Project Note: Faustin
Project Note: Faustin
The Philadelphia Experiment
by Najja Zimele-Keita
Faustin Linyekula is a Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia Artist/Thinker. Project Notes document and articulate Faustin's process and engagement with Philadelphia as he develops new work that will be presented here in April 2016.
“When you come from a place where everyone is destroying something, the only way to be subversive is to be constructive.” —Faustin Linyekula
It’s a little after 10 in the morning in North Philadelphia. Faustin Linyekula is standing in the middle of a side street just off of Germantown Avenue, perhaps a bit bewildered. “This is like Soweto…,” he murmurs. After a seven year absence, he has barely been back in Philadelphia for 24 hours, and it’s clear the encounter is monumental.
“And someone lives here?,” he asks, gesturing towards two homes in front of us, telling me that if he were to tell people back home in the D.R. Congo that this was America, they wouldn’t believe him.
I could see that it was a shock to his system, but that's what I had hoped. Under a tin sky, surrounded by Ile Ife sculptures and rowhomes lined up like soldiers receiving him, Philadelphia began to open itself up to Faustin Linyekula.
Over the next few days we talked citizenship, education systems, the lineage of house music and synergies between Black American street dance and the National Ballets of post-colonial West Africa. A stop at Temple’s Blockson Archive revealed Father Divine and how his philosophies shared the language of the National Ballets—instilling identity, forging agency. We were so fortunate to connect with King Britt, who opened his studio up to us. Surrounded by mosaics of record sleeves, we went deep, talking Dollar Boyz, wu-tanging, the Johannesburg music scene and the colloquial dance languages of Philadelphia.
I watched Faustin walk into a dance studio at the University of the Arts that Saturday and reflexively remove his shoes. The honesty and intimacy of that gesture informed the day, as Faustin shared the floor with Dr. Rizvana Bradley of Emory University. Faustin, his process and practice were focal points of Dr. Bradley’s Ph.D work. The two of them opened up an expansive discussion around his roots, artistry as citizenship and the poetics of dance.
Later that night as King shared the DJ booth with Matthew Law, Faustin met my friends, one of many reasons Philadelphia is so dear to me. As I sit now, listening to Faustin explain the ideal of the circle—the connections we make which create shared, common spaces—I’m reminded of Faustin awash in sound and light, deftly navigating the dance floor, creating circles of his own in Philadelphia.
Najja Zimele-Keita is the Re-PLACE-ing Project Coordinator.