Becoming Afro German Art Installation by Karina Griffith – a statement from the artist.
Becoming Afro German is an series of moving image works and artifacts that signify the tension between Blackness and Europeaness created through Germany’s denial of its colonial past.
“Becoming” is about perpetual state of shift, about affiliation not appropriation. It is treading on the hamster-wheel of identity that has been my experience of Blackness as I move between spaces and places. As a second generation Black Canadian I grew up with a particularly insidious form of anti-Blackness that is erasure through denial. A 500 year long presence of Black people in Canada is ignored in favour of the “immigration” story, which essentially asserts that “our Blacks” were not slaves, and therefore somehow better. Before we were becoming Canadian, we were becoming Guyanese, becoming Barbadians, “becoming Black” (1).
I can never become Afro German, because that identity is kinetic, moving, fleeting. The Black German identity is elusive in its evolution. It flows like water; it is not inert like land (Deutschland). The only way to make land move is create borders, nations and visa requirement – the tools of colonialism that shift land away from people.
I don’t know if my decade in Germany got me any closer to the feeling of “home”, but that time, those conversations sitting at the foot of other Black women, of learning a language that allowed me to say things I never could, of receiving confusing, fearful, angry and sometimes compassionate glances from my fellow humans …they must count for something.
These works are an archive (2) of all those experiences and the affects that rebound between the bodies and places I’ve encountered.
Karina Griffith is a scholar and filmmaker originally from Canada. She received a distinction for her Master of Fine Arts at the University of London, Goldsmiths College in 2007 and has been trailblazing ever since. Most recently, Karina has worked as a moderator at Ballhaus Naunynstrasse for their We Are Tommorrow Festival as a filmmaking working coordinator and leader for black German youth. She presented her shortfilm Die Umzuege at ERIF’s first conference Returning the Gaze: Blackface in Europe in 2014 and went on to participate in the The Company We Keep exhibition at the Galerie Alpha Futura in 2015. Currently, Karina is completing her PhD at the University of Toronto.
(1) Wright, Michelle M. Becoming Black: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.
(2) Cvetkovich, Ann. An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2003. Pg. 7