‘Our community has so much talent’

This month is the seventh edition of Black Achievement Month. Theme: ‘Imagine!’ In addition to verbal expression, dance, visual arts and film receive the necessary attention in theatres, museums and other places in the larger cities. The common denominator: to show what black artists, with roots in Africa, Suriname and the Caribbean, have achieved. We spoke to three versatile ambassadors this month. ‘With Black Achievement Month, we can set our own conditions and decide for ourselves how we profile ourselves.’

Journalist Natasha Gibbs (BNNVARA) was a correspondent in the Caribbean islands (incl Global broadcasting and the economist) and can now be listened to as a presenter (The News BV on NPO Radio 1) and exhibited: she forms the first female talk show presenting duo together with Nadia Moussaid The 1st. Doesn’t she regret that Black Achievement Month is still necessary? She counters: ‘Women and young people also have their own history of liberation. The first female prime minister, I’m looking forward to it. And what’s wrong with showing what you can do for a month? Wonderfully correct.’

The dance performance siguifin, in collaboration with, among others, Big Pulse Dance Academy – ‘The three choreographers are from South Africa – Black Achievement Month opened on October 1 at the International Theater in Amsterdam and had her special attention. But she experiences the entire year’s program as a cultural cocktail that appeals to her.

“Beauty comes in all kinds of forms, and man cannot exist without beauty. You can see your eyes. It is special that we can unlock something in each other.’

For her, the Kòrsou-Curacao exhibition – an insight into the daily life of residents of Curacao, past and present, in the National Archives in The Hague – is a must see. Among other things, a documentary by photographer and documentarian Selwyn de Wind, who interviewed and photographed contemporary Curacao residents, will be shown. Gibbs himself also has roots in Curacao.

Gibbs: ‘When I see pictures of Selwyn, I am very proud of my island. The exhibition also features works by photographers including Kevin Osepa. I used pictures of him in my essay for A world on Inequality in the Kingdom of Holland.’

‘It’s special that we can solve something in each other’

Black Achievement Month activities are planned in the cities of Amsterdam, Almere, The Hague, Middelburg, Nijmegen, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Some performances are linked to a specific place. Like Returns the gazea theatrical walk through the colonial past in a part of Amsterdam.

‘Walking through your city and hearing the history that took place behind the facade appeals to me for several reasons,’ says Natasja Gibbs. ‘You get to know your city in a different way. You also get to know more about each other – something that motivated me to become a journalist.’

Also the show Pryor (in De La Martheater in Amsterdam), about the fascinating life story of the American actor and stand-up comedian Richard Pryor has her attention. Pryor took the rough life of the poorer neighborhoods to the theater in the 1970s. He made shows where topics like racism and police brutality were discussed.

‘The great thing about his work is the lessons you can learn from it. I don’t look at how he went from poor to rich, or from uneducated to educated. It’s about the way he looks at life. In which place he gives painful subjects in the form of psychological healing. In his personal life, not everything had one happy ending.’

Black consciousness

Arnhem visual artist, program maker and podcaster Richard Kofi is also curious prior. “As an African-American icon, this great agent of change has made a huge impact in bringing black comedy to a wider audience. It will be interesting to see how this show turns out later.’

Kofi is an artistic master – ‘Together with my friend Junadry Leocaria I made two films which will be shown this month at a film festival in Brazil’ – and is the main programmer at Bijlmerparktheater. John Leerdam, artistic director of Black Achievement Week, asked him to be one of this month’s guest curators.

Kofi: ‘A challenge because there is so much beauty in the area of ​​Black Achievement. We selected major events and major performances, but also emphasize smaller performances or exhibitions that deserve a larger audience and/or extra appreciation and visibility.’

The Museum Van Loon in Amsterdam is a charged place. The family was actively involved in slavery at the time. ‘A special concert will take place here on 9 October, performed by Arturo den Hartog and Djuwa Mroivili’, says Kofi. They will perform works by the black composers Florence Price (1887-1953) and Margaret Bonds (1913-1972). “Classical music is a white stronghold, but these two black women have broken it up. They were very successful with that.’

‘For me, it’s actually Black Achievement Month every month’

Finally, Richard Kofi points to the exhibition Cosmogony Zinsou in the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen. Zinsou is an art collection of 130 works of art, created by 37 artists of different generations and originating from African countries or from France. These are paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations.

‘The West African connection between spiritualism and contemporary art is central,’ says Kofi. ‘I am very curious about how art is presented, how these works of art communicate with the public. Really worth it. These include works by Romuald Hazoumé, Cyprien Tokuodgba and Samuel Fosso.’

Kofi hopes that some new collaborations with existing art institutions will be continued, for example with the Cobra Museum. ‘The more mutual cooperation, the better.’

Kofi works on his black awakening in every discipline he practices. ‘With Black Achievement Month, we don’t have to take the mainstream into account, so we can set our own terms and decide for ourselves how we profile ourselves. Hopefully our program will start conversations across the Netherlands. For me, it’s actually Black Achievement Month every month.’

‘We have so much talent!’

Actor Emmanuel Ohene Boafo, ambassador for Black Achievement Month, also believes that the expression of black artists and performers should not necessarily be woven into the general cultural offer.

“Ideally, Black Achievement Month may not be necessary, but it is very important, very good and also very beautiful that we present ourselves by creating our own field.”

‘Black Achievement Month is for anyone who wants to see how much talent we have Community owner,” he continues. ‘That’s what you’ve been missing. When I first attended the Black Achievement Month Gala, I was blown away. So many amazing black people doing so many amazing things. Why didn’t I know them? Why is so much talent hidden? Chrisje Comvalius, (an Afro-Dutch actress with Surinamese and Antillean roots, ed.) believes that in this way we can legacy preserved for future generations. She is right. That way we also get to know more about each other.’

Until recently, Boafo was associated with Het Nationale Theater. He is known for i.a. Sea Wall, Trojan Wars and The world according to John. In 2021 he won a Louis d’Or, the most important Dutch theater award. He also starred in the film White berry, which appears during Black Achievement Month and was nominated for a Golden Calf. As a true ambassador, Emmanuel emphasizes that he prefers to list the entire program because every part is worth it.

blue (at Stopera in Amsterdam), an opera about a black family in the US whose son becomes an activist, makes me very curious. Historically, but an opera about non-white people is special in itself.’

He has that himself Slip hoof seen, a theater performance in a chopped-up apartment in Bijlmer. The story takes place in 1975, the year Suriname became independent. The conversations show that some topics are still a problem. It is a completely black casta rarity in the Netherlands.

‘You notice it when a story about black people has been realized by white people. But this show lacks authenticity and is really made from the inside out. There was so much recognition for me as a black man, partly because of how people spoke.’

‘Many Pryor jokes are still relevant after 40 years. We still have many steps to take’

Finally, Boafo, himself of Ghanaian descent, is also very curious about prior. He thinks so Pryor will be performed again after the end of Black Achievement Month.

Richard Pryor is the founder of black comedy, someone who hits the nail on the head in the form of a joke, accompanied by his personal pain. Pryor holds up a mirror to us. His jokes are tragicomic because you know they are based on truth. Many jokes are still relevant even after forty years or more. It proves that we still have many steps to take. We are no longer where we were then, but there is still a lot of work to be done.’

The complete program for Black Achievement Month can be found at blackachievementmonth.nl.

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