The relationship between continental Africans and Africans in the diaspora – particularly African Americans – can be quite fraught. The massive role played by white supremacist media propaganda in the aggravation and expansion of these charged relationships, cannot be overstated.
Shanett Dean, an artist and educator born and based in South Florida in the United States, is coming to CHALE WOTE 2016 with a project that suggests an awareness of this relationship and it’s complexities. Shanett is an interdisciplinary artist who creates mixed media designs and conceptual artwork using found and curated material. She uses textiles to explore language and communication among other things, and often uses literature and travel as an impetus to create.
I find that movement (through pliable pieces) reveals an inherent language and I consider my art an extension of my literary influences. The artwork that I create takes a critical view of relationship and hierarchies – particularly, at how women and people of color create a global space for creation. I’m interested in the dialogue that occurs through creative spaces among people of color across time and I juxtapose textile and design elements to convey this connection.
Shanett’s project is titled, (re)Programing Pan-African Discourse: a vertical landscape. She describes it as “a series of art bombs that will line the streets of James Town – a juxtaposition of yarn and fabric with electronic hardware representing a conversation about how new media can connect diasporic ideas across countries and continents.”
This project – which can be considered as an artistic contribution to bringing much-needed healing to the above-mentioned relationship, poses a visual question: “How can the Black African Diaspora engage the Spirit (conversation) to coopt the Robot (the media) for our own advancement?” By representing conversation with Spirit, and the media with Robot, Shanett perfectly ties her project in with the Spirit Robot theme of this year’s festival.
How does she personally define Spirit Robot?
For me, it is about co-opting the mechanical for service of the sacred. It’s about bringing what is innate within us to life through the inanimate. It seems that this idea is the root of resistance and thus necessary for progress.
On coming to CHALE WOTE, Shanett is looking forward to engaging with James Town, fellow artistes and participants, and is expecting to be awed and inspired, all while being surrounded by beauty and ingenuity. She also expects that “we will all leave better people than we arrived, having seen more, and most importantly, felt more.”
Shanett Dean is very interested in having more conversations on Spirit Robot and she is able to engage on Twitter and Instagram at @whynotrai. Her art bombs will be on display at the Ghana Customs building on High Street, August 20-21st of the festival.