MisplacedWomen?

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Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?

In Airports, Berlin, Performances, Workshops on June 8, 2018 at 9:01 am

In the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s Misplaced Women? workshop, January 22–24, 2018, hosted by Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz, Berlin, the following performance has been developed and performed for the first time:

Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?  By: Rhea Ramjohn. 

By unpacking “colonial commodities” which Rhea uses to express her identity, she is confronting both her own and the public’s understanding of the “post-colonial” existence. She urges you to ask questions such as, What is exotic? What is indigenous? What is the composition of our identities, both national and imagined?

Performance duration: ca. 40 minutes

Location: Tempelhoferfeld, Berlin

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Rhea Ramjohn: “Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?”, Misplaced Women? workshop, Tempelhoferfeld, Berlin, January 2018. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

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“You’re from Boston! But where are your parents from? Originally?”

There’s that word again, Originally. This question is a sharp jab to the carefully-crafted concept of my identity. It is a reminder that I am a Misplaced Woman. As with many migrants from the Caribbean my heritage is varied, complex, and in many instances- undocumented. Growing up in Trinidad to parents who had little written history of our family’s migration (forced and otherwise) from Asia, Africa, and Europe, I was left to deduce for myself, the understanding of my “ethnic” identity. Furthermore, moving to the U.S. and later to Europe makes that identity-establishment more complex. I’ve found that through language and through cuisine, I can come close to physically presenting my identity, which is defined in no small part to misplacement and the Caribbean Diaspora. 

In the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s Misplaced Women? workshop, I explore this expression by unpacking a suitcase of food and other objects on the runway of the no-longer operating airport, Tempelhof. Once unpacked, the set-up should appear similar to the market vendors of my childhood Trinidad. For the performance, I chose the closed airport because it addresses my memories of travelling, where I first fell in love with the idea of visiting other places. Furthermore, choosing to stage my performance as a Trinidadian market vendor is alluding to the strong influence of global trade on my existence. Colonialism in particular, has not only affected my life, but all of us collectively. The night before the performance, I carefully selected the objects which I wanted to present because each of them serves a very particular way in which I present my identity. 

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Rhea Ramjohn: “Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?”, Misplaced Women? workshop, Tempelhoferfeld, Berlin, January 2018. Photos: Tanja Ostojić and Alice Minervini

My suitcase was packed with the following objects:

A beach mat, a white tarp, a red Chinese robe, a Boston Red Sox baseball cap, a map of Trinidad, 2 sarongs from the Bahamas one red and one blue, a bag with a whale design, 2 straw placemats, a wok, a wooden spatchala, a stuffed toy lobster, pairs of chopsticks, star-themed napkins, a purple Chinese fan, a bar of Trinidadian chocolate, a bag of Trinidadian coffee, 2 mangoes, 1 cassava, a bag of brown cane sugar, plantains, potatoes, lemons, chilli peppers, rice, ginger, garlic, amchar marsala, madras curry powder, 3 Bahamian seashells, the  Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, Black Berlin, a Trinidadian passport, an American flag postcard, and my writing notebook from 5th class.  

With the presentation of these objects, I am attempting to exert the representation of my fragmentally determined ethnic/racial/national/personal misplacement through the narrative of colonial and “post-colonialism”. Because colonies are exploited for their resources, each of these objects serves as a symbol of that exploitation and subsequent misplacement.  

I challenge the public to recognize the connection these products have to colonialism, slavery, and immigration. How does un-/forced migration contribute to the Diaspora in terms of the re-framing of identity, misplacement of people, culture, and commodities? How are the effects of colonialism still felt/manifested today?  The title question of this performance, Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today? confronts my own search for a connection to an ancestral and cultural heritage which is inextricably linked with misplacement.  

 

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Rhea Ramjohn: “Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?”, Misplaced Women? workshop, Tempelhoferfeld, Berlin, January 2018. Photos: Tanja Ostojić and Alice Minervini

Some background on a few of the items:

The map of Trinidad: designed in the mid 90s, it was found in a flea market in Germany and outlines the industries and agriculture of Trinidad at that time- two points which focus solely on the country’s resources.

The postcard and star-themed napkins: the postcard is a replication of a 1970s black and white photo of a Black man waving an American flag. This in combination with the star themed napkins is a subtle ironic nod to my American identity, which is fraught with pride yet dismay at the racial and socio-economic injustices of my surrogate homeland.

The bag of brown cane sugar, bar of Trinidadian chocolate, and Trinidadian coffee: indigenous products to the island, these are clear representatives of the many reasons Trinidad and much of the world was colonized and exploited for monetary profit. I attempt here to bring to light two significant products usually labelled as “European” (i.e. coffee as a typically Italian product, and chocolate as a typically Swiss, Belgian, German, Dutch product), and sugar- a globally important commodity, yet whose history is steeped in the horror of slavery and colonialism.

