The Sojourner Project is a mobile Black Studies academy initiated by the Practicing Refusal Collective, an international Black feminist forum of artists and scholars dedicated to initiating dialogues on blackness, anti-black violence and black futurity in the 21st century. Structured as a mobile academy that intentionally aims to exceed the literal and figurative walls of the university, The Sojourner Project convenes transnational and diasporic gatherings in which conversations, workshops and art activations create multi-directional encounters with histories of struggle and practices of refusal that have emerged in different black communities.
The Sojourner Project
Events are presented collaboratively with the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD) at the University of Johannesburg and Art for Humanity at Durban University of Technology, with the support of the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration (RITM).
What does frequency offer us as a framework for understanding black life? What insights does it provide for responding to anti-blackness? And how might it help us to see, hear, and feel the power of black life’s irrepressible drive toward creating a different kind of futurity?
At a moment of transnational racial reckoning, this listening session explored black frequency as a site of possibility. It engaged black frequency in multiple forms: as a sonic space that ranges from silence to deafening, dissonant noise; as a register of ecstatic rapture and spirituality; as a temporal feedback loop of memory, repetition, and renewal; as a dynamic relation of call and response, or chorus and verse; as a haptic and kinetic space of contact and connection across the African continent and its various diasporas.
Frequencies of Blackness is an invitation to explore black frequency through dialogue on sight, sound, memory, movement, and connection. The conveners of the session, Tina Campt, Zara Julius, Jenn Nkiru, and Alexander Weheliye, assembled a collection of sonic and haptic, written and visual texts that enact black frequency in a multitude of ways.
Though sovereignty has become something of a disavowed category within Black Studies, it remains conceptually and materially pertinent for Black people across many locations (for those in the so-called “post”-colonial world, of course, and also for those in majority Black spaces). Many of us are obsessed with sovereignty and with what sovereignty feels like, but this obsession is not one that is framed by the state, or within the parameters of its institutions. For us, the point of bearing witness to state violence (and other forms of violence), of creating different archives and affective relationships to violence, is to chart new terrain upon which sovereignty can be elaborated and radiated. We are always imagining something that looks like sovereignty, and if it feels out of reach we are compelled to reach toward it anyway. Sovereignty cannot be disavowed as either false consciousness or ontological impossibility, as these frames rely too heavily upon masculinist notions of revolution and human-ness. Instead, we want to privilege the ephemeral, the performative, the affective, the non-linear and unexpected ways something that feels like sovereignty circulates and is transmitted from one to another. This sovereignty is not an event; there is not a moment when we will be able to point to something and identify its achievement. Instead, it is constantly in process; it is both internal and communal; it both frames and enacts love and response-ability.
Deborah A. Thomas, University of Pennsylvania
Gabrielle Goliath, Artist, Johannesburg, South Africa
Savannah Shange, University of California-Santa Cruz
Khwezi Mkhize, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
These words mean and remember their origins in each other, each produced by the other, each is equal to the other. In the Black Atlantic, in the Black Pacific, in the Black Mediterranean, cartography is catastrophe, catastrophe is cartography. Each contributor as academics, as poets, as artists dwelt on the movement—symbolized by the double colon between these concepts.
Dele Adeyemo is an architect, creative director, and urban theorist. His creative and research practices interrogate the underlying drivers of architectural development and urbanisation, locating them in racialising logistical processes that orchestrate planetary patterns of life. Adeyemo’s projects mobilize a transdisciplinary Black aesthetics. Through the use of writing, film, movement and aural sensations that rupture machinic fantasies of logistics, his work uncovers the indeterminate imaginaries of Black life in Africa and the diaspora. Most recently Adeyemo has presented at the 2nd edition of the Lagos Biennial with Black Horizon (2019), and the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial with The Cosmogony of (Racial) Capitalism (2020). Adeyemo is a Ph.D. candidate in the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, and leads an architecture design studio with Ibiye Camp and Damso Randulfe at the Royal College of Art in London.
