Update from Qudus' blog

Feb 27, 2013

Defending my own Name. 'Qaddish'

Defending my own Name. 'Qaddish'

In the face of the world, I'm undoubtedly a Black and an African man, but the question for me has never been in the realm of denying nor romanticizing, not worrying whether I'm black enough or being too African. We live under a construct which have placed more emphasis on defining and outlining who we are, so rather than just dancing and communicating ourselves in our own simple and naive manners, we now - through the obligation of the other - spend time imitating an idea of ourselves. For me, there will be no denying nor romanticizing, for this is usually the price to pay in acquiring that legitimacy that is offered to traveling artists outside their terrain, but rather I look at things more holistically and all inclusive. So it's always about how to communicate my own ideas of the world, how to defend my name without dissociating myself from and above misrepresentation? I don't require any validation for that. 

For clarity of motive, I begin by stating that my real given name is Adul-Quddus, an Arabic root name which translates to 'the servant of The Holy' but if simply called Quddus, it means Holy. in Aramaic language, Quddus transforms to Qaddish.

In 2009/2010 all my personal preoccupations were concerned mostly with question of exile and solitude, deconstructing the concept of home as static four walls, but gravely in search of aloneness and alienation, and seeking ways of gaining access to the deepest part of my inner self, a process that was so required when the rupturing divorce with Nigeria blatantly stares me strongly in the face, then I created 'My Exile is in my Head'. In 2011/2012, the quest moves further to trying to undo the myriad lies and errors in human history, denying the very existence of history and nation-states, but to argue that the sole motive that makes up a society, are different individuals, making selfish decisions to support their personal interests, and so I created STILL/life, wondering what it is that prop up the minds of men, that they set up ideas which they later think they can bow down and offer sacrifices to, and in the process transforms them into murderous monsters. 

Now again, the quest has led into newer byways. From recreation of the self, to the negation of history, and now to the quest for memory. As my dance practice intensifies, the perception becomes even clearer, my body protest that there are things to remember, things that I never knew that I know, body memory that is. When I dance I remember, when I stop dancing, my conscious memory becomes too short and perhaps too corrupted to go that far and clear. So my preoccupation lately have been to return - in a manner of speaking - to somewhere deep in the earth, to link the far past with the present, the living with the dead, the human with the divine and the present with the near future. I have began work on a new piece, QADDISH which is the last part of this existential trilogy of mine, in which I've initiated a journey with my 80 years old father, a journey we are starting from his hometown Abeokuta. 

Journeys in general term serves as trope for the Yoruba, in cognitive aesthetic terms. Its aesthetics development, even in everyday speech, serves as a primed prefix to any wise saying, rendered as Yorùbá bọ, that is, the "Yoruba retorts or returns", "Retorts" in this sense shares a verb and semantic equivalence with "returns". In other words, Knowledge and discovery are predicated on a temporal and spatio-spiritual journey. Qaddish will exhibit several dimensions of this spiritual journey in space and time. Time present, past and future dialogue will compete for attention. An aspect of this will be evident in the display of an interactive Wheelchair, whose presence in space will trigger a dialog with the past, and its auto movement in space compels us to acknowledge the present. 

Drawing from the Yoruba cosmogony and collaborating with modern day use of robotic technology, the Wheelchair will embody the metaphor of the space-time continuum as in most African masks. Breaking the words literally, we get 'wheel', usually used to pierce time and space, and 'chair' as a static designed object slowing down time and marking a static space, since time cannot be separated from space, we have 'time-space,' in other words, the undecoded 'wheel-chair' is fossilized message, a single instance that is representative of other instances, other spaces and times, it is a repository of the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spacial relationship, of a time past and of current knowledge such as myth, legend and the history such paradox exhibits. 

Through its evocation of several dimensions of time, realized in the congealed narratives of the figurative sculpture of condensed myths, current discourses, and a power to prognosticate, the wheelchair suggests a multimedia event, even in its static state, it compel a visual discourse. The chair will exercise an anarchic force upon perceptions, breaking down compartmentalizing categories by being able to move unaided by living beings and uninhibited between reality and magic, the referential and the semantic. 

In my approach to art, one thing is clear, this one thing however, might be seen as connection of many things that have simultaneously come to rest within my restless mind, and my body have created a precept and a refuge for these complexities. My personal need for comprehension, for finding answers to the many questions that surfaces on my mind on a daily basis, together with my own personal artistic preoccupation, with a dire need to heel and to advance art and humanity, and to be a bridge between aesthetics that has either been wrongly understood or dismissed as low art, and in all of that i have also find a space for my spirituality, in search of unity with the cosmos, with God and hoping to recover a certain verticality, to recover the authentic self that is neither subjugated to norms, history, the past nor thrown aback in his right to the assured presence. This meant for me tapping into age long Yoruba philosophies, which already neatly outlined the part of the self, of alterity, of the commune and of the divine, in its imagination and the role of aesthetic beauty and of art. With enough skills, talent, experience and knowledge, that i have been able to gather and exercise through my practice, i hope to take from this diverse sources aesthetic and transpose them into contemporary, and urban context. 

I am particularly animated by body memory, rather than history, by the will to reach out and communicate with the audience, above the will to express something of the self, and in so, I've constantly searched for ways to fuse poetic attitudes with a particularly traditional satirical and fictitious modes of story telling, as in the griot tradition, combining both social history, collective memory or collective amnesia with personal autobiography, as a critical lunching pad in the process of myth reading and communal rejuvenation. In most of my works - including group pieces - the dancer is always given the dramaturgic and choreographic liberty, to present himself as himself but pointing to something else, there is restricted level of show off, but a responsibility of an interpreter and the humility of a messenger. Through self exposure and auto derision, or self fortification and self proclamation, the dancer also weans his audience from any license of criticism they might have of both his art and the message thereon.

I have by no means felt at ease with the saying that "Dance is a language" or a 'form' of 'expression' and often outraged by audiences who want - by all means - to understand my performance, as one probably understands a piece of writing. Language can do less when dance is in view, and 'forms' denote something fixed. Body movement, or simply put, action has always been a superior mode of thought and of communication, therefore, the contextual meanings in my performances are neither eternal nor immutable, but mere signifiers in time and space. For me, a performance is simply an experience, not a cerebral one however, it is rather a brief shared moment of vitality, of healing, of social purification, where i sometimes make allusions to antisocial behaviors, but above all it is to mediate between the here and then and to make balance. 

My audience are invited to share communicative experience through many different sensory channels simultaneously; verbal, musical, choreographic and visual aesthetic dimensions, they all become part of the components of the total message, whereby there exist a personal alchemy between the 'performers' and every member of the audience, because in the Yoruba tradition, we believe that the eyes has got only two foods that feeds it, one is Iran, a magical spectacle or a choreographic display and the other is ewa, which is beauty. As beauty is relative, magical spectacle and choreographic display takes more of my attention, because it creates its own beauty in its own terms. 

This shows the importance the Yoruba attaches to intense and visceral body movements, artistic, acrobatic, or magical display, as a means of securing attention and thereby influencing both the human and the divine. Spectacle (Iran) in this sense denotes an happening that seldom occurs in everyday life, and hence a relish for the eyes. Conversely, Iran spanning from the root word iranti (remembering) is a memorable experience, lingering visually and aurally in the subconscious. In the visual art, an image or sculpture is called Aworan, a contraction of A-wo-ranti (a visual reminder) literally "what we look at to remember." Beyond and above the need to delight the senses alone by entertaining or educating it, a performance is also to establish a direct (active) body to (passive) body transmission, as well as a framework for regulating the social and cosmic orders. 

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