Below are screenshots from the the Ground | Overground | Underground video installation with accompanying text by Mowoso.
There are no words to say the heaviness of memory hardwired to this body since childhood. The anatomy is a prison, hostage to itself for lack of answers to questions it will not cease asking. Moorings lost, the eyes un-socket for rocket flight to Mikili – embedded paradise, a satellite circling concentric worlds. Lift-off happens in slow motion, as the mind worries what lies ahead and the limbs adjust to bear the weight of alienation. The identifiers have spoken: our PIN numbers decree who among us is worthy of flight. Prior to departure, the dream is clothed in designer illusions: an astronaut’s suit, worn close and tight for strength and the confidence to proceed. (Self) hypnosis is advised, but questions linger as to the most effective means of reaching the desired state. Is it best to float, severing all ties to gravity, or sink, surrendering to the earth – neck-deep in dirt, head alone above ground, lest we forget to breathe? Either way, altered consciousness will drive all attendant transactions – how and who and why we become. That and atmospheric conditions on re-entry, as our pores dilate to take in the air on Mikili and the host planet’s smog penetrates our lungs.
The Void: A Matter of Substance
The chair is a constant. It is the seat of power – empty but no less loaded. Also the wobbly stool of the uprooted. Best not to think too hard about the pump that has ripped open and swallowed up all our land. A gaping hole remains; let us dress the wound, then look away. And learn the art of balancing impossible equations: x = enigma = the promise of riches and hope. In time, the chief’s vacated throne morphed into a confessional booth. Kneeling down, we whispered to priests sitting on high our strategies to outwit the wrath of God. We didn’t know yet that their forgiveness was one with the bullets of their brothers in arms. In the face of death, sometimes we forget how to defend ourselves.
Our Eyes Mirror Our Graves
From here to there, a thread: the family. Try to follow its path. Signposts, clues, crumbs: everything has vanished. We cannot find the graves. They were marked, once, with bits and pieces of the deceased ones’ lives, things we cast out in order to let go of the pain. Now everything is gone. Have the dwellings of our dead been absorbed by the trees and the vines? Nature may have decided it is time for us to shed our bodies and make for the stars.
First You Say Sambole, then You Say Zoba
Sambole Zoba, kid 2 kid, a classroom with no benches or desks, chalk to write with or priests to wipe our minds clean… Here we learn nature’s infinite lesson and the brain refuses to trade its synapses for a hard drive. In the end we see that everything was metonymy and stagecraft: the ancestors showing us the way around obstacles and regret.
The crocodile from Mbandaka shrieked as, in his mind’s eye, he glimpsed the powerful silence of those other crocodiles, standing stone cold still in a cement pond. It was decades ago; it was yesterday, at the Palais des Colonies, opulent spectacle at the southern edge of Paris. In the Metropole, innocence was growing thin. New imaginaries were required, stoked by peep-show exotica.
The Sinkhole of Colonial Debt
Inside this body in pain, the spirit takes off in mind travel. The trip uses up all the energy that’s left. Sometimes silence is more loaded that sound, but how come nobody heard when I screamed by fucking head off?
Departure: check. Destination: unknown. Point of entry: a hospital bed with iron bars in the age of the Leopard King. This is where I spend my first night on planet earth. The King is long gone, but his songs echo in the long hallways. They hover, rising like steam on the skin of water. Mobutu Elima … spirit of Mobutu … Mobutu Elombe … warrior spirit …
Bana Equateur miso nbga!
Equator’s children: our eyes are wide open!
We were blinded by the words drum-drum-drummed into our every conscious hour.
Mbandaka Mambenga. Forgotten city. Heyday passed, her shoulders sag: 32 years of dictatorship. Critical mass. Here, far from the political centre of things, an unfinished house surrenders to the forest. The leader had meant to live here but died first. Botutu, spirit of ill luck, hisses and crackles: in the courtyard, we have flipped the switch: a secret circle of fire swallows the flames of the past.
Wale. A challenge to defeat the spells cast by Esokodji the snake – evil reptile sent by those who would defeat us: adversaries, rivals, governments. Wale. A song. Small girls sing what none of us can say anymore. They sing that everything is fine when nothing fine is left at all. Sarcastic songs: good for stepping back into our skins. Funny-ugly songs: grimaces (crossed eyes, curled lips) to remember our beauty. For protection.
Bilima is a force that lives inside us, a force for combat, for protection and overcoming obstacles. To access it, we summon Mekali, a spirit who brings good or ill, depending on what we hold in our hearts. Mekali is profylaxis against the fear within.
Advanced Transpacial Incidents
Planet earth is coming undone. Where is Stanley? Satellite! Where is Vangel? Satellite! Where is Coquilhat? Satellite! “Trajectories of rockets fired into the void”*: essential reading to master geostationary satellites loaded down with grey gold (aka coltan) in advance of cosmic-tropical travel abroad insectoid space/time vehicle departing @ Equator today 0:00.
(Title of an article by Major General Casimir-Erasme Coquilhat, a Belgian mathematician, that contains the formula for rocket propulsion, the cornerstone of space travel. Coquilhat’s son, Camille-André, went on to found the Force Publique, the single most violent arm of colonial repression under King Leopold II. Under Belgian rule, Mbandaka bore Camille’s name; it was called Coquilhatville.)
Shortly, the body will enter a multi-dimensional pipeline for passage from Africa to Europe. Motors rev, pigs squeal and the python wraps itself into a tight coil. One last battle in quest of a better world, where justice, equality and the laws of nature, untrammelled, prevail. What would it take to change the rules of the game? To be born white or yellow, not black, in a remote corner of Belgium or France?
For an analysis of Ground Overground Underground, see this article by Dominique Malaquais.