed about the emancipatory repercussions that L3 can have, Creating an artistic and socially virtual state for young people. We need to work in these places where L3 can open to doors to a better understanding of the exchange of ideas between both sides of the Atlantic.

Two weeks after my trip to Senegal I travelled to Brazil. I started in Sao Paulo, where I spent my first week. There I got the assistance and expertise of Joelke and Leticia from the Platform Brazil Holanda, which is the organisation that is going to help us with the co-ordination of the project in Brazil. They introduced me to JAMAC, an NGO that works with communal projects like painting murals, graffiti, film and digital productions, and that is located in the favela Jardin Mirian.

In JAMAC I met the artist Monica Nador and her crew, Daniela, Tais, Leo (Founder of JAMAC) and Paolino, after listened to their histories and understanding of the Favela situation, race, politics and social problems in Brazil, for me it's clear that most of the governmental organisations don't care of the situation of the millions of Afro Brazilians who live in the favelas.

In Sao Paulo I also met some other great persons who are fighting for a better situation for the people of the Favelas, writers and poets like Allan Santos Rosas and the Coperifa Favela Poets Organisation. Sao Paulo is one of the most exiting places to work for L3. In Jardin Miriam the levels of violence are not like in Rio or other places in Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo also have a great art platform, galleries like Vermehlo and museums like the Afro Brazilian.

Rio de Janeiro was a different experience than Sao Paulo, the streets of Ipanema feel like another Brazil. Rich, middle class and European. All the images I had of a mixed Rio de Janeiro got completely destroyed when I walked through the streets of Ipanema.

People from the favelas only come down to Ipanema to work and don't have access or money to enjoy the sun and the social life of the centre of Rio as much as they would like to.

Most Brazilians of African descent live in the favela's, with bad education and police brutality, the elementary schools are so bad that when they want to go to free universities it is almost impossible to pass the exams or to pay for expensive books.

Because of this system it is difficult for afro Brazilians to find a way out of the favela's. All the universities have 80 % of white Brazilians studying in them.

In the favela of Sampaio in Rio I saw the work of NGO's as Mi Camichula, an organisation that works using clothes as a vehicle to provide new ways for an independent economy, and the work of Dutch organisation Caramundo.

I really admire the effort of this organisations for creating a better future for the people in the favela's.

After Rio de Janeiro I travelled to Recife, Pernambuco, where I met documentary maker Felipe Pacheco. We visited two religious groups that showed us their Afro Brazilian ceremonies and traditions, and it was interesting to realise how there is a strong connection with Senegal and the west African coast. The ceremony for Shango was incredible, it was almost like I was in Africa. Brazil has a great African tradition, and a strong history of resistance. Religion was the way to go back to the roots and fight again the oppressors. Most Brazilians are conscious of their African ancestry trough traditions like the Maracatu, the Carnival, and Afro Religions like the Candomble.

My last days in Brazil I spent with Monica Nador in Sao Paulo. We visited her gallery Vermehlo. We talked with Eduardo, one of the Directors of Vermehlo and looked for a curator who can represent us with our project, somebody who will give the guide to make L3 a successful art project. Vermehlo was impressive, is one of the most interesting galleries I have seen, almost like a museum, it would be great if we can work with them.
In Brazil advertising and the media are killing the society everyday with their European stereotypes and standards. The good thing is that there are more groups of intellectuals, artists and politicians with African background creating new ways to make a positive image of the black Brazilian population in the media. Magazines like Raca are working as a catalyst in a process comparable to the civil rights movement in the USA of the 60's.

L3 is a resource of resistance and awareness for the community, thousands of broken families in both sides of the Atlantic, fighting everyday to keep their dignity with few food on their tables and violence in the streets, people trying to be somebody, trying to get out of the misery, trying to reach the kingdom that has been stolen from us, it is a history of survival, families who went through the fire, storm and negligence of the government, a system who acts as if the ghettos of the world don't exist. But there is dreams, resistance, poetry and cultural movements. In Brazil and Senegal there is a new movement going on. These are interesting days to work in the new African world; To close the gap between the lands and all this people is to give the strength, solidarity and belonging to the transatlantic black experience, an experience as powerful as the future of the black nation worldwide.

The State of L3 is a state of mind as well as a new online state, that's going to link us in a transatlantic experience and help us for a better understanding of the Diaspora and the afro community world wide.

Finally I would like to acknowledge that the L3 project is also of importance for people that live in places with a big Afro community, like Amsterdam, to link them to their ancestors.

L3 will tie people through a collective world, tied together by roots, by genetical pull. L3 will create an utopian community. People are programmed by cultural heritage. L3 will be part of a bigger perspective.

L3 in action, Panafrican action.
Antonio Jose Guzman aka Shango's Son
Pan African and Afro Latin Americanist
Audio Visual Artist since 1990