Radical Space

by Richard Kofi

Radical Space is an ongoing creative process, program line, exhibition and research, in which participants, artists and thinkers from all kinds of disciplines, inspired by encounters with residents, come up with futuristic ways to make character-determining material and immaterial heritage future-proof.

The goal is to help the character of the neighborhood survive the changes, in dialogue with the present, past and future. Through new rituals, ceremonies and collaborations, the participants comment on the future that awaits us, placing local developments in an international context. In addition, Richard Kofi questions SHEBANG's own role as a creative development place in the changing district. Radical Space connects the culture, imagination and activism of Southeast with developments in Brixton (London) and Harlem (New York). In this way, an international tradition of 'world making' of diaspora communities is being built, which contradict imposed cubicles in new forms of togetherness and radically rethink the function of public spaces. A hub of international networks of solidarity, knowledge and memory.

Families have a city archive, every street has a museum in people's homes. Every square or every alley is potentially an important meeting place. Some may see chaos in being together, but we see a center of a city.

Red Lined by Poernima Gobardhan, image Marion Visser
Red Lined by Poernima Gobardhan, image Marion Visser

Team

  • Richard Kofi

    Curator

    Artist and curator Richard Kofi creates interdisciplinary art projects with a futuristic approach in relation to spirituality, heritage and history. Collaboration and co-creation an important part of his practice. In 2021 he curated the exhibition Trailblazers in the Royal Palace Amsterdam, a prominent exhibition in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Royal Award for Free Painting. In 2019, Kofi was nominated for the Museum Talent Prize and the &Award, for pioneers in the field of inclusion and diversity. In 2021 he won the Thami Mnyele Residency Award and was elected Amsterdam City Artist. Kofi curated Issue 1 of SHEBANG: Radical Space.

  • Smita James

    Maker

    With Moving Through Radical Space, Smita James tells a story stemming from everyday blackness in the Bijlmer. Intrigued by the prevailing image of the Bijlmer she keeps being inspired by the history of this area she has been connected with from her early youth. It is the place in which she recognised herself in the eyes of others. The Bijlmer is - albeit somewhat forced - always in motion. The rhythm and the pace of the city is a given which the citizen have attached a distinctive flow to. This flow creates the vibe decorating life in the Bijlmer. But still the Bijlmer’s image roars louder than its identity. And more urgent than ever it needs to change. Within this radical space, Smita wants to sharpen and underline the Bijlmer’s narrative. The same story, a different perspective, the right framing with a clear message: nobody wants to live in the Bijlmer until they get a taste of the life here, and then they want to claim it.

  • Poernima Gobardhan

    Maker

    As a creator, Poernima Gobardhan is interested in creating a world where the body is not only used to project or depict meaning, but where the body itself contains this meaning. Gobardhan seeks the connection between people in the pieces she creates and performs. She makes her work to contribute to the palette of existing stories, not to make her own voice heard or to offer solutions. She wants to reflect on this, but also to challenge. In this universe you can transform from an earthly reality to a unique reality. Her work is about the experience - she strives for a deep emotional state that goes beyond thinking.

  • Desta Deekman

    Maker

    Desta Deekman is a pioneering choreographer and energetic dancer specializing in a wide range of African dance styles. However, Deekman is also developing as a ritualist and she is gaining more and more knowledge and expertise with regard to the spiritual use of herbs and plants. Spirituality, dance and nature are strongly connected. For SHEBANG, Deekman would like to make an artistic translation of conversations she has had with older generations of residents from Zuidoost. These conversations were about how these generations deal with their mental health and need for exercise in the context of the urban environment in which they live.

  • Adama Delphine Fawundu

    Maker

    Adama Delphine Fawundu is a photographer, performer and visual artist who, through her work, magnifies and places on a pedestal the knowledge of older generations from the African diaspora. She zooms in on identity, connection and communality. And reminds us that African rituals, customs and knowledge about care, healing and intimacy play a major role in hip hop culture in the diaspora.

