We Will Dance With Mountains - Let Us Make Sanctuary

October 2020-January 2021

I N V I T A T I O N S   &   E X E R C I S E S   F R O M   T H E   C O U R S E   T E A M

Session I | 18 October

From the next class, in my attempts to “begin” constellating the insights and ideas that constitute my notion of “making-sanctuary”, I will teach about diffraction patterns, becoming lost, and building wilder coalitions that might decenter the human – and how these might open us up to keener materialities. In the meantime, do the following:

1. Write what is emerging for you after the first live session (whether you were there or watched the recording): Questions? Insights? Ideas?

2. In your emerging text, notice what is present as you write: tables, pens, a cup of coffee perhaps, a purring cat, etc. Account for them in your text – not simply as backgrounded objects but active co-creators of the thick now you all are doing together. 

3. Meet with your kinship group and experiment with reading these insights into each other. Notice the places of breaks and
discontinuities in your shared readings, the places of divergence – and the sites of resonance. Don’t try to reduce them to each other – just note them and account for them.

4. Take your text in your private reading: what emerges from it that wasn’t there prior to the kinship diffraction process?

If you don’t understand this process, it’s okay. I would like you to try something even if you haven’t figured it out completely. I would like you to linger at the “edges of incompetence” long enough for you to be met by surprise. Try it.

See you at the shocking side of failure.

Session II | 1 November

I want to offer an exercise in listening. Kindly make sure you have a guide and a support system if you elect to undertake this practice.

When we navigate the world, we typically depend on sight as the predominant means of obtaining information about the world. This is of course different for those who do not use the eyes but use other senses to meet the world. Without prejudice to those who might be hard of hearing or have some form of hearing loss, I want to invite a listening exercise. For a few hours a day – for as many days as you can manage it – conspire with those in close proximity to you to have yourself blindfolded in a location of your choosing. During the time of being blindfolded, listen. Listen to the world around you. Listen to how things rub off on one another, to textures, sounds, colours. Yes, listen to colours. How does angry sound? Use listening to re-enter the world often lost behind the dominance of sight-as-data-as-truth. At the end of your exercise of becoming-animal, write down what you have listened to or are listening to. During your kinship group meeting, share what emerged for you and co-create a similar exercise for decoupling our sensorial apparatuses.

Session III | 15 November

An Exercise in Listening with your Environment (an invitation made in the pre-session email in preparation for live session):

Gather around materials for a Making Together exercise we will have during the session. Bring together the most implausible artefacts – duct tape, cotton wool from a broken toy, a feather, pieces of cloth, a spider’s web, half-eaten pizzas, electrical wires, whatever, you get the point. To do this gathering, you will have to listen to the world around you. Ask the world – as if it were alive – to guide your hand, to awaken your senses to what is needed. When you are saturated, come with your oddkin companions to the session.


Writing prompt following the Making Together exercise (aka. A Pedagogy of the Alien):

Can you explore all the ways you are not you? Explore the ways you are outside yourself; the moments when you haven’t behaved like yourself.

Share this writing with your kinship group when you next meet.


Invitation from Bayo following the third live session:

Gather alien bodies to yourself and dedicate some time to reading through the follow-up note. Meet with your kinship group and share your reflections on this reading with each other. Then attempt to respond to/with the questions below. Feel free to index your own questions alongside these proposed ones below.

  • What are the gifts and shadows of identity politics, and how does a particular reading of the structural limitations of identity politics call for "fugitive exile"?
  • What do we do with our many failures to achieve the justice the systems we inhabit have promised us? Why do we feel so stuck?
  • Who is the racist, and in what way is the appellation of the “racist” already a performance of dissociative anthropocentrism?
  • How is trauma a more-than-human ecological principle?
  • What new opportunities, openings and obstacles to social justice are presented to us by the reading from transraciality?
  • Are there other places of power that we can turn to? What might that look like?
  • What can we learn from the failures of modern African states in the post-independence era, and what might an Afro-Atlantic conversation with diasporic communities teach us about emancipation within oppressive regimes?
  • As a person from a minority group, have you ever had the experience of being censored for not using the right phrase, term, or word in relation to other target groups?
  • What lies beyond justice?
  • What does it mean to slow down in times of urgency?
  • What do the concepts of postactivism, transraciality, becoming-black, and making sanctuary offer to our movements for a better world? What new problems and shadows do they create?
  • To be fully designated is to lose touch of our migrancy in an epistemology of stable identities and sealed off becomings. What does this statement bring up for you?

Session IV | 29 November

A Broken Place (In Two Parts):

Part I (during the live session): Go to a broken place (literal or otherwise). Stay there and get bored. Just listen. There is no methodology for what happens now. Stay in the place of brokenness. If something arises, it's fine to write it down but there is nothing more required of you than to stay, get bored and listen.

