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The Color Curtain and the Promise of Bandung with Philippe Pirotte, Leigh Raiford and Karima Boudou Mzouar

Event21 October 2021, 18:00online
Graphic design: Mahya KetabchiGraphic design: Mahya Ketabchi

The Asian-African Conference held in 1955 in the city of Bandung, Indonesia, can be considered a catalyst of already existing political and cultural affiliations. Stimulated by the Bandung moment, this Asian-African alliance had an anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, and anti-racist rationale. Reanimating the so-called ‘third-way’ political imagination carried by the Bandung spirit, this collective research is driven by a poetics of correspondence, addressing cultural traditions while at the same time revealing translational experiences across Asia, Africa, and their diasporas.

Live roundtables will be held online and in English language every Thursday, bringing together scholars, curators, and artists to explore the political, artistic and cultural resonances of the Bandung Conference. 

Thursday, 21 October, 18:00 (CEST)

Philippe Pirotte 
Introduction: Richard Wright, The Color Curtain and the Promise of Bandung

Taking African American novelist Richard Wright’s report on Bandung as a starting point, this introductory talk aims to assess Wright’s self-positioning within the lineage of the anti-imperialist ‘promise’ embodied by Bandung. Wright was an early contributor to the leading pan-African journal Présence Africaine, and was part of the 1er Congrès des Écrivains et Artistes Noirs (1956) in Paris. He witnessed Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party campaigning for independence from British rule on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1953, and published a year later the travelogue Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos (1954), illustrated with his own photographs. His subsequent book The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference (1956) shares his impressions and analysis of the epoch-making encounter of representatives from twenty-nine independent Asian and African countries, held in the city of Bandung, Indonesia in 1955. Later on, Wright reevaluates both marking journeys in White Man, Listen! (1957), a gathering of essays in support of anticolonial movements in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Leigh Raiford 
Bandung to Black Power: Mapping Kathleen Cleaver's Radical Geographies

Human Rights Activist Kathleen Neal Cleaver came to prominence at the age of 22, when she assumed the role of Communications Secretary of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and soon thereafter helped found the International Chapter of the BPP in Algeria during the time she, her husband Eldridge Cleaver and their two children were living there in exile from the U.S.A. Yet a life steeped in anticolonial international commitments was nothing new to Cleaver. Leigh Raiford’s talk connects Cleaver's upbringing as the child of US Foreign Service agents living in India, the Philippines, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1950s and early 1960s to her emergence as a key figure in the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. 

Karima Boudou Mzouar
The Key to San Francisco: Mehdi Ben Barka and the Tricontinental Conference in Cuba

Karima Boudou Mzouar has been engaging with rarely shown archive material, drawing on Moroccan politician Mehdi Ben Barka (1920–1965)’s journey through the U.S.A. in 1957, as President of the National Consultative Assembly (ANC), one year after Morocco’s independence and two years after the Asian-African Conference in Bandung. Head of the left-wing National Union of Popular Forces (UNFP), and Chairman of the Preparatory Committee of the International Tricontinental Conference (1966), Ben Barka was a brilliant mathematician, leading intellectual, Third-Worldist, and Pan-Africanist. Based on the Ben Barka Family Archive, intimate stories, and testimonies, Boudou Mzouar’s research brings Ben Barka back into the context of the U.S.A., providing a rich ground to discuss the intertwined histories of Internationalism, Moroccan post-independence, the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the solidarity with the struggles for equality in Morocco and the entire non-aligned ‘Third World’. (In collaboration with Institut Mehdi Ben Barka – Mémoire Vivante)

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