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Afroancestral Artists in German Film By Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo
… in my court of justice, any Afroancestral passing on these psychological debilities to their children are committing the crimes of lifelong mental cruelty, lifelong anguish of the soul and lifelong psychological damage - APKY
On the 26 February 2007, I sat through a discussion in Munich’s GASTEIG – an enormous complex housing theatres, operas, libraries, the city’s adult education centre, congress halls, cafés and restaurants. In one of the halls was the discussion event organised by various organisations of Germans of mixed parentage, with at least one
parent or grandparent having African blood. In the packed hall were six panellists from various African-German artists’ groups (an actress, a sculptor, a female lawyer, a German scholar & philosopher, a female radio commentator) on the podium including the German presenter. The discussion was about “racial” discrimination in the professions. There were various examples given to prove the fact, such as having no African-German TV commentators and newsreaders in German TV channels, and when there was one (in the private channels) their work is pushed from prime time to programmes aired after midnight. The same went for public radio commentators. Other professionals in branches such as law, lecturing and medical health have a hard time practising their professions or winning the confidence of their clients and/or employers. Actors and actresses are perpetually cast in the roles of asylum seekers, drug dealers, prostitutes, illegal refugees, paid male lovers or mistresses of some wealthy “white” woman or man. The man as a rule earns his fortune by illegal means such as sales of weapons and “blood diamonds”, smuggling ivory or finding Western “clients” for African dictators murdering their citizens and robbing their countries blind. All the African-German panelists insisted on the fact that they were Blacks. I later on wondered why aloud, during the podium discussion. Was it because it was easier to step into the African “turf” and be accepted as an equal human being? I provoked a snowball into rolling whose arguments are too long for an article. Living in the West awakened in me the realisation that Kenya in particular and Africa in general, had quite effectively protected me from being conscious of the fact that the colour of my skin was supposedly not on a par with the pink or out-of-Sub-SaharanAfrica light brown variety. In retrospect, I count myself exceptionally lucky to have made acquaintance with this “fact” when I was already well into adulthood. And this makes me ponder the effect of these B and W words on small children. What does an Afroancestral child feel the moment it learns or discovers that its complexion is not “beautiful” because it’s “black” no matter what its eyesight conveys to it, nor is its kinky hair, its (in today’s world of beauty, actually sensuous) mouth, nose – just about the lot – and furthermore, that this fact of being “black” relegates it and its entire people to the lowest rung of the
human ladder? Added to this later, comes the absorption of cultural and spiritual/religious
confusion and the naked miseries hinged on poverty! Anything and everything African is
supposedly primitive and heathen or at best backward. No history, no identity, but stinkingly corrupted. Underdeveloped. Starving. Africans are supposedly riddled with all manner of abominable diseases no other human species has spewed out into the world. The entire psyche of Afroancestrals would seem to be one heap of disjecta membra! This child has a great deal of his self-worth ruined for him and might easily develop acute complexes and resign himself to them. But the most lamentable is the fact that this was and is a psychological boobytrap set up nearly four centuries ago to keep on ensnaring and exploding and selfpropagating in the Afroancestral psyche as a constantly inhaled confirmation of their “inferiority”. While no one is better at setting up such psychological booby-traps than the Euroancestrals, no one is better at the servility required to adopt and haul around with them such subtly corrosive, damaging and damning notions than the – to borrow from Joseph Addison’s writing in 1711 – “Savage Greatness of Soul” whose “fidelity” nobody can “forbear admiring”. Afroancestrals have been religiously passing on this corrosive psychological damnation from generation to generation over at least the last three and a half centuries, while the Euroancestrals snigger in brisk asides. How many Afroancestrals have heard the “But your skin is not really black, is it?” from a Euroancestral? “I’m black and proud” and “Black is beautiful” were deep-seated screams from the psyche and the soul, trying to rid themselves of the damnation as best as they could. Neither Malcom became Malcom X nor did Cassius Clay metamorphose into Mohammed Ali out of some social fad. Tortured souls and wounded psyches were all out there screaming for some kind of salvation, some rescue from a festering-wound trap no one quite knew how they had been caught into and whether death was the single alternative in getting out of the misery. And yet the booby-trap is still firmly in place and stronger than ever, nearly four centuries later. That’s Grade A-plus fidelity. We Africans have even never given thought to the fact that no European religion ever made it to a world religion. Christianity is AfroOrient. Euroancestrals appropriated it and instantly made Christ the Jew an Icelander.
But an African religion has made it to the rank of world religion – Candomblé – widely spread in West Africa, in Western Europe and the entire Americas. Yet we – the Great Savage Souls – don’t want to know about it, do we? So we cloak ourselves in the blanket of being “blacks” and pray to be invisible. But in my court of justice, any Afroancestral passing on these psychological debilities to their children are committing the crimes of lifelong mental cruelty, lifelong anguish of the soul and lifelong psychological damage. They deserve the cruelest punishment, if with mitigating factors because they themselves have been victims all their lives. But it’s time for a take-home pay, people.