  • Rohan Ayinde

    Maker

    Rohan Ayinde makes art projects in which he intertwines a multitude of disciplines. He uses properties of physical phenomena such as black holes as metaphors for the radical interventions he considers necessary to protect Black Lives in the diaspora. He sees the black hole as a portal through which he can think without limits and where he is free from the logic, world politics and capitalism imposed by the West. For SHEBANG, Ayinde wants to abstract issues of and inequality. Together with the other artists, he looks forward to offering an alternative to the logic, structure and order that have made Zuidoost what it is today.

Process

The Black (W)hole at Tropenmuseum

Presentation during Museumnacht Amsterdam by the collective Radical Space and others: Poernima Gobardhan, Djuwa Mroivili, Kip Republic (Ira Kip, Faizah Grootens and The Legendary Black Ice), Poetronic (Smita James and Chris Ci), Adama Delphine Fawundu, Rohan Ayinde and Richard Kofi. On the second floor of the museum science fiction, spirituality and activism come together in the art project The Black (W)hole. The collective helps you to escape the ratrace of status, politics and capitalism. Through videos and performances they show how the all devouring black hole can also be a space for contemplation, healing and breaking with the actuality.

Swallows Utopia by Rohan Ayinde

A video by Rohan Ayinde, based on all the conversations from Issue 1 about Southeast and gentrification in an international context. He has spent a lot of time searching online databases on heritage - a lot of the images come from Imagine IC.

Closing event Prospect Eleven

Final meeting in Prospect Eleven with collective Radical Space and others: Smita James and Mina Minelie, Desta Deekman, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Rohan Ayinde and Curator Richard Kofi. Smita and Richard hosted a theatrical guided tour, presenting Prospect Eleven as the last building of Amsterdam Southeast. The audience was able to visit it one more time, before the last, almost apocalyptic transformation. Storytellers Smita and Richard were the only opposing voices left. The visitors, triggered by the art and the actuality, shared their own stories, opinions and concerns.

Red Lined IIII by Poernima Gobardhan 

Performance walk by Poernima Gobardhan in collaboration with Djuwa Mroivili in the Nelson Mandelapark. This performance is an intervention in the public space: Poernima is dancing criss-cross through the Nelson Mandelapark accompanied by and interacting with the music played by Djuwa. She dances right in the centre of a basketball court, halting a match, interacts with skaters—observed by an audience of passersby

Video Richard Kofi

Gentrification Talk with Peter Dautzenberg and Wouter Pocornie

Public Talk moderated by Richard Kofi, with architect Peter Dautzenberg, urban planner Wouter Pocornie, citizens from Southeast and other visitors. For an audience of about twenty local residents and others interested, Wouter, Peter and Richard engaged in a conversation about gentrification. Right from the start it became clear the term gentrification is interpreted differently by different generations. Questions immediately arose about trees being cut down and the inadequate communication by the municipality, but Richard managed to steer the conversation back in the right direction: a talk about the role of the artist in all of the place making initiatives and incubator projects, paving the way for housing projects and investments, which are unattainable for the current residents of Southeast. Wouter shone with his theory on Bijlmer Natives: a generation of young adults who had their formative years in this area in a super diverse way leaving them with a new set of needs when it comes to amenities, space, and experiences. The qualities of this new generation are currently under-appreciated. An interesting fact which led to many questions from the audience and discussions among themselves.

Moving through Radical Space by Smita James

In this installation and soundscape about rogue cabdrivers in Amsterdam Southeast, Smita James tells a story on Everyday Blackness in the Bijlmer. About the rhythm, the flow and the pace of the area and how it is disrupted by gentrification. It is a tribute to the network of unregistered cabdrivers which local residents rely on. Smita themed different aspects of this type of transport in her installation and her soundscape is full of stories of the citizens of Southeast about cab drivers taking them to church or picking them up after a night out. The people contributing their stories to the soundscape were present at the opening of Prospect Eleven.

Video Smita James

The Cleanse by Ama Delphine Fawundu

In the work of the New York artist Adama Delphine Fawundu physicality and spirituality play an important role. In her video ‘The Cleanse’ she transforms an everyday shower into a spiritual cleansing ritual, liberating body and mind from the Western beauty ideals and expectations. The ritual is supported by harvesting songs from de Mende from Sierra Leone and sick trap beats. The lyrics refer to Erykah Badu, James Baldwin and many others.

