White Paper


MATATU continually endeavors to be a platform for conversation, experience, and expression of the global genius. MATATU15: The Spectacular Walk of Ordinary People engaged the exceptionality of the individual in conversations of mobility and placehood, and their effects effects upon identity. But in appreciating the exceptional, one must necessarily ask about the uncomfortable ways in which identity is created: Who draws the line between “ordinary” and “extraordinary”? Who creates these borders, both literal and figurative-­ideological? Who among us has the opportunity for mobility and extraordinary walks? MATATU16 assembles a fellowship of filmmakers, geographers, musical composers, poets, writers, and more to consider the banality and the regulation of "the group."


Consider, for example, the contrived binary between the [economic] migrant and the fleeing refugee: consider the disparate engagement of the “leech on state resources” and the “legitimate victimhood” of the refugees more seemingly deserving of the west’s empathetic embrace. There are the contemptible Latin American refugees from Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, and other states ­ many many women and children ­ who are often hastily deported, and there are Syrians fleeing civil war and who are dramatically received in heartfelt gestures of goodwill by Canadians and Americans and Germans and others in airport terminals and train stations. There are the Somalis and Eritreans and Nigerians and other dark and black­skinned people forced to the bottom of the unstable rafts crossing the Mediterranean Sea, and there are the lighter skinned travelers and traffickers assured (if that word might be used in this context) a lesser degree of violence and subjugation on that treacherous journey to “safety.”


The constructions of victimhood and vulnerability and migration are some of the most tangible examples of hegemonic uses of language and constructions of identity; things that are weaponized while individuals and groups understand themselves and their experiences. It is neither mere coincidence nor painful irony that those who shape language and impose these rigid identities happen to be the ones driving conflict and instability in those very places. These questions about vulnerability and group stratification in these differing narratives of migration speak also to questions about citizenry and nationhood: about group sovereignty and the ability to be affirmed by the state sovereign, self­determination and formal [global] recognition (a Somaliland versus a Puntland, Kurdistan, Palestine, unceded Aboriginal territories in Canada, Haitian membership in the African Union, Kosovo, Crimea), the ability to transfer group membership (i.e. citizenship), and the legitimacy of certain identities.


In the engagement of the group and the knowledges and identities emerging therefrom, it's critical to ground our inquiries in critical understandings of indigeneity. Not only because of the relegation of indigenous epistemologies to "non­expert," but because of our OWN knowledge productions and institutions existing on expropriated land (presently, Ohlone land) and practices derived from uncredited indigenous ones. What implications would there be for our understandings of self if our senses of self, "us," and "other" understandings of self if our senses of self, "us," and "other" were not contrived from [culturally] imperialist "modern" or "Enlightened" ideals? 

What would our conceptualization of group identity look like if the ultimate sovereign was not the Westphalian nation­state, but rather one of the multiplicities of indigenous nationhoods? How would groups construct ways of knowing about one another and the spaces they occupy if so­called "objectivity" had  not displaced the expertise of lived experiences? What is the interaction of group identity and border[land]s/la frontera/the unceded or treatied land? 


There are so many questions with potential to be engaged however presenters and audiences see fit. What is the individual within and outside of their group? What is the diasporic experience of group membership and the geography (and thus language) dependent conditionality of identity? What are the implications for identity construction when one’s identity is shaped by two or more competing groups? What is the transmogrification of identity and the individual exchange of membership from one group to another? Where do we find opportunities of agentic creation and subversion? How do we find ourselves invested in these dominant understandings, and when and should we reject them? How do these understandings inevitably shape the way we interact with members of our group — whatever that group may be — and other groups? How do we knowingly and unwittingly negotiate or perpetuate hierarchies?

Herein lies the tension that we seek to explore, a tension that is perpetuated in every space from our colloquial understandings, to policy discussion, to an academy that is often used to legitimize and invisibilize certain identity politics around dominance. The tension is in the temperamentality and the conditionality of these identity schemas constructed vis­á­vis the colonialities of power (as posited by Anibal Quijano, and furthered by the likes of Nelson Maldonado­-Torres, among others).


As a repository of knowledge, a memory bank for the construction of global diasporic narratives and the practice of this storytelling, accessibility is of paramount importance to the MATATU. Relating these themes to local community narratives entails consideration of material realities and generational knowledges, and it also requires programming that is deliberately curated to reject the elitism of the academy and its monopolization of “legitimate” de/anti­-colonial conversations (such as this). Admission to San Francisco museums, while they boast about the wealth of knowledge contained within, is anywhere from $10 to $25. Admission to the Louvre in Paris is €15 (approximately $17USD) Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington D.C. do not require an admission fee. For whom are these different knowledges? For whom are these memories and what are the implications of a singular hegemonic memory? Who is deserving of knowledge and access to it? What is the nature of knowledge and knowing processes when these archival spaces as fundamentally exclusionary? To maximize this community accessibility, the financial threshold for the festival will shift from fee ticketing, to a pay what you can model. 


It isn’t any surprise that, despite the festival’s aspirations for mobility, this artistic effort to communicate the countless human experiences is taking place in Oakland, CA, one of the United States' most diverse cities. But rather than solely attempting to juxtapose similarities and differences in languages and contrived conversations that likely fail to convey the complex poetries of the human experience, our lingua franca will be the instrumentalization of visual and performing arts, community presentations and participations, workshops, and heartfelt dialogue driven by our positionality ­variant and dependent understandings.