The annual meeting of the organisation “Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland” (Initiative of Black People in Germany). It is a sort of exclusive club for “blacks only”. Alone the fact of calling themselves “black” is ridiculous as the photo shows. Some are long since blond and blue-eyed. To me they are actually trying to make themselves invisible to the dreaded rejection of the “white” world and ghettoizing themselves in the “black” world complete with their progeny
The Euroancestral or Asiancestral child also encounter the same processes and experiences as they grow up. But on a different rung. The Euroancestral child discovers that it and its people are the rulers of the current world (or any other world that has ever
been, for all the child learns in its society and cares for), and it carries this complex into its adult life. It is part of the rulers by virtue of its complexion and characteristics. All the way to economic, military and technological power. It grows up “elevated” by the fact that it and its people are not at the bottom rung of the ladder. It is further cushioned by its people’s apparent cultural and religious clout. The worst that can happen to it is that it grows up with superiority complexes harmful not only to the others but also to itself as well. These are what I call Megignoarrogance complexes – mega ignorance and mega arrogance combined – which are so characteristic of Euroancestrals. Especially the “I have nothing against other races” type. This is why it never even occurs to them to send emmissaries to Africa who speak at least one African language of the nation they are sent to. But they would never send one to a European, an Australian or North American country who does not master the languages spoken in these countries. On the other hand they would never tolerate an African or Asian emmissary who does not speak the language of the Euroancestral nation of his mission, to be posted among them. The Asiancentral child is possibly “comforted” by the fact that it and its people are not at the bottom rung of the ladder. Not even in complexion, if perhaps in characteristics. Apartheid South Africa used this “strategy” very successfully, creating the “buffer zone” of the so-called coloureds – as if there is a human being who is colourless! Moreover, the Asiancestrals have religions – however conceived as against African religions – and cultures that have endured or even repelled the impact of the Euroancestral all-round hegemony. The Euroancestral is not even conscious of the fact that no European religion became a world religion. Jerusalem long lost or not, their Megignoarrogance tells them that they are the civilized Christians of Christendom. Once again, Christianity is Afro-Orient, not European. On the other hand African religions survived across the Atlantic, incorporating other elements but remaining intact in their original basic elements, despite the dehumanisation, disorientation and hardships, and are alive and kicking to this minute.
The reader has noticed that I never use the artificial complexion notions, because they simply are false and are not a restitution of the truth. The colour black is “naturally”
too negative to all human beings in too many ways right up to having a blacklist reputation or status. Even a black figure is not the sort of person anybody voluntarily wants to be associated with. The colour black is threatening even to animals of the jungle. For every living creature but a handful of night predators, it represents evil, invisible danger, dark powers, treacherous beings, the colour of death itself. In the human being’s various languages, people have black moods, black hearts, black days, black futures, black sheep in the family, black Mondays or black Sundays, black markets, black storms, black heavens, black holes, blackguards or even blackheads. The black-box is actually orange but referred to as black because it is the last harbinger of news after an aeroplane crash, an unhappy event that always involves loss of human life. What reason is there for turning the African pigmentation into “black” when it isn’t?
In Germany, there is no Oprah Winfrey, no Denzel Washington, no Halle Barry. Afroancestral faces as newsreaders or talk show professionals on German screens would seem to upset the norm, so measures are taken to make sure that the norm is not upset. Unless the African blood in the person has become as invisible as it was in Sir Peter Ustinov. Prime time is not for Afroancestrals. Neither are they the heroes or heroines in films unless as Idi Amin or girlchild victims of FGM.
Sir Peter Ustinov with children who had just performed a traditional folk dance for him, at the UNICEF-assisted child protection centre in Takhman district, Cambodia. Sir Peter’s paternal grandmother was Ethiopian. (Source: UNICEF)
Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland (Afroancestral Artists in German Film) is an organisation which was established as a professional association in the summer of 2006. Its purpose is to unite the creative talents of Afro-Germans with those of directors, producers, screenwriters, actors and actresses of African origin, who live in Germany and share an interest in fostering a more diverse representation of the lives of Afroancestrals in German film and television. The objective is to satisfy a need, for up until now there has been no entity that enables Afro-Germans and filmmakers of African origin to tell their (hi)story from their own perspective. Now, however, there is a way to challenge the stereotyped portrayal of Afroancestral characters in German as well as Euroancestral film and television, that has prevailed to date. Their goal is to reveal both past and present-day trans-cultural processes along with the multiple realities of Germany, present not only in film but also in television. As Afro-Germans and/or filmmakers of African origin working in Germany, it is their wish as well as professional duty to take an active part in the production and telling of their own (hi)story. On the one hand, that entails challenging the prevailing stereotypes of Afroancestral characters in the German media – depicted as prostitutes, asylum seekers, petty criminals, mistresses, noble savages or other exotic creatures. On the other hand, it is about creating a neutral space where stories can be told from an Afroancestral point of view and where new perspectives can develop. Alternative and diverse characterisation of Afroancestrals in German-language films can change both self-perception and the perception of others, thereby making a contribution to contemporary social discourse. They are convinced that the medium of film can be used to generate significant impetus towards greater understanding and more open communications.
