When You Meet the Monster, Anoint Its Feet by Bayo Akomolafe — Emergence Magazine

I thought this was very interesting


Source: When You Meet the Monster, Anoint Its Feet — Emergence Magazine


Illustrations by Jia Sung


When You Meet the Monster, Anoint Its Feet

In the age of the Anthropocene and entrenched politics of whiteness, Bayo Akomolafe brings us face-to-face with our own unresolved ancestry, as it becomes more and more apparent that we are completely entwined with each other and the natural world.

A stunning invitation is in the air, urging us to rethink ourselves, our bodies, our hopes for justice, and how we respond to the politics of whiteness. In these times of painful displacements, unavertable crises, and unexpected entanglements (the Anthropocene), the logic of race and identity collides with genetic technologies and splinters into new emergent insights into how bodies come to be enfleshed—granting us hope for becoming otherwise.

The story I write here might have a neat beginning and an ending, but this story is really about the middle-ing spacethat gives birth to beginnings and endings. To be sure, it is about a good number of things—about race and racism, about black bodies, about the exterminations perpetrated in the name of superiority, about healing and decolonization, and about technology. And yet, it is at heart a letter about middles—not mathematical middles or the morality of balance in the way we often strive to find the golden mean between two extremes, but about how things interpenetrate each other, and how that leads us to interesting places. The middle I speak of is not halfway between two poles; it is a porousness that mocks the very idea of separation.

This is a tale about the brilliant betweenness that defeats everything, corrodes every boundary, spills through marked territory, and crosses out every confident line. The Yolngu people of Arnhem Land in northeastern Australia have a name for this “brilliance”: bir’yun (meaning “brilliance” or “shimmer”). It refers to a Yolngu aesthetic that is effected in paintings by crosshatching patterns and lines, which leave an optical impression of a shimmer. Bir’yun, more than just an artistic technique, speaks of ancestry cutting into the present, identities queered, tongues rendered unintelligible, and im/possibilities opening up. Bir’yun speaks of middles. And everything dies and begins in the middle.

When I was a child, I heard a story of beginnings from our Yoruba traditions about how the world came to be: they say there were once primal seas and raging waters below—and no land mass to counter their fury. Up above, the sky churned with the politics of a restless pantheon of Òrìshàs, non-human mythical beings who lived before humans. Olókun ruled the waters, and Olodumare—supreme above all—ruled the heavens. Between them, there was nothing. But, you see, “nothing” is never really as empty as some might think.

Obatálá, son of Olodumare—curious, restless, and uneasy with endless bliss—was inspired to create a people and the land they would rest on. With Olodumare’s blessings, he took leave of heavenly places and made his way down to the waters to begin his task. Just before he made his way, Obatálá consulted with Orunmila, Òrìshà of prophecy, who told him that he must prepare a chain of gold; gather palm nuts, with which he might hold the sand to be thrown over the waters; and obtain a sacred egg which contained a bird that would come in handy along the way. Obatálá did as instructed and secured these items. At the moment of departure, he fastened the golden chain to the sky and climbed down.

Can you take an instant to visualize this event? Imagine it for a moment: sky and swirling blue traversed by a shimmering chain that irrevocably and rudely links the heavens to the terrestrial, the divine to the mundane, the transcendent to the immanent, the infinite to the finite, nature to culture, masculine to feminine, beginnings to endings, unsettling both, re-configuring both just as well. In a sense, Obatálá’s epic adventure recreated everything.

On Obatálá’s golden chain, poised in the grand between, hangs not just a riveting account of beginnings-that-are-not-originary (or “middles”), but a figure of shocking intersections or transversal happenings—a figure that is particularly alive and much needed right now. This chain—like Obatálá’s golden chain—disturbs everything, remakes everything … rethinks everything. Its helixes weave together new practices that open up new considerations about how to ask questions related to identity and racial justice. I speak of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.

Continues in source: When You Meet the Monster, Anoint Its Feet — Emergence Magazine