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"Wake up and rebel

We must destroy in order to rebuild

Wake up, you might as well

Oh are you... oh are you satisfied

Oh are you satisfied?"

Lauryn Hill[15]

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Furthermore, this invitation to be in the wake, and to vigilantly question the engineering of the enslaved African bodies, is to think what freedom means in contested memorial sites for the technological innovation of work, body, and leisure. Drawing on the idea of the Black cyborg rebel helps to expand the notion of what these silenced bodies, as footnotes in architecture, technology, and history, are capable of realizing, undoing, or creating as acts of resistance. James illustrates these acts of resistance by stating, “the ability to refuse Blackness-as-victimization and reconstitute Black-ness-as-resistance may be the Black cyborg rebel's only real possession.”[21] Therefore, to even contemplate the question why one is not human yet is irrelevant, and doesn’t “rekindle that spirit” that reconfigures the dominant technological hegemony “flaunting violence” by putting him “out of the picture.”[22] How does one then pass Fanon, James, Ayeeyo (grandmother), and the Black cyborg rebels’ concept of freedom onto others?

In Living a Feminist Life, Sara Ahmed addresses the reactionary ways gendered bodies have reproduced the dominant hegemonic structures. Ahmed states that, “when being freed from labor requires others to labor, others are paying the price for your freedom. That is not freedom.”[23] Perhaps, what can be passed onto others is their labor towards freedom. Yet this type of freedom requires finding de-colonial loopholes in time and space to avoid that others are required to replace the Black, gendered, and racialized bodies as technological testing ground and machines.

To return to the space between the Door(s) of No Return and the Atlantic Ocean, we should contemplate the production of imagination, which has been a form of keeping the wake throughout the past centuries. Imagination is the language that technology has not yet decoded into categories of work and leisure. Maybe imagination is the ongoing, everyday redefinition and resistance of and towards these particular processes, histories, and technologies. Imagination is music capable of bending technology to speak the lingua franca of racialized bodies. I think of Gqom, the sound of Durban, South Africa, that transforms music into something that scams time and space. It is something that tricks the ears into believing that the body is weightless, off-on-off beat, without transcending itself. Within this process, the Black cyborg rebels are momentarily in a state of freedom amidst trauma and imagination.


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[1] Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017), 263.

[2] The Door(s) of No Return of the forts of Cape Coast, Elmina and the island of Gorée, it was out of the dungeons and through the door, the portal of these castles that Africans boarded the ships that would take them on the horrendous journey across the Atlantic Ocean to the “New World.”

[3] In the Wake borrows the title and wake work as a methodology from Christina Sharpe’s publication In the Wake: on Blackness and Being (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016). Sharpe defines Wake work as a way to be a mode of inhabiting and rupturing this episteme with our known lived and un/imaginable lives. With this analytic we might imagine otherwise from what we know now in the wake of slavery.

[4] Egbert Alejandro Martina reminded me that it is urgent to point out the presence of the contemporary migratory crisis of Fort Europe in relation to the colonial project. This example illustrates what I am thinking about/what is present when I reference the afterlives of slavery and colonialism in this essay. In the 2017 publication Decolonising the Mediterranean: European Colonial Heritages in North Africa and the Middle East, Gabriele Proglio describes the Mediterranean as a space for highly exploitative bodies that produce money on the borders. He builds on the article by Nick Dines and Enrica Rigo on “Postcolonial Citizenship and the ‘Refugeeization’ of the Workforce: Migrant Agricultural Labor,” in Postcolonial Transitions in Europe: Contexts, Practices and Politics, ed. Sandra Ponzanesi and Gianmaria Colpani (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015).

[5] The Urban Dictionary defines a Hater Player as is someone who acts in such a way as to give the impression of disapproval, while not genuinely caring. Cf. Sharpe, In The Wake, 100.

[6] Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging (Toronto: Random House of Canada Ltd, 2001), 3.

[7] Gilane Tawadros, 1996, quoted in Kobena Mercer, Travel and See (Durham: Duke University, 2016),12.

[8]  Sharpe, In The Wake, 2.

[9] In correspondence, Martina addressed that he always considered doors as technologies that capacitate or incapacitate people. Doors are essentially (though they’re rarely understood as such) means of controlling behaviour. I am thinking here of Michael Weinstein: “Coercion is defined in terms of controlling spaces rather than in terms of controlling actions.” How are bodies/actions produced through controlling spaces?

[10] Katherine McKittrick, Demonic Grounds: Black Women and The Cartographies of Struggle. (Minnesota: Minnesota University Press, 2006), xi.

[11] Donald Pilcher, “Leisure: an architectural problem,” The Architectural Review, January 26, 2017.

[12] Salamishah Tillet, Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post–Civil Rights Imagination (Durham: Duke University Press, 89).

[13] McKittrick, Demonic Grounds.

[14] Sharpe, In The Wake, 14.

[15] Lauryn Hill, “I Find It Hard to Say (Rebel),” MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2002).

[16] “Technology,” Merriam Webster Dictionary.

[17] Grace Nichols, The Fat Black Woman's Poems (London: Virago Press, 1984).

[18] Derica Shields, “The Future Weird,” interview by Black Girls Talking, 2014.

[19] I borrow the phrase “Black cyborg rebels” from the incredible Joy James,. She introduces the Black cyborg rebels as the “native, fellah, and sistah’s” way of being that offers a strategy to transcend power relations, renounce the desire or as she describes the “fight to be considered ‘human.’” See Joy James, “Concerning Violence: Frantz Fanons Rebel Intellectual in Search of a Black Cyborg,” South Atlantic Quarterly 112, no. 1 (2013): 57–70.

[20] McKittrick, Demonic Grounds, xiv.

[21] James, “Concerning Violence.”

[22] Frantz Fanon quoted in Ibid, 68.

[23]  Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life, 86.

Marina Otero Verzier
Katía Truijen
Amal Alhaag, Beatriz Colomina, Marten Kuijpers, Victor Muñoz Sanz, Simone C. Niquille, Mark Wigley
Jane Chew and Matthew Stewart, Northscapes Collective (Hamed Khosravi, Taneha K. Bacchin and Filippo laFleur), Noam Toran, Giuditta Vendrame, Paolo Pattelli, Liam Young.
Raphael Coutin, Marina Otero Verzier
Hans Gremmen
Christiane Bosman, Eveline Mulckhuyse
Simone C. Niquille
Nick Axel
Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science Creative Industries Fund NL Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Rome, Italy

With the title WORK, BODY, LEISURE the 2018 Dutch Pavilion addresses the spatial configurations, living conditions, and notions of the human body engendered by disruptive changes in labor ethos and conditions.