Curatorial Statement

In 1993, the British historian and cultural scientist Paul Gilroy published the book The Black Atlantic – Modernity and Double Consciousness. In it, he describes the emergence of a hybrid and polyphonic African diaspora “counterculture of modernity,” which, according to the back cover is “not specifically African, American, Caribbean, or British, but all of these at once.” Here, music plays a prominent role as a means of communication. In addition, Gilroy insistently pointed out the dominant role played by slavery in the project of Western modernity, thus correcting the historical picture. HKW dealt with the “Black Atlantic” for the first time in 2004 with a large-scale consolidated program.

Gilroy saw his book as an experiment, an initial foray. “Black Atlantic culture is so massive and its history so little known that I have done scarcely more than put down some preliminary markers for more detailed future investigations,” he wrote in the preface. Roughly 25 years after the book’s publication (and 15 years after the HKW program), Wassermusik is now taking up Gilroy’s theses and looking back at the Black Atlantic once again: How have things evolved?

One major focus of the music program of Black Atlantic Revisited is on the Atlantic South: artists from Brazil (Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, Virgínia Rodrigues, Luedji Luna), Colombia (Louis Towers, Maria del Rosario), South Africa (B.C.U.C.), from the Cape Verde Islands (Mario Lucio & Simentera, Miroca Paris) as well as transatlantic music projects such as Maravillas de Mali and Angelique Kidjo’s Celia Cruz program illustrate the relevance of Gilroy’s theses beyond the northern hemisphere. The film program refines the picture with feature and documentary films about Capoeira, the Afrobeats of Cuba and the struggle of the poet and scientist Amílcar Cabral against the Portuguese colonial powers of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau.

What’s more, the Echoes of the South Atlantic conference in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut is part of a larger artistic research project by the Goethe-Institut on trans-South Atlantic dialog. Participants include Felwine Sarr, Gabi Ngcobo and Nanette Snoep, with keynotes delivered by Felwine Sarr and Paul Gilroy himself.

Detlef Diederichsen, curator