Nina Simone will forever be a true inspiration to me, both in life and in my art. the way she fought for rights of black people with everything in her life telling her not to, is unbelievably inspiring. this song has been with me through this whole residency and inspired me a lot. thank you Nina.
i have been talking and interviewing some black artists during these weeks about their view on race and art, and how they feel about blackness, whiteness etc in life and in their art. one beautiful dancer send me a text that she wrote that is expressing the feeling in a way that we all know very well, and have been through or thought about more than once. thank you so deeply for your important and inspirational words.
I know I am talented, I know I can do this
But I can’t help but think – am I here because I’M BLACK ?
They don’t know me that well, haven’t seen me dance much really
But they want me in their cast, they want me in their show
And so I wonder – why exactly am I here?
I know they’ve worked with a black dancer before
That dancer is gone
Am I just a replacement?
Not a replacement for the skills but more of a fill-in for the diversity box that ‘needs’ to be checked?
If we want things to change, we have to start somewhere
So can I complain if I’m hired not only because I am good at what I do, because I have what they’re looking for, but ALSO BECAUSE I’M BLACK?
On the day of the video shoot, as they are teaching me the material that THEY have created together, that THEY have worked on together
The material that will be filmed and will serve to promote the project
I feel unnecessary, I feel like a prop, especially as I stand between two other white dancers
Not because I feel intimidated or less capable than them
But because I see that this video shoot, this project they are working on, could work perfectly well without me
But perhaps it just LOOKS better with me
Hey, it’s a job, it’s cash, it’s interesting work – so why should I care what the motive is?
For there to be 2,3,4, black dancers in a show, there must, at some point have been only one black dancer in a show
And so it is bittersweet
And so we endure this discomfort at the individual level, to pave the way for the change at the structural level
We speak on and I mention how I felt that day, that I felt as though there was no need for my presence
She understands, she acknowledges, she empathizes, she apologizes
And yet, neither of us address my Blackness
The role it plays in an entirely white room
She thinks it has to do with me being ‘new’ to the group (sure, that’s part of it)
Perhaps she really does not see the issue, though I consider her quite ‘woke’
And so I think perhaps it is in my mind , that it isn’t actually an issue
Also this is not something you briefly address in a quick phone call
And so it remains unsaid, undiscussed, unsolved
At that moment, I don’t feel that I have the energy to discuss it
At that moment, I don’t feel that I have the courage to discuss it
At that moment, I don’t want to discuss it, though I know I should, I must, not just for me but for all of us
But it remains unsaid, undiscussed, unsolved
Like a piece of cashew stuck between the back of your teeth
What a relief when you finally get the toothpick to get it out
But you can also go a very long time without getting it out
Somehow burdened but also used to it and therefore not really bothered
i believe that as a black person, to be joyful is a choice. it’s an attitude, a sign of strength and a sign of resistance. it challenges the stereotypes of what it means to be black because everything in this world tells us that we are not, and shouldn’t be joyful. you should only be joyful (or maybe more grateful) when x allows you to sit at the same table, but not simply in being who you are.
so the last weeks i have worked with that particular angle of joy. that it’s something that you choose, and even though it might seem like a simple thing, it can be a struggle to achieve. and i find it very interesting, and important, to see how it manifests in the body. how does the attitude of joy feel, look, express itself in me? and how can i find it even in the most uncomfortable positions and places?
how can i find joy in a place that doesn’t want me to be joyful and what does it mean when i do so?
therefore i have been putting myself in movements and positions that i do not feel comfortable in, and been trying to find ways to make them joyful. do i have to change the position? move in it? change my weight? or is it enough to just change my mindset? and when i change my mindset, does it change the position too?
i found that in my body it has a lot to do with tension and release. with holding on and letting go. with resisting and allowing.
i don’t like to stand on releve in 2nd position for 20 min, but if i have to, how do i make it a joyful experience?
inspiration for today
“surely there’s strength in being dressed for a storm
even when there’s no storm in sight”
– Yaa Gyasi
inspiration for today
“if you can only be tall
when someone else is on their knees
then you have a serious problem
and my feeling is
white people has a very, very serious problem
and they should start thinking
of what they can do about it
take me out of it.”
– Toni Morrison
inspiration for this residency
“when you are a black girl
everyday that you exist in your body
– Raven Taylor
hello! my name is amie jammeh. i am a 27 years old dancer who originally comes from gambia and sweden.
i work with the body, with video and with voice and my focus as an artist is to bring awareness and visibility to black culture, black stories and black artists. i will dedicate my time here in this beautiful space trying to do that. i am specifically researching about black joy as a rebellious act, and i am trying to find ways to express this with my body.
i am interviewing and talking to other black artists to hear their thoughts and ideas on the topic and the topic of being who they are and the effect it has on their life and art.