Dear Predominantly White Audience
Dear predominantly white audience,
I would love perform for you. I have many exciting dances to show and many stories to tell.
But there are just a few things that i feel should be dealt with. A few things that we should agree on.
So we both can feel comfortable.
Dear member of the audience,
If I choose perform for you will you look at me in a hostile way?
If I choose to leave my safe space, will you projects your fears onto me? Will my body be a landscape, will you use me as a backdrop for you needs and fantasies?
Or would you be willing to give up your imperialist gaze? Renounce that anthropological interest of yours of trying to understand me? Or my body? Or my culture?
Would you be willing to understand that there are things that can’t be understood? That the experience of a racialized body is something you will never obtain.
Would you be satisfied with being, co – existing, witnessing? We could share a moment, an experiences or a dance.
Dear member of white middle class,
I am about to begin!
But if I choose to perform for you, will i become a token of your tolerance and liberal ideology? Or would you be interested in my story, my history or my perspective?
Dear Finland, you ask me where I’m from.
Well I am from Ii, from Kokkola, from Stockholm and Oulu. And Helsinki! Actually I’m from Munkkivuori, born in Kumpula and raised in Herttoniemi.
But – what if i wasn’t from here? If I’ve had to leave my family, my home, my life, my work, my everything and if would’ve escaped to Finland, would you let me stay?
Would you demand for papers and explanations and obedience and assimilation and renouncing my own culture and habits?
Would you see me as an expense on your yearly budget?
Would you demand gratitude?
Or would you make space for me at your table?
Dear president Sauli Niinistö, I am still doubtful.
If I come out of this tent would you stop using speeches like ”maassa maan tavalla*”?
Would you be willing to admit that pure Finnish culture doesn’t exist? Finnish culture is in fact a combination of Carelian, Russian, Swedish, Finnish Swedish, French, European, American, African, Asian…
Would you be willing to admit that fictional, manmade boarders can’t exclude cultures. They won’t prevent cultural exchange. Finnish culture is already multicultural.
Dear white art institution, I am finally ready.
Now will you use my work as a multicultural check box? Or to promote trendy exoticness?
Will my work be valued through a white western aesthetic and ideology? An aesthetic that has historically appropriated other cultures, used them and spit them out?
Will my work be but an ”interesting” deviation in an art world that is run and ruled by white men? For it is a man’s man’s man’s world and I am a woman, a black woman, “the other”. Exotic? Yes! Dark? Yes! Dangerous? Maybe! But definitely not a white man in the art world.
Will I have space to create, explore, succeed and fail, grow, change and move on? Or am I doomed to a lifetime of otherness as a black woman artist? A lifetime of conceptual tap dancing in an invisible blackface.
Or could we shake and break this historical hegemony and create a space that is inclusive and utopian?
Dear white protagonist,
Your problem is that you are both the author and lead character of your story. You came to our lands as an imperialist wanting to save us, civilize us, educate us. You projected you white savor fantasies onto me. You needed me to need you.
Dear year 2016,
Last fall was hard. And sad. And frightening. Could this year be a year of hope, empathy and courage? I’m tired of being afraid and angry. I’m tired of hiding in this tent. I want to come out.
But could this year be a year of radical dreaming. Of coexisting without a demand of coherence?
I am finally out.
But this is my story. Not yours.
Sonya Lindfors 2016
This spoken word was originally performed in a work in process version of the performance NOBLE SAVAGE.
* Maassa maan tavalla is Finnish for ”when in Finland do as the Finns do”.