Excerpt from a speech held by Sepake Angiama in Palermo on the 3rd of june 2022
What are forms of education that happen outside of institutions and in which ways might they be replicated inside institutional spaces? I often use the form of the circle for people to come together and exchange – also within institutional spaces. What I find really beautiful about it is that it allows for knowledge to be transferred and transformed and to be returned to the educator. I think a lot about non extractive forms of education and in relationship to objects of return, especially as someone who is from a Diaspora, I often think about the ways in which theses objects have offered knowledge, but so much of their context – the severing from land, people and language – only allows for them to be interpreted as objects and not considered as part of a kind of ecosystem. They are no longer part of ritual and daily practice and are often denied their function. Also, those objects have never been allowed to die. Not all objects should be preserved. There is something in the dying of objects which allows the reproduction of knowledge through the remaking of objects – but this severing and the preservation are like an interruption.
Within the practice of thinking about access to knowledge and the ways in which it circulates, we recognize that there is much potential in imagining the future and how it is yet to be claimed. We work with our students to think about forms of action and change, we want them to recognize their agency. Because often institutional structures are very good at creating a sort of control of voices we instead try to ask: “How could you use your voice collectively to create movement or change?” Something that we obviously see in history but even now, is a kind of exhaustion and a bit of apathy, which means that the changes that are happening are not necessarily the ones that make us feel as if our voices were collectively heard. I’ve been thinking about this in relationship to the return of objects. What might repair and care look like in education? Education provides a platform and a tool for social change and for people to come together. What kind of change will the action of returning something bring about the way we look at our museums, the way that we talk about the objects that are there and the ones that don’t make it for the return. These are difficult conversations to have and there does need to be a genuine sensitivity as to how these conversations are held. In terms of recognizing voices I wonder about the witnesses of those objects – what they have seen and who would represent them. I have been thinking about the role of the necromancer, the mediator, who speaks for the objects from the dead. And I wonder if there is a consultative measure to ask the objects what they want – whatever this procedure might look like.
Picture: Sanchayan Ghosh, Associate Professor from the Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan leads exercises with the participants of unlearning gathering Under The Mango Tree.