Griot Girlz – Feminist Art and the Black Atlantic

Design: Annette Sonnewend

Griot Girlz responds to the concept of “Riot grrrls” which, in the art field, refers to feminist art in a rock and punk context. “Griot Girlz”, by contrast, refers to feminist art in the context of music with African roots. The exhibition Griot Girlz presented art referencing the musical tradition of the Black Atlantic diaspora.

During the 1980s in the UK, Sonia Boyce (*1962, lives and works in London) became a key figure representing the Black Art Movement. The exhibition Griot Girlz featured her conceptual work devotional wallpaper, which listed approximately two hundred names of exclusively black female musicians. The selection of musicians spanned from the 1960s to the present and included Shirley Bassey, Najma Arhbar and Vula Malinga (Basement Jaxx), Shara Nelson and Sara Jay (Massive Attack), Skin (aka Skunk Anansie), Moni Love and Martine Topley-Bird (Tricky), among others. Many of the female musicians named on the devotional wallpaper had been in the British charts and were well-known voices on British radio. In one glance, the devotional wallpaper shows the full significance of the female Afro-Atlantic part of British popular culture.

The exhibition was accompanied by an essay titled Black Sound White Cube from Dieter Lesage and Ina Wudtke, which was published in the Büchs’n’Books series.

Ina WUDTKE (*1968) is an artist and DJ living in Berlin. She envisions her work as visual intercultural and interdisciplinary research. Her installations employ techniques such as mixing, seriality and re-representation, which were developed as methods of reappropriation and counterauthority in the context of the history of black culture and new feminism. She has also curated various international exhibitions related to this context.

In her video New Town Ghost, Minouk LIM (*1968, lives and works in Seoul; deals with the selling out of cities and the transformation of universities into factories of the knowledge economy. It is about the changes in her neighborhood, Yeongdeungpos (Seoul), through the building of a big shopping mall with an attached apartment complex. Lim wrote a long text, which she asked a young Korean slam poet to perform with a megaphone alongside a live drummer playing break beats in an open truck. The video documents their drive through the neighborhood discussed in the text. This courageous political performance was intended to provoke reactions from the locals.

Yvette MATTERN (born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, now lives between New York and Berlin; videotaped her mother and asked her many questions about her white grandmother and black grandfather. The video Interview with my Mother, Mulatta/Mestizo reflects the Puerto Rican racism that seems to have dominated her mother’s perception of herself. Alongside many details from her mother’s life, we hear her sing Summertime as a reference to her father, who taught her to sing.

Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen

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