The founder members of SFD – Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland (Black – €their word, not mine!• Artists in German Film) are writers Anne Benza-Madingou und Phillippa Ebéné; director, Winta Yohannes; producer, Nataly Kudiabor; and actresses Carol Campbell, Araba Walton and Nisma Cherrat.
Anne BenzaMadingou writer
Araba Walton actress
Carol Campbell actress
Nataly Kudiabor Head of development
Nisma Cherrat actress
Winta Yohannes director
1. Chairperson: Carol Campbell
Carol Campbell is a member of the German Film Academy. She was born in Munich, Germany in 1966 and moved to Berlin at the age of five where she completed her secondary school education in 1984 by taking the German ‘Abitur’ examination. She went to Paris, France in 1986 after her dance training, which she had begun while she was still at school, and spent four years as a solo dancer at the Lido and at the Moulin Rouge.
Back in Berlin Carol started work as a television presenter (VIVA, VOX, ZDF) and shortly after that came her first acting roles in “Tatort” (“Crime Scene”, ARD) and the RTL threepart series “Julia”. In 1998/99 she spent a year in Los Angeles where she participated in a range of acting workshops and seminars.
On her return to Germany came several television and cinema roles including one in “Pfundskerl” (SAT.1), working alongside Ottfried Fischer; “Edel & Starck” (SAT.1); “Tatort” (“Crime Scene”, ARD); “Du oder Keine” (“Only You”, ZDF); “Herzflimmern” (“Vital Signs”, ZDF); “Jedermanns Fest” (“Everyman’s Party”, cinema); and various presenting roles at Daimler Chrysler, Siemens, Adidas, Hugo Boss, IBM, Debis and CeBit corporate events, among others; she was also co- founder of the online Berlin film industry forum, film.lounge.berlin. In addition to acting and presenting, Carol has worked as a successful media training coach in recent years.
2. Deputy Chairperson: Philippa Ebéné
Philippa Ebéné is the founder and director of the forum für filmschauspiel e.V (Forum for Film Acting), a further education institution for acting professionals. Furthermore, in November 2004 she founded an acting troupe called “abok” that brings to the stage contemporary, urban drama by African and Afro-European writers. She is currently writing a stage play and a screenplay for a feature film.
Treasurer : Araba Walton
Artist and singer, Araba Walton, was born on 4 November 1975 in Simbach am Inn, Lower Bavaria, Germany. After taking the German secondary school ‘Abitur’ examination she studied theatre studies in Munich and then went to London, where she completed a three-year course at the ArtsEd School of Acting. In the years that followed, she had acting roles in various West End and Off West End productions.
At the end of 2001 she moved to Hamburg for a leading role in the successful musical, “Der König der Löwen” (The Lion King). After a two year stint, however, she decided to renew her commitment to acting and made Berlin her home. Araba Walton is a permanent member of the Berliner Logentheater and the theatre group “abok”. This year she appears in a leading role in the feature film, “Sunny Hill” by Luzius Rueedi.
Premiering at the Berlinale with NEUE BILDER (New Perspectives), SFD – Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland (Afroancestrals Artists in German Film) is targeting both a German and an international audience of film goers and industry professionals. The official screening of the SFD film series NEUE BILDER will take place within the Berlinale ‘Panorama’ section. To accompany NEUE BILDER, SFD has prepared a complementary programme of films, a multimedia exhibition, a series of lectures, and a discussion on the subject of "Afroancestral People in German Film" with a top-notch panel of speakers. The SFD film series NEUE BILDER (New Perspectives) comprises a total of six films: three are fiction productions, one is an animation and two are documentaries.
€• €‚ €ƒ €„ €… €†
Todd Ford und Diegonante (Zwischen) Ezra Tsegaye und Sebastian Kühne (Turmspringer) Branwen Okpako (Landing) John A. Kantara (Und wir waren Deutsche) Winta Yohannes (Cherish) Otu Tetteh (You are welcome)
Image from "Zwischen" (In Between)
Image from "Turmspringer" (Tower Jumper)
Image from "Landing"
Image from "Und wir waren Deutsche" (And We Were Germans)
Image from "Cherish"
Image from "You are welcome "
The SFD film series NEUE BILDER (New Perspectives) was screened in the Berlinale "Panorama" section as part of the official programme of the Berlinale 2007, and they won prizes from the international jury in Berlin.
Apart from that SFD has organized the complementary Programme of the same title NEUE BILDER: Besides a series of lectures visitors were welcomed to two panel discussions on the subjects Afroancestral People in German Film and The Power of Imagery.
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