A performance by Elikem Fiatsi exploring how collaborative rituals shape the "reality" and "unreality" of our identities.
Slought is pleased to announce RItual reALITies, a performance by Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi (crazinisT artisT) on Thursday, December 5, 2019 from 6-8:00pm, followed by a conversation with Alissa Jordan. This event is presented in partnership with the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania and will be followed by a reception. In "RItual reALITies," Fiatsi will engage in a part-performance and part-discussion that explores identities as rituals that are produced collaboratively if not always conscientiously between individuals and societies. Detangling the notions of ritual, free will, and collaboration at the core of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ violence on the world stage, Fiatsi asks: what collaborative rituals are used to make certain identities "real" and others "unreal"? and "Can the idea of "Reality" itself be seen as part of political rituals and ritual identity claims?
Across many countries around the world (including Ghana), LGBTQ+ identity continues to be treated as immoral, sub-human, and even illegal by governments and public spheres. Trans* being, in particular, has been treated in media and dialogue as a practice (or ritual) based in willful choice rather than a "real" or "legitimate" identity. On the other hand, some decolonial projects that have sought to liberate Global South publics from the terrorizing influence of colonialism are complicit in dehumanizing and uprooting trans* people because they treat their non-cis identity as an "colonial" or "un-African" practice (thus framing non-cis folx as colonial collaborators).
Va Bene Elikem Fiatsi, who also performs under the name crazinisT artisT (preferred pronoun sHe/it), is one of the pioneers of contemporary Ghanaian performance art. sHe/it has performed both sanctioned and unsanctioned works of art in streets, alleys, historical prisons and castles, galleries, universities and airports around the world, and in exhibitions in Nigeria, Cape Verde, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Brazil, France, Germany, New York, and more. In sHe/it's home nation of Ghana, these performances and protests—using blood, bone, soil, and chains—challenge passerbys, publics, and antagonist forces to face and accept sHe/it's continued survival as both woman and other in public spaces traditionally hostile to non-cis identities. In turn, Fiatsi credits these passersby, publics, and antagonist forces as central collaborators in sHe/it's artwork. From thanking sHe/it's arresting Ghanaian officers in a Facebook livestream, to citing brutally invasive border agents as co-producers of performances on Instagram, Fiatsi radically challenges assumptions about collaboration---it is not always a collegial, willful, or knowledgeable act. In so doing, Fiatsi interrogates the profound tensions of relations that make up the core of our collaborative realities.