What is wellbeing, if it is not accessible to everyone?
This is one of many questions that Karimah Ashadu tries to grasp with her video works. She is a British-born Nigerian artist living and working between Hamburg, Lagos and London. Her practice is concerned with labor, patriarchy and notions of independence pertaining to the socio-economic and socio-cultural context of West Africa. Some of Ashadu’s protagonists are migrants who have been forced to leave their homes due to economic and environmental crises. They have weathered the seas, traveling precariously across the Atlantic by boat.
Artworks like hers have, like social movements, political implications. They are an attempt – some softly, others with rage – to make us see beyond: beyond climate change, beyond borders, beyond resource depletion, beyond colonial relations. “Beyond”, wrote Homi Bhabha, fellow at THE NEW INSTITUTE, almost thirty years ago, “is neither a new horizon, nor a leaving behind of the past.” If that’s where we are now, then we are completely disoriented in a world of sophisticated and well-orchestrated economies of conflicts and division.
The very presence of forcibly displaced individuals and immigrants in Europe due to economic and environmental crises today fuels the narratives of those in power. By allowing treacherous stereotypes to flood the shrinking common ground left with those on the other side of the war, new forms of racial and social discrimination are created. Nationalism is blocking us from de-escalating the anger towards everything that does not represent itself as “the West”, while prices keep working people hostage in an epistemic limbo within capitalism.