OBEAH: A Planting Ritual for Transforming Womens' Archives
with Ani Ganzala, Evylin, Sara da Nova Quadros Côrtes, Ivana Magalhães, Vilma Santos, Gabriella Barreito, Isabelle do Vale, Lázaro Roberto, Ana Caroline da Conceiçao Silva, Maria Eduarda Rocha Soto Toledo and Anguezomo Mba Bikoro
Obeah is a surviving feminist ritual performed in the northern regions of the artist's home in Gabon which survived during the slave trade period in the Caribbean, Jamaica and parts of Brazil. A form of healing and protection against colonial oppressors, Obeah is both an intimate spiritual experience and a somatic form of resistance that leads Black women in the formation of collective resistance movements and liberation. Mba Bikoro looked at forms of resilience inside Salvador's judicial court and museum archives, performance and tradition inside Quilombo, religion, spiritual systems, in sonic traces and architectural ruins inhabited by fauna; notably ants, bacteria, dogs, frogs and water. She records these experiences with sounds and images through an anti-anthropological approach as an alternative historical memory and lineage of enslaved Africans and Indigenous communities; how their traditions survived inside the Kilombo Kaonge e Dendê near Cachoeira. Through researching various archives that also focused on plant rituals used as remedies in West Africa, Bikoro understands how botanical bacteria over centuries form counter-maps and patterns inside court case documents of the Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia and ants crawl in every crack of architectural ruin built by enslaved prisoners during Portuguese colonialism to form a different architectural vision and sonic historical testimony of colonial violence.
The combination of artistic research in Salvador, Cachoeira and local regions, creates a process of Obeah as Black feminist ritual practices to decolonise memory by transforming historical archives into community-led collective healing works and as alternative testimonies to a very dominant colonial history performed as a tribunal. Using sounds from nature, botanical memory and medicinal ritual with texts from Fundação Pierre Verger, the guidance of Alexandre San Goes, the work of Ivana Magalhães founder of Quintal Sensorial, the memory of soil and plants have archived stories that are often dismissed. Together with the KreativLab of the Goethe-Institut Salvador-Bahia, Mba Bikoro and Henrique Scander Coelho have developed an electronic device to process these soil and plant frequencies as contemporary feminist Black women*'s testimonies activated by the touch and movement of audiences in a multi-channel sound work. Their memories in forms of vibrations, amplify the sonic somatic experiences of Black womens' resistance with many voices including EVYLiN (Nova Estação) and Vilma Santos that explore personal accounts of unrecognised forms of resilience, domestic struggle and gender inequalities. Ivana Magalhães has chosen plants from her project Quintal Sensorial that have medicinal purposes and historical links to colonial resistance as forms of little monuments to remedy women’s bodies for cleansing, strength and courage in battle.
With the guidance of professor Sara da Nova Quadros Côrtes (Universidade Federal da Bahia), Maria Solenar Rodrigues do Nascimento (Memorial da Faculdade de direito da UFBA), Jorge da Cruz Vieira (diretor do Arquivo Público do Estado, APEB), Bárbara Alessandra Leal Saldanha (Coordenação de Processamento Técnico de Acervo, APEB) and translations by Maria Fernanda Cardoso and Helen Gremlitza, archive documents of court cases from the Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia reveal how Black women between 1770-1904 have resisted and battled juridical court procedures for and against them notably the court case of Maria Filipa in 1834 in Itaparica. The documents show how women were betrayed by their own community and abandoned by the court system after several appeals, how they instigated criminal proceedings against their perpetrators, often allies and families, penal proceedings against other women who fought for their right of freedom decades after the abolition of slavery. The Brazilian court proceedings used mental health and psychological procedures to extract testimonies and use forced police assessments. Sara da Nova Quadros Côrtes reads from her book "O Discurso Judicial em Conflitos por Terra na Bahia" and Black indigenous activists Ana Caroline da Conceiçao Silva, Isabelle do Vale and Maria Eduarda Rocha Soto Toledo testify of their experience of oppression by governmental gaslighting against indigenous rights to their lands and culture. Gabriela Barretto De Sá discusses Black womens' testimonies as the right to remain silent as a form of strategic resistance, the law of free womb (1880's) and the conflicts of feminism in the right for liberation.
Mba Bikoro develops conversations with griot women of Kilombo and photographer Lázaro Roberto to understand forms of resistance and camouflage in protests through queering fauna as a form of self-sustainability, ways of mapping routes of safety and critically acknowledging the Black workers movement in Salvador Bahia in the 1980's and the role of women against racist colonial government policies. Ani Ganzala paints these entangled memories of the soil, architecture and feminist traditions by exploring the resilience of these archives as moments of communal empowerment in a fresco painting.
Mba Bikoro understands this communal effort as a way to de-center dominant institutional discourses in law and migrant rights, focusing and amplifying the stories of heroines of the community as a form of transformational justice and reparation. In this collectivity, Bikoro enables this recognition of feminist workers in the practice of Obeah, a ritual for empowerment.
With support and in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Salvador-Bahia through the international residency programme VILA SUL as well as through the KreativLab, Fundação Pierre Verger, Quintal Sensorial, Nova Estação, Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, Zumví Arquivo Afro Fotográfico, Juristas Negra and Memorial da Faculdade de Direito da UFBA. As well as through the contributions and inspirations received through Guia Negro, Fórum Ruy Barbosa, Feira de São Joaquim, the Kilombos Kaonge e Dendê on the Rota de Liberdade, Kilombo Tenondê, Paço Municipal Antiga Casa de Câmara E Cadeia Cachoeira.