March 15, 2016 - Comments Off on Rope, Dope & Hope by Lonwabo Kilani – 10 March – 2 April
Lonwabo Kilani works in various media - painting, drawing, video, and interactive media. In his work, serious play has real signification, both as a conceptual process and as a material application to communicate the black state of non-being. Kilani studied Film (animation) and later digital arts and interactive media. Because he believes in making art for a purpose, Lonwabo is an activist.
Rope, Dope & Hope
While no documents seem to directly point to the historical origins of rope skipping in South Africa, piecing together various historical events may reveal the story. Recently recognized as one of South Africa’s indigenous games and national sports, Ugqaphu (rope skipping) originates from the Dutch and Americans, whose children sang while skipping two ropes. This game later earned the name “Double Dutch.” The game of jumping over a rope has been dated far back to ancient times in numerous cultures throughout the globe. It existed as a sport in Ancient Egypt, and was known as “hundred rope jumping” in China. From the relationship between the colonial settlers in South Africa and those in the Americas, a brief historical analogy can be pieced together.
Now, between the whipping sounds and the breaking echoes of the rope, I want to situate the political reality about blackness- blackness which is equally rooted in play and enjoyment as well as fear and terror. To foster hope among American inner-city kids, police officer Ulysses F. William reintroduced Double Dutch as part of an Inner City Outreach program called “Rope not Dope.” This rhythmic loop of rope violently lashing against the surface is accompanied by tranquil hymns- one – two – three – ele ele, one – two – three – ele ele. The beat of these hymns feels synonymous to the corporal punishment received in my high school days- one – two – three – next. Corporal punishment was not allowed to exceed three lashes in those days. While both rhythms cease to be violent, they both represent forms of keeping black youth in line. When we look deeper into this peaceful, humming beat, we start to see the relationship between oppressing forces and Blackness. As these patterns are repeated, we become desensitised to them, accepting it as normal. In order to restore what is normal, we must trace the relationship between police forces and blackness paralleled to schooling and blackness. It seems as if “civilizing” today’s black youth serves as the primary educator.