Dionne Brand is a renowned poet, novelist, and essayist known for formal experimentation and the beauty and urgency of her work. A poet engagé, Brand’s award-winning poetry books include Land to Light On (the Governor General’s Literary Award and Trillium Book Award); thirsty (The Pat Lowther Award); Ossuaries (the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize). Her latest, The Blue Clerk, an essay poem, won the Trillium Book Award. Theory, her latest of five novels, won the Toronto Book Award. She is the author of the influential nonfiction work, A Map to the Door of No Return. Her most recent non-fiction work is An Autobiography of the Autobiography of Reading. Brand is Professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph.
Kevin Adonis Browne is a Caribbean American photographer, writer, and speaker, whose visual and written work exists at the intersection of fine art photography and memoir. He is the author of two books: Tropic Tendencies: Rhetoric, Popular Culture, and the Anglophone Caribbean (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013) and HIGH MAS: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture (University Press of Mississippi, 2018). He has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Bentley University, The University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, and is currently Associate Professor of Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition at Syracuse University.
Torkwase Dyson is a painter whose compositions address the continuity of space, movement, ecology, and architecture. Examining black geographies, Dyson’s objects consider black liberation and industrial precariousness. The work invites questions of distance, embodiment and perception. Torkwase Dyson was born in Chicago and spent her developmental years between North Carolina and Mississippi. Traversing these geographies helped develop formal and conceptual concerns of black spatial liberation strategies. In 2020, Dyson’s solo exhibitions included Black Compositional Thought | 15 Paintings for the Plantationocene presented by the New Orleans Museum of Art and I Can Drink the Distance, Plantationocene in Two Acts on view at Pace Gallery New York. Dyson lives in New York and is represented by Pace.
Canisia Lubrin is a writer, poet, editor, and teacher. Lubrin, is the author of Voodoo Hypothesis (W&W, 2017), which was named a CBC Best Book, The Dyzgraphxst (M&S, 2020) and the forthcoming collection of fiction, Code Noir.
Danai Mupotsa is a senior lecturer in the Department of African Literature at Wits. She describes herself as a feminist teacher and researcher. In 2018, she published her debut collection of poetry, feeling and ugly with impepho press. Her work specializes in a range of subjects that include gender and sexualities, black intellectual traditions and histories, intimacy and affect, popular culture, and feminist pedagogies.
Christina Sharpe is a writer and Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Department of Humanities at York University. She is the author of: In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Duke University Press, 2016) and Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects (Duke University Press, 2010). Her third book, Ordinary Notes, will be published in 2022 (Knopf/FSG/Daunt). She is also working on a monograph called “Black. Still. Life.”
As Sylvia Wynter suggested nearly three decades ago, a radical rethinking of the category of aesthetics is a crucial, if woefully neglected, task for all of us who have been given to the refusal of modern catastrophe. This conversation between Denise Ferreira da Silva, Rizvana Bradley, Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar (of the Otolith Group), Jota Mombaça, and Gabi Ngcobo coincides with an experimental collaboration between Da Silva and Bradley, “Four Theses on Aesthetics,” published in the September issue of e-flux.
Building upon Bradley’s inquiries into the racially gendered labor concealed within the putatively autonomous totality of the work of art, and upon Da Silva’s critique of the modern principles of “separability, determinacy, and sequentiality,” Da Silva and Bradley’s essay deconstructs the framework of aesthetic judgement that has predominated since Kant. Endeavoring to rethink the relationship of the aesthetic to the organization of the modern world, “Four Theses on Aesthetics” sketches the contours of an alternative theory of Blackness, aesthetics, and the work of art.
This Sojourner Project session on aesthetics enters into the fray of these difficult problematics as a point of speculative departure, in the hopes of collectively contributing to the ongoing dissolution of the boundaries between philosophy, artistic experimentation, and abolitionist praxis.