The Cradle

*savagenobility romancingthepatriarchy one avatar at a time youcantsitwithus
by Alberta Whittle & Dean Hutton with Anna Christina Lorenzen and Comet & Luka at GoetheonMain October 2015

What does it mean to be natural? Are queer bodies unnatural? Are black bodies supernatural? And who can access all of this nature? Travelling as close to the origins of humanity as we can afford, to the Cradle of Humankind, on a smallholding in Kromdraai, we position ourselves in the shadow of societal expectations decoding whether we belong here or not.

“Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well” - Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth.

Butchered and dissected under the avaricious gaze of the west, the African diaspora has been sectioned into provinces, parishes, countries and neighbourhoods, boundaries crisscrossing land and water. Top Predator: Becoming Europa disturbs the convenient narrative of Europe as a benevolent being supporting and sustaining the rest of the globe, is disrupted by her withered breast and covetous gaze. Her invented borders insist that you and I are now, us and them, the Other and hegemony. In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois writes, “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

The world Du Bois refers to, also looks on and acts in fear towards queer and black bodies. The mythological figure of Mammmmmyyyyywaaaata, rooted in belief systems from West Africa, carried over the Middle Passage in the memories of the enslaved, she arrived in the Caribbean ready to transform again. Traversing through binaries of identity, the avatar of Mammmmmyyyyywaaaata represents a dual identity, personifying a culture of mixedness, rooted in both miscegenation and love. Appearing in the Cradle with her body painted blue recalls the early European words for black person, fear dubh, blue devil. These names reveal the ancient presence of black people in Europe, the narrative of creolisation, entirely obliterated in history, which as we all know is written by the conquerors. This seized history, regurgitated in school books, favouring the west and denying the role of the Other as protagonist perpetuates racism, classism and sexism.

There is nothing more courageous than being yourself in a world that tries to render you invisible in mundane and violent ways. Birthed on the minedumps of eGoli the avatar of Goldendean gleams and glamours us, inciting a frenzy of gold lust, gold fever and golden showers. Much like gold itself the spectacle of Goldendean, challenges the arbitrary values we place in the normative body. Our gaze cannot help but devour Goldendean. They are simultaneously seductive and silly, rejecting the Gold Standard and revealing the embedded heteronormative positioning of queerness as unnatural and undesired. By transitioning into a golden figure, hewn from minerals pillaged from the soil, they personify the binaries of taste and value.

The avatars of Goldendean and Mammmmmyyyyywaaaata were constructed to challenge the power relations at play, where racism, sexism and classicism prevent access to institutions of nature and nurture. These epistemologies are systematic forms of oppression, which perversely influence human beings’ relationships with nature. Contentious environments, such as the location of the Cradle for Humankind, Maropeng and the Lion and Rhino Park are potent sites in which intersectional oppressions are organised, segregating access through its enforced preservation and commodification. The gatekeepers of these institutions insist that expensive admission fees, and access to land prohibit access to the predominantly black local populace, who are considered trespassers on this stolen land. Instead these bastions of knowledge and heritage become the reserve of whiteness, embodied by the avatar of the Great White Hunter. Aggressive recreation activities like hunting and tourism become channels for affirming potency and privilege.

The manufacture of a field, fixed in the gentrified location of Arts On Main disputes the mediated and supremely patriarchal administration of nature. This garden exists in potentia, fecund, pregnant but ultimately sterile.

Why does your nakedness offend you?
You were the inspiration for all of the
earth,
every rolling hill and rushing stream.
Land so beautiful, they couldn’t help but to steal it. - Key Ballah, Preparing my Daughter for Rain.