“What is Black Guilt ?"
In ‘Black President’ exiled Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai's demons come to life as he tries to flee South Africa following various fractious experiences in the Johannesburg art scene.
I’ve often asked myself, why can't artist Kudzanai Chiurai be free to just paint flowers or some shit ?! If he wants to that is.
Are we, as black artists, victims of our past - forever beholden to our so-called arrested development - or is this, our burden, our superpower ?
What is ‘Black Guilt’ ?
“A child is born with no state of mind....blind to the ways of mankind” proclaim Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in “The Message” their seminal hip hop behemoth of a song about African American ghettos in the 80’s, then comes consciousness. In the case of this boy, a certain young Zimbabwean man, the fine artist named Kudzanai Chiurai, black consciousness appears, closely followed by black pride or ideas of black power.
This ideological militancy is adopted perhaps just as a means to access the freedoms he needs to truly fly and find his spirit. His flight however, as is the case for many a young black artist...is often weighed down by guilt, a guilt suspiciously masquerading as responsibility.
This black guilt is Kudzanai Chiurai’s last hurdle before true freedom – it is a demon that must be slayed.
The central thesis or question of this film is focused on this idea of “BLACK GUiLT” - a hyper-complex shame.
In this film we question the responsibility of African artists in an ever more globalised universe, where we maybe find ourselves "playing catch up" to the West as opposed to following our own paths.
Will we ever be truly free to express without having to necessarily represent all our people in our every breath or is the need to be that kind of free simply irresponsible?
How much do these complexes and relationships to the ghost of our continent’s violent collective history of oppression, exploitation and struggle haunt us?
Is there such a thing as Post Colonialism or indeed Neo Colonialism if Colonialism never ended in the first place?
Are we still slaves?
Am I a slave?
In ‘Black President’, The White Queen (a character from one of Kudzi’s pieces) personifies the idea of an externalised and internalised Quasi Colonialism when she first appears in a work by Kudzanai Chiurai and then steps out of that frame and into the world of the film. She hunts him down.
She goes rogue and irritates everyone around her while trying to buy up every African person and object she sees.
How will this end?
When will we Africans stop shooting ourselves in the foot to prove a point about our own agency in relation to the so-called Western standard?
Can Kudzanai be President of his own State of Being?
Or must he and I forever carry the fate and history of our people on our shoulders?
Mpumelelo Mcata is one of South Africa’s leading artists and cultural activists. Mpumelelo is perhaps best known as one part of internationally acclaimed South African SAMA award winning band the BLK JKS – although he plays the guitar, self-taught at that, he is quick to remind anyone who will listen that he is not a guitarist.
Mpumelelo, considers himself a conduit and artist who is as passionate about film or art in general as he is about music. His work, whatever the medium, is always about honesty and the stretching and testing of boundaries. ‘Black President’ - his debut feature - a creative documentary World premiered as part of Forum Expanded at the 2015 Berlinale.
In 2006 former BBC political journalist, filmmaker and union activist Anna Teeman met a little known Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai in London. She fell in obsessional love with the unlucky guy and followed him back to Johannesburg and formed End Street Productions with him. Kudzanai soon couldn't stand her near him and after months of ignoring her asked her to pose as The White Queen in one of his now world famous works. She had never felt more invisible than in that photograph.
She knew she was living a story precisely of its time and place and when she met director Mpumelelo Mcata in a Johannesburg lift she realised he was living in the same film as her - BLACK PRESIDENT – partly the tale of Black President Kudzanai Chiurai and The White Queen Anna Teeman which is also the story of Europa finally seeing Africa and Africa's patience running out.