Recognizing Voice

ACI Artist Leader Basil Kincaid

International residency: Accra, Ghana 

National residency: St. Louis, USA 

November has marked a solidification of many ideas and the budding of new concepts that are soon to blossom. During this month my ideas have begun to crystalize and evolve all mixed in air filled with a multitude of emotions. I have a difficult (though my father would encourage me to say stimulating) time reconciling what is going on in the United States with what I am experiencing here in Ghana. It remains ever apparent that in the United States the words of Angela Davis ring so profoundly true:

“There is an unbroken line of police violence in the US that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery, the aftermath of slavery, the development of the Ku Klux Klan,” saysAngela Davis. “There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice.” She goes on to explain that, “The problem with always pursuing the individual perpetrator in all of the many cases that involve police violence is that one reinvents the wheel each time and it cannot possibly begin to reduce racist police violence. Which is not to say that individual perpetrators should not be held accountable — they should.” 

Here in Ghana I feel a freedom that I haven’t been exposed to in the States. I never feel like I have to look over my shoulder or wonder what negative thoughts strangers are harboring about me as I pass them on the side of the road. I find my mind in two worlds, one of freedom and one of oppression, and both are oddly twisted with the realization that there are positives and negatives on both sides. I can’t paint Ghana as flawless, although I find myself wanting to live here permanently, nor can I entirely abandon the land of my birth even though it hardly feels like a welcoming home. I want to find a way to make both places better, a daunting task.  

In the midst of these thoughts, I have ramped up my collection of materials to move the Reclamation series, a work focused on exposing the beauty of what is often discarded, forward. I find it takes an equal if not greater amount of time to collect materials as it does to assemble them, and in this time of collection I find myself thinking quite a bit as I walk around picking up beautiful trash. My routine this month is nice; I walk down to the beach first thing in the morning and write poetry until around 7 or 7:30am, then walk the streets collecting scratch cards used to “top up” (refill) prepaid cell phone plans and water bags used to package pure drinking water before it starts to get really hot around 9:30am.  The cards come in red, yellow, blue, green, and very rarely pink. I plan to create large to monumental scale compositions with these small found items. The cards vary in size from half an inch by 2.5 inches to 2x3 inches. I will need upwards of 3000 individual pieces to construct the semi-representational, 2 dimensional wall sculptures that I envision. I spend the rest of the day working with the materials that I find either joining small portions of the scratch cards to be combined for larger compositions or washing and sewing the water bags I find.  Ghanaians are very diligent workers so I find myself striving to meet that level of diligence, staying focused on creation for the duration of the day, taking breaks for meals then relaxing in the evening around 8 or 9pm. I am excited to share my first finished pieces with the scratch cards and water bags in next month’s blog. 

What stands out to me this month are the new emotions that I have been inspired to feel. A number of these feelings based on my time here in Ghana so far are captured in the poem below.  

Flower Transplanted

Taken from the red soul, the red soil of Africa, to be blackened and made a shade of American, yet not fully that.

From a city, yet not one on a hill.

A city that I take like a pill and it does not cure me, it infests the soil of my mind, seeds of chains that I break as if I am one on a road side gang, sledging rocks to pave roads, roads that lead to places I never wanted to go, places that I never asked to be taken, yet taken I was, taken I am.

I am a flower transplanted.

I feel words in my heart that I cannot yet fit my young tongue to their curl, yet in my heart I feel them unfurl, I feel them whirl, I feel them.

I, a blossom as these words of Ga come to my young tongue one at a time.

Teayote , oyejeban, oyewaledon, only a few that I know because I am a flower transplanted, taken from the red soil of Ghana to be transplanted, implanted into the doctrines, into the doctrine of straightened hair and bleached skin, implanted into the killing of my kin, contract killings sourced on Tor, sourced on the deep web to entangle my brothers and sisters for organ stealing, for forced sterilization, to clench the wealth of my home nation to make diapers and cheese and road signs for overpasses on a nation that was mine and stolen to belong to one that wishes they were me so they tan, they ran and they tan to darken themselves androgens active the melanin of which they have grown deficient.

We are flowers transplanted, new Africans born in a land that we built yet stake no claim to own.

We are flowers transplanted, flowers transplanted and transplanted, to grow in soil tainted and infertile spoiled with greed and the blood of young black men that only long to be free.

I am free for I am a flower upon open fields, painted with gods brush, brown; light brown from masters rape and then again dark brown and pure. We are the cure.

Love is the only cure for the hatred bred into calcified third eyes of oppressors and y'all won't hear me because ears will close clogged with wax and death taxes, clogged with stolen gold and timber, clogged with blight and the sight of green, green money that blinds the third eye twisting its focus to distort truth.

The truth that we are flowers transplanted, transplanted from the red soil soul of cape coast, beach glass from the lighting strikes in my mind that unwind the path that took me from this place to bring me back to this place. Everything is in place though.

Everything is in place because we are black by grace.

Even though We are flowers transplanted.