Shake! intensive at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre

My name is Paula, I joined Shake! as a volunteer last August, and I have recently become part of the Shake! core team. Most of my work is around art and social change, be it as an artist, activist, or cultural manager. I am also, at the moment a research student at King’s College London, working on the role of artistic performance within activism and social movements.

The following paragraphs present my reflections on how the words Remembering, Re-imagining and Reparations are already present in, and can be articulated into, our daily practices as artists, activists, and as members of our communities. These paragraphs also reflect how the ‘3 Rs’ are already part of what we do at Shake!, and how these concepts can allow us to think about what we do on different terms.

Remembering: Memory is transmitted through the culture we create. Songs, artwork, symbols, texts and traditions help us remember past suffering and past conquests. But remembering is not only a cultural construction. We can think of remembering as an embodied act. This means that memories can be channeled and transformed through our bodily experiences of these cultural artifacts, performances and rituals. At the same time, (re)experiencing personal and collective memories through our bodies, as we perform our cultural legacy and our own art production, also changes how we think and how we feel about past and present issues. As the act of remembering is embodied, it is re-lived and re-understood.
Re-imagining: We are constantly in the process of imagining. Imagining a better society, imagining a more just world. Re-imagining entails an ongoing imagining. It can be about a prefigurative imagining. In other words, constructing the future we imagine for ourselves through our art, our work, our activism and our daily activities. It can be about bringing that imagined future into the present. Building it in the everyday, as we imagine it. Re-imagining can then be about the constant act of imagining, for which we put our values and ideas into action, and which requires us to constantly renegotiate our objectives. Doing and imagining at the same time lead us to a constant re-imagining of our present and future.

Reparations: Reparations in a broader sense are about justice. They are also about restoringa people or a land to their initial state. But total restoration is never really possible, since even when material aspects are restored, the memories of wrongdoings and injustice will still live on. Reparations are then not so much about restoration, but about taking what has happened and building a better future. Reparations rely on remembering. It is not about forgetting a part of history, but rather channeling that memory, and using it for growing. Reparations is also about re-imagining, because building a new present and future can only happen if we keep the memories of the past alive, and use them to re-imagine what we want our lives to live. Reparations and re-imagining go hand in hand: as we re-imagine a more fair present and future, reparations are taking place.

Paula Serafini