Subtle Encounters

Annie Anawana Hobøl, university of bergen, faculty of fine art, music and design

Subtle Encounters, explores the involvement of women in the struggle for independence and the process of postcolonialisation in Africa and the Caribbean, the areas discussed in the writings of Frantz Fanon. Fanon was a French psychiatrist turned Algerian revolutionary of Martinican origin and one of the most important and controversial thinkers of the post-war Algeria. The mention of Frantz Fanon evokes nostalgic and revolutionary imagery in the minds of generation throughout the developing world and diaspora communities whose youth spanned the 1960s. Fanon was a radical and humanistic thinker with innovative theories on race, revolution, identity and violence, despite receiving criticism for his work as masculinist and phallocentric.

The titles The Wretched of the Earth, Black Skin, White Masks and Towards the African Revolution reverberated in the self-righteous rhetoric of ‘resistance’ of the colonised. In order to ground my research on Fanon and feminism in the context of my own condition as an emigrant, I have found a comparative model in the work of the Norwegian thinker Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson whose writing extensively explored the involvement of women during the emergence of an industrialised and urbanised society
in Norway, bares an interesting similarity to Frantz Fanon’s writing and thoughts on the involvement of women in the struggle for independence and the process of becoming postcolonial in Africa and the Caribbean. For instance Bjørnson writes, ‘The modern
woman, in contrast to the women of earlier times, realises that the fate of her children will chiefly be determined by society as a whole, and that her work is aimless and may prove in vain if she is unable to play a part in shaping the conditions of society’.

Bjørnson’s assertions very fundamentally resonate to with Fanon’s in A Dying
Colonialism about women freedom fighters and the profound transformations they generated in the Algerian context. As women transformed themselves into ‘unveiled revolutionaries,’ Fanon wrote that there was ‘a new dialectic of the body of the
revolutionary Algerian woman and the world.’ This new dialectic profoundly affected the Algerian family, in which the woman ‘literally forged a new place for herself by her sheer strength’. Like Bjørnson, Fanon manages to philosophically ‘capture’ the transformation of Algerian society, so tragically rejected by Algeria’s post-independence leaders.

In my previous work I have used performance to create videos and sound installations that explore the positions and relations of different communities within varied political, social, economic and cultural contexts. For instance, in WBPB, the five women are shown uprooting strips of white cloth in a repeti-tive gesture, through which the nuance of narrative and meaning is revealed: ‘repetition which delin-eates an ever-diminishing set of options, which may not cease diminishing until infinity is reached, for each repetition of “the gesture” reveals a fresh difference’6. For this project I would like to work with textile as main object and prop/tool while combining the linearity of narrative storytelling of cinematic form with the conceptual indeterminacy of performance art. I do not intend to create a hierarchy be-tween the two genres, but rather employ them as complementary methods, each playing a specific artis-tic role. I also intend to work with archive material in an experimental fashion. I have been collecting archive graffiti from the Algerian liberation struggle for independence in the 50s and the 60s. During the conflict the participation of some of the women involved the smuggling of weapons, food, clothing and other articles.