We are here because you were there

Every exhibition at BOM can be a catalyst for finding new areas to explore, sending some of us off on unexpected journeys around the internet. Continuing in this tradition is Baff Akoto’s immersive film LEAVE THE EDGES currently in the gallery. Experiencing the work for the first time, it comes to us as a dreamscape, a visually beautiful and emotive collage of poetry, ritual, dance and music.

Looking deeper into the film’s conception, we find out that the sequences have been filmed in locations that are linked to the triangular momentum of the slave trade, where for three hundred years Europeans violently enforced the displacement of peoples for profit from West Africa, to the Caribbean and the Americas, and along the way created our contemporary African diaspora. These points on the globe are now forever connected to each other and to the African homelands and ancestors.

Baff Akoto has said that making the film was something he needed to do. It comes from his love affair with Blackness and the vast, almost unknowable quality that is the African diaspora. What we see in his gentle film, are cultural expressions that have been shaped by time, geography and forged within the horrors of colonialism.

Returning to the idea of the film being a catalyst and direction of travel for the curious, we find out that the film’s Caribbean footage was recorded during Carnival in Guadeloupe, festivities that come from the usurping of the Easter traditions of the masters by the enslaved peoples of the islands, who bought their own rhythms and spirituality to the party and made it completely their own. The music, a joyous new find, is the Island’s music, Gwoka. Described as the soul of Guadeloupe, the sounds come from a complex lexicon of drummed rhythms, dance and song with distinct beats prescribed for differing situations whether for joy or work, or rebellion, funereal respects or political protest.

Even to an outsider the sounds are Africa and the Caribbean combined to become something entirely and gloriously itself.

The rhythms of Gwoka form one of the unquantifiable number of entwined threads that connect the peoples of the diaspora to the African Motherland and powerfully embody the lost tribal identities and culture so forcibly left behind.

Listen to this concert featuring the much venerated musician Guy Conquet, and make a connection to the soul of Guadeloupe for yourself.