In SERIES #3 we are happy to host online for a close-up artist interview ERIC 1KEY who is an independent poet, spoken word artist, emcee, performer, actor and blogger from Kigali (Rwanda).
How does your current artistic practice look like?
It looks like art is my life and not just something I do for a living. Just like brushing teeth before bed, waking up to play the guitar has become an essential part of the day. While I used to need time to reflect and put my ideas into order, now I don't even have to. Thoughts simply align. I'm more in tune with my creative process. I'm not forcing anything.
For which three things are you very thankful at the moment?
1: The weather. This whole pandemic could have been way worse if the weather hadn't been candid to us, in general.
2: Family and friends genuinely present through thick and thin. That gives me a lot of strength.
3: Health. I'm grateful for a strong immune system and the chance to not be sick during these times.
What have you learned during this time: What can you do without, that you usually stick to?
I have learned to let go of a few things, people even. If anything is not in tune with my vibration, I just have to do without at this point. Before, I would compromise sometimes but the end is usually not a happy one. Let's just say I'm getting more comfortable being in my skin.
How do you deal with the uncertainty of the future?
The future has always been uncertain. The world is getting more mindful because something bigger than our routine is affecting all of us but the uncertainty of the future is something that I personally live with. So much that all I focus on is the now. Carpe Diem is the motto :)
At which place would you choose to be at the moment?
I feel like I am exactly where I have to be during these times- Kigali, Rwanda. Looking at my past experiences, it sometimes feel like all the hardships have been drills to face harsh times like these. So every day I rise up to the challenge knowing that I must continue to create, to believe, to inspire.
In how far the Corona pandemic is an allegory of global capitalism?
The sheer fact that this pandemic is directly affecting people who were already in need of help - poor people and elderlies- seems to me like capitalism on a boost. What I'm saying is that it looks like the acceleration of the usual system that functions by getting rid of 'non-effective' or less-productive elements off the machine.
African intellectuals as Felwine Sarr, Achille Mbembe and Wole Soyinka consider the Covid-19 crises a chance for Africa. What do you think about that?
There is a lot happening in Africa and some of the happening is western investment as a plan B in case walls around them collapse sooner than anticipated. So this gives birth to a lot of policies that may seem African but deep within it's just the same capitalistic system disguised. So what chance are we talking about? A chance to decide our own structures without consulting the west? A chance for every nation to build their own economy? Decide on their currency? I don't like to think that people dying over something we do not comprend is a 'chance' to make more money.
Which topics are drowned out by Corona at the moment?
Poor people starving, sick people dying in mass, refugees not having any attention, erosions and landslides killing people...
To you speak with white people about rascism?
I think it's important to clarify that I am not surrounded by white people often. When that happens, it's briefly when I'm out of Africa or I'm at a cocktail organized by some embassy where conversations are mostly small talks about who does what. But do I deal with racism in Africa? Hell yeah! When asking for a visa to a European country or the United States, I have to wear my strongest armor because I am never ready to hear a white person - enjoying the best of my country - tell me "Visa denied. Reason: You do not have strong ties to your country." Many of us are used to this. Some are even immuned at this point. When humiliation becomes a way of life... you know! At some point I couldn't take it so I called out racism, and to some white people, even partners, I was throwing a tantrum. I cannot stand white people who pretend to know it all, flying to Africa to show us their 'expertise'. I walked out of a cultural project as soon I as identified such attitude in 'the white moderator.' Then I had to explain myself on group email and guess what, a lot of white people did not say anything to save their face/job. On a casual level, I know I get cautious when talking to a white person about racism. It's hard to without either pointing fingers, getting mad or sounding like a victim because the pain is too personal to dissociate with. I remember being told by a white woman I should write past the race subject in my work "because it's so 'has-been'", you know! I had to collect myself and appreciate the honesty of her ignorance to say the least. I mean, how can I separate my work from my existence? One of us is dealing with an identity crisis that has been and is generational. So I find it hard to have the race conversation with non blacks in general. It's easier to open the conversation through my art though.
To what extent do you feel responsible for educating white people in term of rascism?
I have never thought, at any point in life, that I had the mission to educate white people about racism. My focus is to elevate my people. If white people are interested by the content of my art, I'm sure they will find keywords to google. It's one thing to fight for survival and another to carry the image of your oppressor while at it. Also let's not pretend like white people don't know what being discriminated is. Hatred is always conducted with intent. Racism is dehumanizing. When you treat someone as a lesser person, you know exactly what you're about. So ignorance cannot be an excuse to be racist. Of course what I see a lot is white people acting like racism is not their problem, well that's hypocritical because when the streets they use are on fire, then they have something to say.
Which one thing would you change in the world if you could?
Change is a process. Life is a constant change. There's more people hurting in the world than those enjoying whatever the benefits of capitalism are. Everyone wants a better life. Better is about levels. We've been sold dreams as to what 'better' is. Some people want a simple life. Some people want a Hollywood life. Its complex. Life is complex and simple at the same time. Anyway if I had the power to change anything, I would take away the pain. But of course that's some utopian unrealistic thinking and how can I? To be honest I can only change the world of those who believe in what I express. And that's definitely because they're probably looking forward to it. I'm as small as the ant is to this galactic system.
Who should view your art right now?
Anyone. It is made for everyone.
What‘s your next projects, actually?
I don't know what my next projects are. I even have doubts about the relevance of my existing projects at this point. We'll see I guess. I'm open to whatever.
What is your ONE question to the world (that you would stitch onto your M.Bassy-mouthgard)?
If this is a chance to restart, what is the best way to go about it, for all kinds of people ?
About Eric 1key
Eric 1key (Eric Ngangare, *1981) is an independent poet, spoken word artist, emcee, performer, actor and blogger from Rwanda exploring various formats of storytelling. His aim is to move people, to interconnect and open doors (hence his artist pseudonym »key«). Subjects that occur often in his oeuvre touch on identities – individual and collective, power systems and society dynamics. He often works with performances and happening in the public open space – a sharp contrast to the official restrictions, defamations and the economic segregation in the Rwandan cultural life. His recent project »Mass Poetry« interrupted by the covid-19 pandemic is available on youtube as work in progress.