Monumental Landscapes is a consideration of landscapes of monumentality through iconoclasm, replacement, and renaming of built and natural structures in Nairobi and Minneapolis. This podcast was made possible by the program Building Solidarities: Racial Justice in the Built Environment organized by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi and held at Barnard College, New York. Participants included Kate Beane, Lydia Muthuma, and Bhakti Shringarpure and it was moderated by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi. The podcast was recorded on November 11, 2020.
About "Building Solidarities"
Building Solidarities is a form of mutual pedagogy between the campus and the public, through dialogues on urgent questions about constructed environments, urban life, and ecologies.
Building Solidarities foregrounds the communities of Minneapolis, Nairobi, and New York, in dialogues between students, activists, artists, and academics.
While building mutual solidarities between our campus and our partners, we aim to extend the political imaginaries, community futures, and solidarities that our partners may build with each other.
As we study racial and environmental complexities and injustices, we remain vigilantly reflexive about the relationship between our campus and our neighbors, in Harlem and elsewhere.
The series is supported by the course “Colonial Practices,” taught by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi. Web/podcasts are hosted by community organizations.
Research guide for the event:
To our guests:
The focus of your discussion will be “Monumental Landscapes,” and we will discuss your experiences with the construction of monuments, their iconoclasm, and/or their restoration in the intellectual or popular consciousness. We would like you to reflect upon your own work in decolonial practice and theory, including your research, writing, pedagogy, and organizing. Our readings in the first half of the course have considered the construction of knowledge and institutions, the partitions of land and the self, and building historical consciousness through architecture and infrastructure. We will ask you about how monuments construct or erase collective knowledge, what they violate or uphold and what it means to violate them or restore them. We will talk about the uses of knowledges of the past. We will also reflect on the larger arc of the dialogue series, "Racial Justice in the Built Environment," through our preoccupations with Minneapolis, New York, and Nairobi, threaded through many of the talks in the series, and particularly building upon your and our positions in these three cities. Our goal is not merely to consume information but to build solidarities. In that spirit, we hope that this may be the beginning of a discussion and collaborations between the three of you.
Kate Beane (Flandreau Santee Dakota and Muskogee Creek) holds a BA in American Indian Studies and a Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She served as a Charles A. Eastman Pre-doctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College, and as a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is currently a public historian and Director of Native American Initiatives at the Minnesota Historical Society. Kate worked with her family to champion the cause of restoring the Dakota name Bde Maka Ska (from Lake Calhoun) in her ancestral homeland of Bde Ota (Minneapolis). Kate is proud to serve as a board member for the Native Governance Center and was recently appointed by Minnesota Governor Walz to the Capitol Area and Architectural Board. Kate advocates for the dominant narrative of history to be updated and rewritten to honor the languages, lives, and legacies of Indigenous peoples, and feels empowered that in 2020 Native people are key decision makers and influencers for systems change.
Lydia Muthuma is currently a lecturer in the department of Visual Arts at the Technical University of Kenya as well as a part-time lecturer at Nairobi University. She is the current chair of UNESCO’s National Committee for the memory of the world and a member of the Kenya College of Arms. Her research interests are primarily focused on the meeting point between culture and art, especially in the historiography of contemporary art in Eastern Africa. She received her PhD in the History of Art from the Universite Michel de Montaigne in 2013. In the summer of 2019, Dr. Muthuma curated an exhibition called “Changing Perspectives: Nairobi past and present, a photographic story”, which was hosted by the National Museums of Kenya and the Bristol Archives. Her recently published works include “The Representation of Womanhood in Kenya’s Contemporary Painting: Mukabi’s mama kibanda” (Paralaxe 1, 2019: 38-52).
Bhakti Shringarpure is assistant professor of English at the University of Connecticut, where she teaches gender and sexuality studies, comparative literary studies, and post-colonial literature and theory. She is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Warscapes magazine, which published Mediterranean: Migrant Crossings (2018), an anthology that explores the plight of migrants and refugees as they undertake harrowing journeys across the sea. Her book Cold War Assemblages: Decolonization to Digital (2019) was published by Routledge Studies in Cultures of the Global Cold War. Her edited works include Literary Sudans: An Anthology of Literature from Sudan and South Sudan (Africa World Press, 2016) and Imagine Africa, Volume 3 (Archipelago Press, 2017). She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from the City University of New York, and was awarded the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award (2019-2020) for her work in Kenya.
This program is supported by the course “Colonial Practices” taught by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi.
Your work on monuments often focuses on structures that are highly visible in the public sphere. However, it also seems that such work is deeply connected to personal and familial histories and intimacies. What roles do intimacy and memory play in your work?
How does violence relate to monumentality? Does the violence of creation necessitate the violence of removal? What part does violence play in reversal, community building, imagining a different future…? What can/should be salvaged?
Is monumentality symbolic or materialistic? Is the monument inherently an archive or a symbol, and consequently, what is the significance of the void/negative space that is left behind when a monument is removed? What might a counter-monument be?
Is there a necessary community building process when people are trying to change their relationship to the monuments around them? What kinds of temporary, durational communities get formed in the praxis of iconoclasm?
Rao, Anupama. “Revolution, Reconstruction and Race in the US: The Complex History Behind BLM Protests.” The Wire, July 6, 2020.
Shringarpure, Bhakti. “Swarm, Demolish, Destroy: Rage against the Monuments from Mali to Martinique.” The Funambulist 11 “Designed Destructions” (May-June 2017).
Muthuma, Lydia. “Modern Kenyan Identity: Crafting a Nation Through Monuments.” AM Journal 21 (2020); 25−43.
Bde Maka Ska project. History.
Beane, Katherine E. “‘Woyakapi Kin Ahdipi “Bringing the Story Home’: A History within the Wakpa Ipaksan Dakota Oyate” (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 2014). Chapter 2, “Bde Maka Ska: ‘White Banks Lake’: Dakota at Lake Calhoun and the Cultural Significance of Place.”
Hartman, Saidiya. “The Anarchy of Colored Girls Assembled in a Riotous Manner.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 117:3 (July 2018): 465-490.