Outcome and Reflection:
Online panel Discussion 'Intangibility within the tangible spaces of coloniality
– Create solidarity from different positions –'
5. Apr 2022 19:00 -21:00
The drawing contributed from one of the participants of the discussion. Thank you!! @ visual_confidence
To watch the recording of the discussion, request it by emailing to: email@example.com
Reflections after the discussion:
From Fazle to Toshie as response to her first reflection; "we could not address so much about “how to engage in our local places”. But instead, we could hear in the talks a lot about the issues within the Congo, which actually means “ within this world” //////
Fazle: "Indeed it’s important and necessary to have these conversations with more people, different ppl, different moderators, participants. Maybe we didn’t talk about it before enough. But, it was already in our mind, both you and me - the sensitivity of this subject, around the Congo. It is the situation that we know - we both aware of - that it really hasn’t been spoken about. The Congo, in that sense, like many other cases in this world, is that people do not talk about. And.. I don’t like to go into the discussion of hierarchy of different people - who is more oppressed than who -, but we have to be honest about that we have much more privileged lives and privileged situation. I’m talking about this context, from squatting, where your research brought you to the Congo, meaning the situation of living in that squat. But creating solidarity then, is of course, fragile, when we are dealing this type of conversation, where the people of the Congo are offered to stage. It’s very very urgent for them…. At least, I hope, as i said in the conversation, we should accept that it’s not always about understanding. It is indeed about solidarity. And solidarity means, in this case, out of the event, is to listen. Simply, to listen and also to stage for their voice to be heard. and you have been doing that now again, so that was already happening. Another form of solidarity is that, from the positions we are in, we also focus that multi-national involvements in the whole situation of the Congo. It’s impossible for us to present all the parties involved/living in the Congo, but most of focus is that, the vast majority of the populations are completely exploited and impoverished and uprooted.. Of course it’s sensitive subject.
So, yes for “shifting perspectives”. But also, accept that the space to shift perspectives is very much defined by the reality of we are living today. And this is the reality, you know. We have problems in the Netherlands in many ways, in the western countries, and also Denmark, squatting is important tool for us in kind of against neoliberalism, you can consider it almost decolonial act, but as I also suggested, actually took it from Delphin’s response: Is one strategy always applicable in every situation? I personally don’t think so. But it’s interesting. Of course, if the panels are with 4 or 5 people, also with the people who’s squatting in the Netherlands and panels from the side of the Congo, we will have different situation. But we should question to ourselves as well, if in that situation - if we create that kind of space - how much would that act create solidarity in the space? I think the act we did was much more the act of solidarity than having such panels. That’s just an example, but because of that very reason, the Congo hasn’t been heard and the Congo hasn’t been seen. When it comes to the conversations around squatting in the Netherlands, there are still a lot of spaces that, and we have privilege to be able to have that type kind of conversation, around squatting. It’s good, if we want to for example go more into that direction, e.g enter into more that kind of conversation and having this squatted embassy into that subject to complicated. It’s different dynamic.… ..
But (what happened in our discussion) was already good, being aware of the people who we invite, but also, in that tension, I don’t want to create a type of illusion of me being “mediator”, I am not mediator, but I was moderator between Delphine, Cheik and you. I had to respect that the conversation goes into that direction. I didn’t want to force anyone to shift their perspectives. I felt that sensitivity in that space…. So, be aware of the fact.. Be aware of that there is a story/narrative that is constantly silenced, that is the Congo, that is the neocolonialism which hasn’t been spoken about. And that tension within the Congo, with almost 100 million people living in that country, and so many Congolese people are refugees living in all over the world. So the people are aware of that, we cannot deny this, we cannot push it away. That’s why I think, shifting perspective
or creating solidarity or “what solidarity is” is something we can conclude in a session. It is something like planting a seed and grow in time. In this world, people are seeing and feeling, and we are questioning to ourselves about that. All kinds of solutions we have in our minds… I think one of the value in decoloniality is Do not fall into the universalism. So we don’t think like that one act here would work in somewhere else in the same way. As we had in the conversation; squatting is the solution of everywhere for everyone. It can actually hurt people and it can take livelihood from others as well…
So I guess, there are a lot more to say… but I continue my day! and we continue, let’s see, let’s see how we can nurture our relations as well!"
