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Digital initiative

Messy Studio: (Pan~)Atlantic Worlds



On Ocean Archive and on Ocean Space and TBA21–Academy Facebook pages

The Messy Studio (Pan~)Atlantic Worlds will be opened by Johannesburg-based artist Donna Kukama to speak of forms of resistance that draw from fluid imaginaries, from counter-histories, and the articulations of the voice to connect to more-than-human, oceanic sensibilities. We will subsequently focus on three virulent case studies that help analyze the transnational circulations of capital, norms of governance, industrial exceptionalism, and local community engagement struggles in West Africa today. These are: oil exploration and its aftermath in Ogoniland; the projected Lekki Free Zone Corridor, near the city of Lagos, and fishing and illegal fishing operations off the coasts of West Africa. Daiara Figeroua Tukano, Amerindian scholar and daughter of a prominent indigenous right activist in the Amazon will close our session by bringing the visions and forces of the forest–a living and spirited entity–into the context of today’s politics.

The practice of artist and researcher Nabil Ahmed/ INTERPRT combines geospatial analysis, design, and architecture as ways to chart processes of environmental justice and as an endeavor that ultimately aims at criminalizing ecocide (the term used to designate the systematic and widespread destruction of ecosystems). Ahmed will discuss with Lazarus Tamana from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) the long history of violence and resistance on the Niger Delta, one of the frontiers of fossil-capitalism. The company at the center of this ecocide is the largest oil operator in the region, Royal Dutch Shell. It maintains a large network of crumbling oil infrastructure and pipelines that crisscross the Ogoni territory, while perpetuating ecological destruction and violations of the Ogoni people’s human rights.[1] The conversation will expose the interconnections and neo-colonial implications of the petro-state in Nigeria, where public life and institutions are inherently connected with the logics of financial capitalism of oil corporations.

Artist Jeremiah Ikongio will share his research on the Lekki Free Trade Zone Corridor, envisioning the transformation of the whole Lekki Peninsula into a global economic zone. This project aims to decisively restructure Nigeria’s coast and is one of the six Chinese pilot zones in Africa, in fact an export product of a Chinese urban-trade model. The large-scale infrastructural project was planned either without consultation with local groups or based on broken promises, resulting in widespread dissatisfaction. Lekki Free Zone is one of several recent examples that reveal how SEZs are decoupled from their reality and how, rather than supporting the domestic economy, they absorb that economy into the enclave. “The zone,” Keller Easterling writes, “is often a place of secrets, hyper-control, and segregation. It oscillates constantly between closure and reciprocity as a fortress of sorts that orchestrates a controlled form of cheating.”[2]

Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood and Nchongayi Christantus Begealawuh will help to unravel the intricacies of so-called illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing in West African waters and discuss the ways in which current policy failures damage local fishing communities. In 2017, Global Fishing Watch released the very first global report on transshipment, which shows that transshipment is very common in West Africa. As these events usually take place outside of West Africa’s EEZs, transshipment events could be due to a combination of limited monitoring and enforcement. The collected data shows that transshipment is associable to patterns of illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is heavily implicated in overfishing. Current rates of extraction are driving several species toward extinction while jeopardizing the livelihoods of artisanal fishing communities across a broad group of West African countries, including Senegal, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Mauritania.[3] West African waters are estimated to have the highest levels of IUU fishing in the world, representing up to 37 percent of the region’s catch.[4]

In looking at the oceanic depths and their layered memories of human and more-than-human bodies, Donna Kukama’s practice emerges as a form of resistance to dominant historical narratives and prescribed structures, retrieving forgotten or marginalized stories as the center of new radical and emancipatory visions. Kukama interlaces words, sounds, images, gestures, and objects to expose memories and make them tangible, as particles that remain inscribed in the bodies and sites of crimes, abuses that overcome generations and complicate temporalities. But they also represent fictional and poetic instances that foster new afro-futures.

In Kukama’s performances fabricated soundscapes intertwine with fragments of literature, guttural and liquid sounds, poetry, historical recollections and personal memories, generating moments of collective reflections.

[1] Nabil Ahmed, “Resisting the Shell State,” forthcoming publication on e-flux Architecture as part of Oceans in Transformation, by Territorial Agency and commissioned by TBA21–Academy (June 2020).

[2] Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (London; New York: Verso, 2014), 67.

[3] Alfonso Daniels, Miren Gutiérrez, Gonzalo Fanjul, Arantxa Guereña, Ishbel Matheson and Kevin Watkins, “Western Africa’s Missing Fish: The impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and under-reporting catches by foreign fleets,” Overseas Development Institute (2016), https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/resource-documents/10665.pdf.

[4] Environmental Justice Foundation report: “Pirate Fishing Exposed: The Fight Against Illegal Fishing in West Africa and the EU (2012), http://ejfoundation.org/sites/default/files/public/Pirate%20Fishing%20Exposed.pdf.


6–8 pm CET
Messy Studio: (Pan~)Atlantic Worlds

Presentations by Nabil Ahmed and Lazarus Tamana (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP); Nchongayi Christantus Begealawuh and Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood; Daiara Figeroua Tukano; Donna Kukama; Jeremiah Ikongio. With Territorial Agency, Markus Reymann, Daniela Zyman, and the participants of the Ocean Fellowship Program.

The event will be live-streamed on Ocean-Archive.org and TBA21–Academy and Ocean Space Facebook pages.

More about the event: www.ocean-archive.org