Mangoes, plantains, potatoes, cassava, lemons, madras curry powder, amchar masala, chillies, rice, ginger, and garlic: these products represent the scope of the Diasporan traditions reflected not only in Trinidad, but throughout the Caribbean and the Americans. Asia and Africa in particular play monumental roles in the shaping of Caribbean societies, and are therefore instrumental in my identity as a Caribbean-American person.

2 sarongs from the Bahamas and 3 Bahamian seashells: gifts from a Trinidadian aunt who emigrated there, they are representative of yet another instance of a Caribbean woman emigrating to another place- a trend common in the Caribbean, yet hardly known internationally. The seashells carry the eternal sounds of the sea- a constant reminder of how far removed we are from our origins.

Text written by: Rhea Ramjohn

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Rhea Ramjohn: “Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?”, Misplaced Women? workshop, Tempelhoferfeld, Berlin, January 2018. Photo: Alice Minervini

Rhea Ramjohn is a Trinidadian-American Creative Writer and Poet based in Berlin.

 

Photo and video documentation by: Tanja Ostojić and Alice Minervini

 

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Public Presentation of the Misplaced Women? Workshop in Berlin, January 24, at 5 pm

In Berlin, News, Workshops on January 23, 2018 at 4:47 pm

Please join us for the public presentation of outcomes of the “Misplaced Women?”, 3-day-long  performance art workshop in the public space with Tanja Ostojić in Berlin, hosted by Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 5 pm 

Participants of diverse backgrounds and levels of experience who committed to participate in this workshop will have a chance to show some of their interventions and to talk about experiences born during this collaboration. First outcomes of the workshop will be presented to the public at the end of the third day at the Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz and will be included later with related texts on the Misplaced Women? project website.

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The Misplaced Women? workshop participants and the cold survivors in front of the Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz, Berlin, on January 23, 2018. Photo: Sajan Mani

 

The Workshop Participants include between others:  Jia Chen Xu, Tatiana Bogacheva, Hoang Tran Hieu Hanh, Katja Vaghi, Ola Koziol, Sara Kramer, Martina Janssen, Evdoxia Stafylaraki, Kathrin Fischer, Rhea Ramjohn, Gaby Bila-Günther, Alice Minervini, Nati Canto…

About the project:  Misplaced Women? is an art project by Tanja Ostojić that consists of performances, performance series, workshops and delegated performances, ongoing since 2009, including contributions by international artists, students and people from divers backgrounds. Within this project we embody and enact some of everyday life activity that signifies a displacement as common to transients, migrants, war and disaster refugees, as it is to the itinerant artists travelling the world to earn their living. Those performances are continuing themes of migration, desired mobility, and relations of power and vulnerability in regards to the mobile and in the first line female body as in numerous previous works of mine.

Participants are invited to perform Misplaced Women? and to share there experiences on the web blog and during public discussions. Locations for performances suggested include migration specific places: train stations, airports, borders, underground, police stations, refugee camps, specific parks, prisons, etc. Contributions are posted in the form of images, notes, stories or videos to the projects blog: https://misplacedwomen.wordpress.com/

About the workshop:  The workshop aims to familiarise the participants with the topics and to stimulate an interventions in the public space. The first part of the workshop is informing the participants about the project and encourages discussions about the aims of the project.

During the second part of the workshop the participants are invited to enact live performances and interventions in the streets and parks of Weissensee or other parts of Berlin. The workshop aims to provide space for discussion of topics like traveling, identity, illegality, homelessness, security, privat space/ public space, etc.

The notes and reflections involving from the workshop will be gathered in the form of text, drawings, photos, videos and small interventions. Also, we will document the public performances as well.

This workshop is a part of the program ‘Body in the City‘ – a series of inquiries between the borders of public and private spaces in relation to the body and its temporalities, initiated by Sajan Mani.

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Rhea Ramjohn performing the Misplaced Women? at Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin. January 23 2018. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

About the workshop leader:  Tanja Ostojić is a renowned Berlin based, Yugoslavian born performance and interdisciplinary artist whose artworks engage with feminism and migration politics. She includes herself as a character in performances and uses diverse media in her artistic researches, thereby examining social configurations and relations of power. She works predominantly from the migrant woman’s perspective, while political positioning and integration of the recipient define approaches in her work. Since 1994 she presented her work in numerous exhibitions, festivals and venues around the world. She has given talks, lectures, seminars and workshops at academic conferences and at art universities around Europe and in the Americas.

Organised by: 

Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz

Gustav-Adolf Straße 140

13086 Berlin

kunsthalle@kh-berlin.de

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