This year’s focus is fundamentalism and migration.
I pondered this for a while. They’re two of the ‘it’ words of the past few years. These words, along with other trending words – displacement, war, borders, security, are part of the same sphere of thought.
Together fundamentalism and migration identify as possible cause and effect. The rest of words are part of the vocabulary that explain or form an argument for the cause or effect.
Festivals are spaces created to ponder these subjects. Pondering is a good beginning but insufficient.
The work that we have the privilege to experience in this space that we hold demands more than pondering. It demands that we hang in the face and the space of where the story is told from.
We should be splitting the gaze.
Most of the gazes are well-meaning, good intentioned and frankly condescending.
Considering a story from the perspective it made challenges deeply internalised codes that inform the popular imagination. Engaging from here is the lowest common denominator. Making the legacies we inherit and continually fight reinforce the status quo.
Wakamba Forever is a Kenyan short film told from the perspective of the Wakamba ethnic of the arrival the British to Kenya. It is told with humour and it disrupts this well told story. The ending is how we wish the interaction had gone. It is one other way to look at this event that we have been narrated over and over of how the British came and conquered us.
Splitting the gaze is achieved through a persistent disruption for the viewer, ensuring that the viewer looks at it with fresh eyes.
Hanging in the discomfort is where understanding co-operation and all the things required for true engagement begin.
So, as holders of this space, I ask to hang in the challenge of splitting the gaze.
I’m Hawa Essuman, very honoured to be the patron of Afrika Film Festival Cologne 2019.