Part II (from the follow-up email): Listen to those cries and the baying of the dogs... No, listen now to the great howling of the wolves. Magnificent, almost sublime, emanating from vertical legs placed in a triangle on the ground and from the mouth lifted straight toward the sky, already strangely musical. No, listen, there, uglier, raw, as though broken, to the chattering jackels. No, there, now, to the whistling of the wind. (Michael Serres, Biogea, 2012, p. 112)

Try listening to the cracks. Borrow other senses if you need to – it might be the first kindling steps to assembling your dis/inquiry project. Share what you heard with your kinship group.

Session V | 6 December

Trail of Enlivenment: Find the Ones that are Here.

Who is here? Who are we receiving?  

One method, the Trail of Enlivenment, which I have been developing and deploying in collective intelligence creation circles, invites participants to ask questions they feel are important to them, and then to meet and interact with the ‘objects’ in their environment in a ‘new’ way – approaching them not as items to be studied but as kin and potential allies (or even disruptors) of one’s quest. The participants are then invited to keep returning to their initial questions and editing them, even if they feel the progressively newer iterations do not make any sense or more sense than the original questions. The process is designed for ontological expansion – to shake the researcher loose from the security of his or her imaginings.

I’d like you to embark on a trail of enlivenment together – instigated by the Lectio Divina of “We are here!”

How?

Write down three or more of your most pressing questions and keep this list aside. Then (preferably with a writing pad and pen), embark on a ‘listening pilgrimage’, beginning with any ordinary object immediately accessible to you, or in your vicinity.

Sit with the object, be curious about ‘it’. Instead of asking, ‘what is this object?’, ask ‘what is happening here?’, and then write down your impressions. What you write down should be in form of another question that continues the trail in connect-the-dots fashion. So, for instance, you may write (while sitting with a carrot) “How do I get my carrots?” or “Do other cultures experience orange the same way I do?” or “Does a carrot experience joy and other emotions?” These questions – like branches navigating away from a tree trunk – would in turn give birth to other questions which, eventually, may seem like they have absolutely nothing to do with your original object.

Keep following this trail of questions, prompted by your keen intra-actions with newer objects/concepts.

When saturated or unable to continue, go back to your pressing questions (the list you kept aside), and respond to them, adding to them, or taking note of any changes in how you’d frame them.

How might you practice this together within your kinship group?

Session VI | 13 December

This Break, Make Sanctuary.

In the last live session before our month-long break, Bayo invites us to materialize “making sanctuary”, your end-time fugitive co-inquiry expedition into katabasis:

a. Make compassion your inquiry. Compassion is not simply being kind to another, or having sympathy for another. It is sitting-with another long enough to become-with another. In our times of migrancy and fluid fire and deep tensions, expand your circle of conversation to include the more-than-human world around you. Take “them” into your home as one might take a refugee into one’s home.

b. Conduct a feet-washing ceremony with members of your kinship group – or, if you don’t have one, with those who you invite to make sanctuary with you. To wash one’s feet and have one’s feet washed is to articulate our stunning mutuality and demonstrate the ways our bodies are dying into each other, cells mingling in murky brown water. It is to be committed to our shared demise, our unspeakable migrancy, our fugitivity.

c. Listen / feel for / touch the spots of disarticulation / the places where the promises of the normal fail woefully.

d. Decorate these cracks and let these be the heart of your kinship gatherings. Do this by creating a ritual around this decoration – one that honours the idea that we are not alone, that we need the others (non-human, inhuman, more-than-human, not-quite-human).

e. What questions are emerging? Embark on your quests of dis/inquiry and co-research. There is no one way to approach making sanctuary.

f. Share the points of your departure, how you are partnering with the world around you, and what practical questions and sites of power you are being invited to occupy. Share with other kinship groups and with us: courseteam@bayoakomolafe.net.

Session VII | 10 January

Journaling / Kinship Group Prompt:

Listen / feel for / touch the spots of disarticulation / the places where the promises of the normal fail woefully.

What questions are emerging? Embark on your quests of dis/inquiry and co-research. There is no one way to approach making sanctuary.

Share the points of your departure, how you are partnering with the world around you, and what practical questions and sites of power you are being invited to occupy.

Session VIII | 24 January

An invitation to create a DIY 'Fugitive Certificate of Completion' for We Will Dance with Mountains - Let us make sanctuary.

Participants are invited to create their own certificate, whatever that means to them; a symbol or creation that signifies that you've traveled with us, that we've been in this caravan together. It might smell. It might taste. It might be something that grounds you. It might be something that unsettles you.

The invitation is simple: bring something to the closing session that can help symbolize your passage through this this journey.