From Toshie to all 3 ///
Toshie: "Thank you so much for your engagement on Tuesday night. I’m happy that we managed to create that space with you all, although it was not the most easy or appropriate space to discuss such important matters (meaning that online setting).
I have been wondering during the discussion, if our proposed questions were ever appropriate to ask you two, Delphine and Cheik. If our questions were actually from too privileged position, as if too Eurocentric position to ask? I mean, comparing to the reality of the Congo, if those questions were too abstract or maybe irrelevant to address. But it was so meaningful to re-confront to the complicated reality of the Congo. That was my first reflection.
Secondly I want to write about that squatting of the embassy of the Congo. (Sorry it’s long.) Maybe Cheik knows better, but for Delphine, I think, before the panel discussion, I should have made better communication with you about it. You might think as my defence for the people who live/lived there. But please don’t only take it in that way.
First of all, the film “A House Placed in Between” is not pure documentary film. I used both of the method of “documentation” and the method of “setting-up”. Within this process of the film, I wanted to both rise more awareness first to myself, and then within us occupants, and then I wanted to reflect the larger political or colonial matter. The film is edited for the purpose of the last point. I asked to the people who participated in the film to do both performance and discussion. It is mixture of acting, recalling memories at the same time sharing their process of thoughts. So, the film is mixed both scripted and not scripted.
Talking about the Congo within that very space of occupied embassy of the Congo, was not easy, so I needed to set up a situation that we could actually discuss a bit “formal” way. So, distancing ourselves from the daily space in order to collectively address in this topic. So for the film, I kindly ask you not to judge individual persons.
I mean, the people were/are not completely ignorant. As individuals, the people have their own thoughts, way of relating with the topic. However, it’s true that we failed to collectively reflect and discuss about it in our daily life. We never collectively discussed our privileges about why we could live in such space of the Congo. I felt there were some sort of taboo or silence around this topic of the Congo. But no wonder, because we were occupying that very territory of the Congo. So when I say “discuss”, it also give us question “but what should we discuss”? and is it ever “appropriate” to “discuss” it among us? I suppose this mixed feeling gave the people difficulty to talk about the Congo.
Another reason why I didn’t make more pure documentary film is that there was some issues of showing images of the deteriorated architect of the house. Because that could become best reason for the Dutch authority to evict occupants. Meaning, if the Dutch authority “judge” the house “unsafe” to live there, they could always take action regardless of reality.
In my opinion, there are 2 reasons (maybe more… but I state 2 here) why we “the artists” could live there. The first as you know is the corruption of the Congo. But this corruption is the result of the continuous colonial structure even after independent, right?
The second is that because someone (the initial squatter) took such risk to squat this embassy. At that time, this person did not squat it for himself but for the artists to be able to create a collective space. Within the history of Dutch squatting, where people had been flighting against elite and neoliberal society where more people were pushed because of privatising, where only rich people become richer and large building cooperations become richer - I defended the activity of squatting. People are also aware of that, squatting is not easily understood and accepted by the main public. Therefore, I even more defend the intention of squatting, which is originally a grass root activity against neoliberalism. There are also many good examples of squatting that helped refugees. Unfortunately this was something that didn’t happen in our case though.
In the case the occupied embassy of the Congo, whether it should have not been squatted and it should have been kept as it; I am not sure. I am not interested in judging it.
