Our Tools Were Rudimentary, Yet We Pressed On: 
Politics of Body Transmission in Times of Revolution, Practices of Alliances & Resistance

Within the framework of  WE WHO ARE NOT THE SAME, a research project which looks at and challenges decolonial intersectional feminist practices and politics, we are honoured to welcome you to the third exercise! 

The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower

Audre Lorde

Like every magic ritual, a riot is a fleeting moment of perception of the invisible. It corresponds with an instant of intensification, with a charge. Suddenly our perception level increases and we see, as if looming up out of nowhere, another social space with its own connivances, a moment when everything that has been produced in secret is aggregated, illicit witchlike practices whose mode of transmission – like in every ritual – is first and foremost part of a practice, a performance.

Olivier Marboeuf

In whose inclusiveness are we positioned when practising solidarity? Were there consents of agreement to belong to this space of inclusivity if the parameters of definitions are changed?
In rethinking and shifting our position about what we know or assume solidarity should look like, we take another step in the politics of unmaking the body in shifting grounds of resistance, ritual and language in performativity. 

In this third exercise, we want to talk about transmission and darkness.

*Darkness can form the possible condition of transmissions’ visibility and can provide an own landscape of language that shapes the codes and movements for groups to operate and exchange. It may be a camouflage, a cul de sac or an escape route from the censorship apparatus of the patriarchal historical project, Audre Lorde suggests may not be possible to break. But we dare to consider an economy of darkness, an operation of unmaking the body with language, a chance to form a new imagination of sustainable alliances when practicing networks of unity. To be in darkness is to be part of it, it means to be able to see your people while the others in the light cannot see you. It means negotiating a physically demanding task, not from a position of contemplation but from one of collaboration. According to Kara Walker, this element marks the space of our exchanges.

In this exercise we refer to forms of transmissions and exchange focusing on our body's antennas, introducing concepts such as bodies of water and bodies of repair. Whether discussing repatriation of cultural objects or tallking about transmission technologies of healing or smuggling message in soviet culture, we believe that resistance marks the grounds of feminist technologies, social exchange and movements, as Olivier Marboeuf for example highlighted in his proposition The Witch and The Rioter.

Bahia Shehab recounts years of movement formations and resistance forms particularly during the Arab Spring and describes how her practice of urban geographical navigation and artistic trace crucially re-orientates political mobilisation, safety, visibility and the transformation of feminist positions in times of revolution. Leda Martins reports how the practice of performance necessitates to form not only alternative pedagogies but to reflect on the crucial utility of creating monuments, underground groups and alliances among indigenous communities. Neville Nnaji gives insights into her film on the undertones of Black womens' resistance in America and their strategies of organisation through creative movement.

Nevline Nnaji: Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights

Through the personal stories of several former black female Civil Rights activists, Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights unearths the lesser-known story of black women’s political marginalization between the male-dominated Black Power movement, and the predominantly white and middle class Feminist movement during the 1960s and 70s, as well as the resulting mobilization of black and other women of color into a united Feminist movement. Reflections Unheard is a feature length documentary, focusing exclusively on black women’s contributions and experiences during the Civil Rights era.

Nevline Nnaji is a Film Director, dancer and multi-media artist from Northampton, MA. Her works focus on the internal struggles and transformative experiences of black female characters, using experimental and non-linear storytelling devices in film. She is a founding member the New Negress Film Society, an artist collective and activist space which supports and works by and about black women filmmakers.
Nnaji’s first feature-length documentary, Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights, first screened with MSNBC show host and Producer, Melissa Harris Perry in 2012 prior to its release. Nnaji currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY as a filmmaker on her latest project, Genesis of Nine.

Bahia Shehab:  Resisting the White Cube
The struggle for women’s rights came to the forefront during the Egyptian uprising. But Egypt was not new to feminist discourse. Huda Sha’rawi founded the Egyptian Feminist Union in 1923, consequently Egyptian women have enjoyed more privileges than many Arab women of different nationalities. The fight has been continuous, what the revolution did was shed more light on already existing problems. Currently the walls of Cairo have been whitewashed. All memories of the revolution have been erased. Artists of dissent have either faced prosecution or fled the country. Those who stayed are forced to keep quite. The difficulty now is in navigating safe spaces of expression. As a woman street artist and after experiencing the freedom of painting on the street, going back to the white cube is a challenge. Her talk will discuss her artistic project concerning women’s issues between 2011–2018 on the street and in the cube. 

Bahia Shehab is associate professor of practice of design and founder of the graphic design program at The American University in Cairo where she has developed a full design curriculum mainly focused on visual culture of the Arab world. She has taught over fourteen courses on the topic. Her artwork has been on display in exhibitions, galleries and streets internationally and has received a number of international recognitions and awards. Her book "A Thousand Times NO: The Visual History of Lam-Alif" was published in 2010.


Leda Martins is the Professor of Literature, Arts and Sciences at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. A major theorist of Afro-Brazilian religious performance, she has done extensive work on 'congados' and other forms of diasporic worship that participate in the transmission of Afro-Brazilian memory and identity. Her books include Afrografias da Memoria. In 2000, Leda Martins was a visiting scholar in Performance Studies at New York University.

(Photo credit:  Courtesy of Nevline Nnaji)

The project  We Who Are Not The Same is funded by Hauptstadtkulturfonds.