Season 3, Episode 7: Reading May Ayim through Poetic Revolutionaries in Berlin
This episode opens with spoken word poetess Savannah Sipho reading May Ayim’s poem titled “blues in Schwarzweiß” (“Blues in Black and White”) during a recent critical walking tour in Berlin called Dekoloniales Flanieren, or Decolonial Flaneur (August 21, 2020), organized by the Nachbarschaftsinitiative Anton-Wilhelm-Amo-Straße led by students, scholars, and professors from Humboldt University, which aimed to establish a broad coalition with activists, artists, Institute for European Ethnology, Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland (ISD), SAAVY Contemporary, and the recently established Decolonize Berlin to mobilize demands to change a racist street name in the Berlin District of Mitte called M*Straße or M Street—which is an abbreviated form of a street name that has been called out for its anti-Black racist language for well over 30 years—where the Institute for European Ethnology and other departments of Humboldt University are also located. After decades of activism and one day before Dekoloniales Flanieren took place, the District of Mitte in Berlin announced on August 20th that M*Straße will be renamed to honor 18th-century philosopher, professor, jurist, and poet Anton Wilhelm Amo.
In conversation with Kristyna Comer, Savannah Sipho shares more about her reading of May Ayim’s poem during Dekoloniales Flanieren as well as more about her creative process and the transformative experience of writing and performing poetry while also acknowleding spaces and organizations led by the Black POCs in Berlin that continue to support and empower Black artists.
This episode begins and ends with poetry: At the end of the episode, Savannah reads “exotik” by May Ayim and Decolonization in Action host edna bonhomme reads one of her own poems titled “Foremothers.”
A special thanks to Savannah Sipho and edna bonhomme for contributing their readings to this episode.
— Biographies —
Savannah Sipho—born and raised in Berlin—is a 24-year-old student of Area Studies Asia/Africa. She was inspired by May Ayim's life and poetry to start writing as a young girl.
Identity, the array of emotions, racism, and life in Berlin are recurring themes in Savannah Sipho’s writing.
She had her debut performance in May 2019.
edna bonhomme is an art worker, historian, lecturer, and writer whose work interrogates the archaeology of (post)colonial science, embodiment, and surveillance. A central question of her work asks: what makes people sick? As a researcher, she answers this question by exploring the spaces and modalities of care and toxicity that shape the possibility for repair. She has collaborated and exhibited critical multimedia projects in Berlin, Prague, and Vienna. In addition to her academic interests, Edna has written for publications such as Africa is a Country, Al Jazeera, Analyis und Kritik, The Baffler, Daddy Magazine, Der Freitag, Mada Masr, The Nation Magazine, and more. Bonhomme earned her PhD in History of Science from Princeton University.
— Show Credits —
Interview and Post-production
“blues in Schwarzweiß” by May Ayim, read by Savannah Sipho, recorded by Michael Westrich
“exotik” by May Ayim, read and recorded by Savannah Sipho
“Foremothers” by edna bonhomme, read and recorded by edna bonhomme
Profile photograph by Leo Wolters; Courtesy of Savannah Sipho
Cover image: still image from video documentation by Thị Minh Huyền Nguyễn of Savannah Sipho’s reading of May Ayim’s “blues in Schwarzweiß” with Claire Irene Künzel, co-organizer of Dekoloniales Flanieren who curated and introduced the third stop of the critical walking tour
All music is from Freesounds.org (Creative Commons)
— Please visit www.decolonizationinaction.com
for the complete show notes for all episodes. —