INGAWASI MWEMA NA UBAYA SINA (2016)
“INGAWASI MWEMA NA UBAYA SINA (Although I am not good, I am not bad either.)” is a performance piece. The title comes from a kanga, a female garment originating in East Africa decorated with Swahili proverbs. Tsuchimoto traveled to Tanzania for the first time in 2011 with a curiosity towards kangas. Walking around the town of Dar es Salaam, she could see many colorful textiles with Swahili prints. To her surprise, she could also see another kind of message. What caught her eyes was the considerable quantity of Japanese characters, such as signs from a local swimming school, a hotel shuttle service, and a 24-hour food delivery written across old cars. As an automobile-producing country - Japan has a vast second-hand market. Many of these cars end up in Tanzania, since both countries have left-hand traffic. This experience with displaced messages made her reflect upon the construction of otherness. It also expanded her thoughts into matters of national identity and the global power structure. In this performance Tsuchimoto questions how to relate to unfamiliar cultures, confronting issues of colonial history and binarism of globalization mirroring her own background.
In this performance Tsuchimoto communicated with the audience with a myriad of media comprising sound, texts, and images: typed messages, a sound collage from interviews with Tanzanian women, Swahili proverbs on kanga textile, diagram pictures, images from tourist photos and historical paintings, her personal diary, informational text, and government documents.
At the entrance of the venue, Tsuchimoto welcomed attendees by attaching small black or white round stickers to their bodies. The audience was invited to the stage and got instructions on scattered papers; “PLEASE REMOVE YOUR SHOES” AND “PLEASE SIT DOWN HERE”. They sat down and listened to the sound composed of assorted conversations with personal stories about kanga textile.
Tsuchimoto stood on the stage and started to recite texts from her travel journal written at her first trip to Tanzania in 2011. She described a memorable moment of seeing Japanese secondhand cars in Dar es Salaam from the diary. She continued to read a text about left-hand traffic history in Japan which is one of the main reasons why Japan exports secondhand cars to former British colonies. Then, she switched the topic to ethnicity and gender identity by mixing stories of kanga and a legendary female singer, Bi Kidude, and also statistical facts from The Global Gender Gap Report. She also raised questions about national identity with a reference of tribal identity in Tanzania and the history of the national flag of Japan in the postwar period. She extended the topic to human’s curiosity and exotification of other cultures by showing images of Japonisme paintings. In addition, she described her confusion regarding her social position as Japanese in Tanzania, reflecting on Japan as a non-western developed country which has not been formally colonized by Western powers, but was a colonizer itself. She read an excerpt from The Joint Communiqué of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China which was signed in 1972 to establish diplomatic relations between Japan and China. Then, she shifted into the current racial situation mentioning how Tanzanian people treat Mzungu (white people) and considering the presidency of Donald Trump by reading a Comment by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following the Meeting with President-elect Donald Trump. She concluded the reading with questions about global power structures.
After the recitation, Tsuchimoto came closer to the audience to divided them into two groups facing each other according to the color of their stickers. One group received a message “TALK TO THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU TALK ABOUT YOU” and another group received a message “TALK TO THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU TALK ABOUT SOMEONE YOU KNOW”. She finished the performance by letting the groups converse.
Performance at TO VISIT, RESEARCH AND TRACE: HOW TO REPRESENT INVISIBLE SPACES at Fylkingen, Stockholm, Sweden: Co-organized with Malin Pettersson Öberg and Valentina Sansone
(photo by Hironori Tsukue, live drawing by Jenny Soep)
Sound: Daniel Konar