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Dialogues

This poem is part of a series written by AFLO. the poet reflecting on RESOLVE Collective’s exhibition and programme Summer House at Brighton CCA from November 2022 – February 2023. The series was commissioned in response to the ‘seasons’ of the project and is made up of SOUNDS, STORIES and SPACES.

“The final season of the residency inspired me to think about the whole process of engaging with the exhibitions. It was empowering to watch my peers make their mark on the space each month, but I felt a sinking feeling when I remembered that this experience and opportunity is temporary – that this reclamation of space is temporary. This final piece is an attempt at ‘exhibit’-ing and ‘resolve’-ing these conflicts. I experiment with the use of space in the layout of this poem.” – AFLO. the poet

‘SPACES’

We came to reclaim –

Place our full and chosen names
Upon white, crisp, sharp-cornered cards
                                          for white, crisp, sharp teeth to sink into.
We know those who pronounce Tchaikovsky with ease
But can’t wrap lips around titles from Igbo or Twi
Will soon be scanning them
Against exhibited, framed receipts.

The working class
                   worked hard in class
                                       rooms down the corridor
Now we mark the gallery walls with smudged fingerprints
Knowing our identities are not what this space was originally intended for.

We came to reclaim –

We aim for dominance
                         whilst submitting
We know what we deserve
                          but are expected to accept what we are given.

We select our finest pieces
Straighten our edges
Ensure we are presented to the highest degree.
First in the family to set foot in a university
Let alone set up an easel.
                         Is the footing equal?

Stand in line
Straighten your spine
Tuck in your shirt
Suck your tummy
Flatten your hair
Inhale less air

Make sure you fit.

We came to reclaim –

Drill holes into walls
Drum nails into them
Beat heads firmly
Ensure no counter-movements
Yet we are walled within the institution.

Boxed in
                         but what’s the takeaway?

We’re here to take the space
And still so much is out of reach
Up there
Many metres squared
suspended above
Proven out of touch
Look up in lust
Enticing yet uninviting
                                                  We can’t even reach the ceiling to smash through it.
Still we wear our afros big
                         and our hair wraps high.
                                                  The tips of our beings touch our own skies.

We came to reclaim –

                         But when will we claim recreation?

Through windows I see
An island of green
Where in warmer days some children play
And some are welcome to lay down and rest their weary feet
Overlooked by a queen of colonial stature.
Looking glass
                         looking past the exhibition
                                                          my dreams begin to shatter.

When will we have something as tangible as a statue?
Would we even want it?
Would stone and metal textures match our immaterial softness?

These communities are not found beneath concrete and columns
                                                          – but people.
Our pillars come together –
                         – lift arms, link fingers –
                                                          – the roof and the steeple.

This is the Summer House
Providing warmth in these winter months
Colourful commissions cut across the cold
Planting seeds, sowing dreams
We’ve seen leaves sprout upon multidisciplinary trees
But soon they will fall.
                         Will we reappear in spring?

We came to reclaim –
In a temporary space
When will we gain permanence?
            When will be earn a stable place?
                        When will we earn what we should have been repaid?
                               When will this city give us somewhere that we can truly stay?

Despite screwfaces and any scrutiny
We reclaim space for our communities.
And then the walls will be repainted
Whilst we wait with grace and patience
For another opportunity.

This is written in remembrance.
                                 But this is not a eulogy.

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