A Handful of Earth, a Seed, by Rohan Ayinde

Spiritual Experience by Desta Deekman

An interactive spiritual performance by Desta Deekman, where she collaborates with hip hop promotor Regalness and stylist Aiki Mickey, appealing to new audiences with her project. At the same night the video’s The Cleanse by Adama Delphine Fawundu, and A Handful of Earth, a Seed by Rohan Ayinde (with Ashley M. Freeby) were shown. These video’s have a lot in common, through texts which are a fusion of references to well-known artists and philosophers. These texts are about freeing yourself of Western expectations and stereotypes and processing the history of violence of slavery, racism and segregation. This was the introduction to the work of Desta, empowering the community and reminding them of the strength of their ancestors and the work they have done in order to give their descendants a place in this world. The audience could participate in the ritual that followed - together people were able to cleanse themselves spiritually.

Video Richard Kofi

Red Lined III by Poernima Gobardhan

Performance walk by Poernima Gobardhan in the public space in metro 54 between Bullewijk and Centraal Station, in collaboration with Djuwa Mroivili. The third performance by Gobardhan and Mroivili in the series Red Lined, travels by metro from Bullewijk to Amsterdam Central and back. In a distinctive way she makes ultimate use of the concept of Radical Space, which creates a lot of visibility and new followers on social media because of the many Instagram Live Stories. With a critical eye they investigate the way we live together and how we experience culture. They claim the street as their stage, which suits the history of Amsterdam Southeast. After the performance people speak to them about the way the area has changed and how it used to be normal for artists to use the public space. They also speak about what they conceive is different nowadays: the presence of our institutions, the policy of permits and the way the police is present in the neighbourhood.

Red Lined II by Poernima Gobardhan

Performance by Poernima Gobardhan in the public space in the Shopperhal, Amsterdamse Poort, in collaboration with Djuwa Mroivili. Second in the series of performances Red Lined, in the presence of Ghanese artist Bernard Akoi Jackson. He especially appreciated the interaction between Poernima and the Asian and Javanese Surinam shops and restaurants.

Video Les Adu

Red Lined I by Poernima Gobardhan 

Performance by Poernima Gobardhan in the public space near metro station Kraaiennest, in collaboration with Djuwa Mroivili. The kick-off of the performance series Red Lined.

Research visit to Wesley Methodist Church Amsterdam Society

A visit to the English spoken service at the Wesley Methodist Church Amsterdam in Amsterdam East, by maker Smita James and curator Richard Kofi. Part of the research leading up to Radical Space, looking for a link between the way people in Southeast believe, and the way unregistered cab drivers trust their cars.

Researching the Sauce moderated by Malique Mohamud

An online research talk about the ‘sauce’. By Richard Kofi in collaboration with Malique Mohamud, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Smita James and Rohan Ayinde. Malique is a designer, programme maker, writer and initiator of the Niteshop—a night shop in Rotterdam South, which has turned into a platform for hip hop research, or as he calls it: an embassy of the neighbourhood. He organises meetings, podcasts and research projects about he cultural capital of the area. After elaborating on this project he made a few strong statements. Malique views the sauce - vibe or coolness of the neighbourhood - as an important commodity which is abundant in the area -  referring to the multicultural working class areas. He observes big corporations, project developers and governments trying to get control over the sauce, using it as a gimmick in advertising campaigns and product development. Because it speaks to a young audience, which identifies with the dynamic, intercultural institutions. But how can we ensure that the people who add flavour and colour to the sauce also profit from commercialising their cultural capital? To Malique this cultural capital is a raw material and the corporations are like the mining companies who mostly come to get what they want in exchange for superficial collaborations. This made us think about the role of artists als intermediairs in these processes. We often form the bridge between the Black culture, the coolness, the street style and the arts. We are often offered opportunities in place making campaigns which are to develop the quality of life of the neigbourhood, but which are, in the case of Southeast, also used to attract project developers and investors. Their investments commercialise the Sauce, but because of the historical under-appreciation and neglect, it is not the current residents, the producers of the Sauce, who benefit from it.