One hand, I kind of think like this… If it was not squatted, the house was sold to some rich people as to return of the large debt. There was a party/person who were seizing this building as to return the dept from Zaire time, as there have been happening to other Congolese buildings in other cities. or the house could have kept long standing abundant, as i saw at another Congolese building in London. I know the legal case over this debt between the debt collector and the Congo. And I know some of the diplomats family were living there long before but i don’t know for how long. The building was deteriorated when it was squatted.
Any case, non of us (also the people who currently live there) intended to prevent the Congolese authority to re-open the embassy there. But at that time, the Congolese authority came to say they would, they didn’t take the real action. Because maybe there was already another Congolese consult building in Hague. In the beginning (back in 2011-2013), we were informed a little about the diplomatic process between NL and the Congo, but we didn’t know actually their real process. But a few years ago, I heard that the Congolese authority together Dutch authority came and made a verbal agreement with the occupants. So the occupants could continue living in the building until they re-open the embassy.
As the guy in the end of my film said “we use it respect, for the building” was probably the most commonly shared feeling. It doesn’t really mean that we don’t care about the Congo, but as a collective, our focus was more about “house” = space of living, space of communal activities, and the principal of housing, which is to house people. We also thought the fact wether we lived in that space or not would not make any change to the reality of the D.R Congo.
It is very pity in this process, we could not rise more collective awareness about the Congo and imagine the space beyond the principal of house. I totally agree with you that part, Delphine. And I believe the people who participated in the film shares this feeling of pity, therefore they did. There are a lot of regret but at the same time for me there was also love in that house. I don’t ask you to agree with my point of views. But hope some how it could make our distance closer.
I’m sorry it’s long message, but as last, Delphine and Cheik Fita, I completely understand you two are really busy, but if there are some points which you didn’t enough communicated, would you kindly share it with us all? I know the reality of the Congo or reality of each of you cannot be discussed enough within this format. But I really appreciate, if we can continue our relationship.
Thank you so much again for your time and contribution."
From Delphin to all 3///
Dear Toshie et al.,
"Here’s is my take on the discussion which Fazle managed to well circumscribe regardless of divergent views between Cheik Fita and I on DRC. I really think debating on DRC is so complex mostly as our two perspectives are slightly different based on our background political and researcher activists. Instead of covering the list of the questions which, from my understanding and not really abstract, were appropriate to help delve into the context and meaning we give social phenomena based on our background. Covering the entire questions would have been a way of challenged the sense of post/neo colonialism by interpreting the meanings of actors in the film. But then, there was a need to tackle our understanding on how colonial consequences have continuously been impacting our way of living in Congo.
On the squatting matter, I personally liked the sense of honest during the discussion. It helped again to see what the squatting is all about (though I did not personally have an idea of what it intended). My guess, the audience might have appreciated that we have divergent perspectives on Congo, the squatting of embassy building but also the role of the Congolese state in all these messes.
As I explained, squatting the Congolese embassy might reflect that a disorganized state (bad governance) can open this breach of being squatted. Had it not been this film, I still disagree that squatters can occupy an embassy of country because its authorities are corrupted. Once again, the squatting made by artists ended up raising awareness on the Congolese situation as a way of making solidarity with the Congo ordinary citizens. Squatters are not prime responsible of what happened to the Congolese embassy in France, Washington, and South Africa. However, human solidarity needs to push us towards creating a space of raising awareness on what is happening to Congolese embassies and locally in DRC.
I am still open to the debate and happy to talk again if need be. I highly appreciated the drawing. The participant has carefully followed the debate."
From Cheik Fita///
"Merci pour ton message.
L'émission a été un bel exercice.
Je pense que nous avons dit l'essentiel.
Le mois prochain j'irai au Congo pour préparer les journées pour la promotion de la lecture du livre congolais.
Je te tiendrai au courant de l'évolution du projet.
On garde contact.
(Thank you for your message. The show was a great exercise.
I think we have said the essential. Next month I will go to the Congo to prepare the days for the promotion of the reading of the Congolese book. I will keep you informed of the progress of the project. We stay in touch.