Get to know contemporary latin club producer Merca Bae
Tunde has always been kind and interested in the projects keeping people going. So it was the same when we first met for a presentation of Subbacultcha in KVS some time ago. This time we switched roles and attempted to ask pointed questions to someone who – in our opinion – couldn’t have more knowledge about our October theme: de-compartmentalisation
Interview by Herlinde Raeman
Photos by Stine Sampers
This summer you were writing about the need of broadening our horizons. How is Beyond the Binary answering this?
Beyond the Binary is exploring the intersections between queer identity, gender and ethnicity. And to a less obvious extent also class and religion. It is about consciously trying to widen our personal borders and perspectives. If possible allowing for the dismantling of some of the frames that keep us inhibited. In doing so we are generally more able to empathise better with those that might be different than us. Something like Beyond the Binary does not pretend to have all the answers. I certainly am far from being able to give an answer to our shortcomings and failures in the cultural sector. What I can say though is along with allies and accomplices I want to work towards establishing a field that creates more space for other canons, other kinds of people, and other kinds of points of view. This benefits everyone. By not doing this and being guided by the tunnel vision of ‘our canons’ we not only do a disservice to the society at large but we hinder the potential of our own individual growth.
Why is it that bigger festivals, institutions and organisations in the cultural field are experiencing this, while let’s say at a party in Brussels, the line in between gender, body, culture & identity has never been so thin?
These institutions are first of all, a reflection of society, be it a thin one. They still represent a cross-section of certain aspects of the communities we live in. Though you might be right that at a given party, there might be a greater mix than larger organisations and institutions have. This might be true for a party in Brussels but not necessarily so for smaller cities. In Antwerp for example some Moroccan guy is still getting turned away from a club. Even in Brussels one still sees pockets where certain groups of individuals are not necessarily welcome. Once the parties are over in Brussels, I’m more interested in the distribution of people working where. Are ‘transwomxn’ of color who make films getting the same type of funding as their cis-gendered counterparts? Who are the individuals getting the permits to own the trendy bars throughout Brussels? Should we be celebrating or criticising the impact that gentrification in some parts of Brussels is having on the mix of those communities. I appreciate what you mean that on the streets and in parties the mix can sometimes be rich. I worry sometimes though that this purported mix can be superficial in that it allows us to celebrate the ‘diversity’ of a city like Brussels while ignoring the fact that certain power dynamics are not being questioned. Like why do we not have more places that are accessible to individuals with physical disabilities? We certainly need to hold big institutions and festivals accountable because they generally suck up the largest amount of our resources but at the same time we need to be vigilant and ask of our own selves how can we check our privileges so that we and our communities are not living off of the oppression of others?
I went to see #negrophobia there and it completely had me ‘shook like MOBB Deep’ the whole weekend.
Do You Wanna Play With Me, Drairrie in de nacht, From Molenbeek With Love, … A lot of the programme in the new season of KVS is directly related to our theme of October : de-compartmentalisation. Do you see other good examples in the cultural field already?
You mean productions or activities that are pushing and extending boundaries and displacing what is normal? I think my favorite programming choices this season are being made by Beursschouwburg. Period! I went to see #negrophobia there and it completely had me ‘shook like MOBB Deep’ the whole weekend. Had me asking questions of myself in a major way. They also have other productions/exhibition under their The Future Is Feminist-label that has me taking notice. The Muntpunt in the last three years has certainly been making some interesting programming choices. It’s wild that one of the biggest dancing events of the Summer is organised by a library. Not to mention what they are doing in terms of having certain types of talks, films and broadening their canon with hiphop and Black feminist literature is setting the bar in Brussels, if not Belgium. All thanks to a womxn accomplice who likes to stir things up behind the scenes. Then of course you have spaces like Pianofabriek, their slam programming and more specifically their CityLab initiative that has been giving a new lens on film and youth for a few years now. Folks that toil in the trenches but hardly get the right amount of resources and acknowledgment for what they have done to ‘flip the script’ and create spaces where young aspiring filmmakers can have their shine while empowering themselves. Besides that of course you also have smaller initiatives like Le Space, Recognition, Warrior Poets, Massamadi as well as others reconfiguring what culture can be in Brussels.
Do we need to give this ‘subject’ a theme, a name, and emphasize it as an effort, something we are working on? How can we start to naturally embed it in every organisation?
No, not necessarily. Although I’m a huge fan of coming up with names (WOW, SLOW, PBnJ…) not everything should be labeled. Love the article that Greet Simons wrote for Rekto Verso (‘Een kaart om op te verdwalen’) where she did not mention any of the names of the initiatives or events. Genius. Sometimes giving something the space it needs to develop, incubate and grow at is own rhythm is crucial. The mistake, that we make sometimes (I’ve done it and still do it) is to try and take something and present it on a stage. Because we are all trying to discover the next hot thing. But what if we adopted an opposite reflex and let it be. Our patience in the long run might payoff in the beauty that is created in the long run.
Do you think intersectionality is something that is related to the difference in between generations? Are young people more used to crossover-thinking than the older generations?
Not necessarily. First of all, the term intersectionality was coined in the late 80s early 90s by Kimberlé Chrenshaw. Now, at age 58, she is still the one espousing the idea on stages from London and beyond and through her students at UCLA and the University of Columbia. Apart from that, some also see folks like Claudia Jones (Editor, Political Activist, founder of Notting Hill Carnival), Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin as proponents of intersectionality way before Crenshaw conceived of the word. So I do not necessarily think it has to do with generations, I think it has more to do with the willingness to be open to multiple ways of viewing individuals and their positionality in the world. One could argue that young people are more willing to do that but I personally do not think it is that easy.
What is your personal goal as a city dramaturge? What would make you a happy man (;-))?
Geez, that’s a hard one. Without giving away too many family secrets, I would be happy with more money. I wouldn’t mind more money to support crucial projects/festivals like Beyond the Binary, which tackles such an important theme. Something like Beyond the Binary helps us think about where we would want to be in the future as a society instead of just highlighting where we are now. But then again who wouldn’t like more money. I would like to work more with presenting theater in the neighbourhoods where theater is not common. I dig the work that Forum theater is doing to a certain extent, as well as Ras El’Hanout. But apart from that, it would be great to either start more initiatives in low-income neighbourhoods or bring in finished products that are inspired by the desires of those living in the neighbourhood. I wouldn’t mind hosting more writers of color (wink wink Passa Porta) to come and give talks in our theater or in the Brussels community. Create more roles where the young people who are rapping, slamming and so on, are challenged to go deeper into their craft, through the guise of theater or other multidisciplinary forms. But when they present their creation on stage, they are getting properly valorised. Instead of being asked to work for free or less than sustainable wages.