Monofunctional Housing Estate Bijlmer Renaissance moderated by Wouter Pocornie

An online research talk about urban development in Southeast. By Richard Kofi in collaboration with Wouter Pocornie, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Smita James and Rohan Ayinde. Through photos and maps Wouter shows the urban development of Amsterdam Southeast. These developments touch on greater themes in the local, national and international chapters of history. Wouter talkes about leftist ideals which the Bijlmer was built upon, the migration of Surinam-Dutch people and their collaborations with the squatters movements and the way the drugs problems of the Zeedijk were moved to Southeast. Wouter described what it was like to grow up in Southeast in the mid-nineties in a cosmopolitan surroundings of international working class networks which were connected in different ways and which depended on each other. He calls his generation the Bijlmer Natives, the first generation to grow up in the current demographic composition in Southeast. Rohan from London asked about the energy, the dynamics of the area and the newness. Do the young adults of today appreciate the uniqueness of the context they grew up in? Can you use their experiences as a force and a source of inspiration? At the same time he was interested in how segregation still occurs, despite the fact ethnicity is not officially registered.

Statement

SHEBANG has giving me the opportunity to expand my artistic practice in a professional manner. I have always wanted to connect visual arts with my writing arts. Through Moving Through Radical Space I have mirrored the nostalgia of the inhabitants, showcasing the position of unregistered cab drivers in Southeast in a meaningful way, to debunk the prejudices. I underlined a perspective which resonates with the understudied history of this borough. The Bijlmer history was my inspiration and that is why I worked from the inside out wherever I could. Radical Space was the starting point of my installation. My main questions were: where are we getting into? How do we move there? The other artists within the collective served as some kind of sparring partners. They did not necessarily play a part in the development of the installation but we did work as an extension of each other within the theme. The results of our work complemented each other and offered different perspectives to the audience. Because of COVID we were unfortunately unable to physically meet up, therefore we could not experience the dynamic process we envisioned. Quote in response to Radical Space: To Make it Happen Is to Create.
Smita James
After taking part in SHEBANG I will never view my practice in the same way. I started with a research question resulting in the concept of Red Lined. My main question was about the physical location of dance, whether it should only be in the theatre, the place in which I mostly created my dance. The theatre is a beautiful place, but it created a lot of friction to place my work, based on classical Indian dance, in a theatrical context. That is why it was a great opportunity for me to explore the dance space with SHEBANG. The things I do, are originally executed during rituals partly taking place on the streets of a village. That made it all the more important to experience this element. I visited the places marked in the building plans in relation to the urban development. The red line between the locations was togetherness. When I travelled by public transport, I saw a possibility in the public space. With the help of Smita I chose Kraaiennest as one of locations; the stand of the unregistered cabdrivers and a mosque behind the underground rails. The other locations were picked with the help of Richard, who proved to be a great sparring partner for developing the concept. He introduced me to Djuwa, the musician who accompanied me. Rohan’s reflections on the images of the interventions provided me with even more insights. The thing I eventually took from Red Lined is that dance is not confined to just one location, but it can manifest itself everywhere. The exchange between the people present and the dancer created a new meeting space. The street did not belong to ‘those people, from that neighbourhood’, but it became something belonging to us, our street. The bystanders did not know anything about the intervention, the style of dance or the dancer, but they all gave the dancer space and respect, all without the framework of a theatre. The public space creates a collectivity in stead of a division. I found an answer to my question, thanks to SHEBANG.
Poernima Gobardhan

Ripples

Travelling art work Moving through Radical Space by Smita James near Imagine IC/OBA Bijlmerplein. Invited by Imagine IC Smita built her installation within the framework of Everyday Blackness. The Holy Seat underlines the power of Black mobility. Unregistered cab drivers (snorders) are a well known phenomenon in Southeast and, according to Smita, are an underestimated figurehead of Everyday Blackness. In conclusion of this project there was a talk in which Southeast experiences were shared, and Smita curated a movie following the talk, in collaboration with OBA and Bijlmerbios. (Autumn 2021/Spring 2022)

Travelling art installation Moving through Radical Space by Smita James at Imagine IC/OBA Bijlmerplein