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I would like to tell you a story

blog by Pompadó Z.R. Martha – 16 December 2020
dossier: I would like to tell you a story
Hello, My name is Pompadó Z.R. Martha, and I’m studying Theatre in Education at ArtEZ, and I am originally from Curaçao but have been living in a lot of places, which gives me a broad insight of the topic Diversity, Sporadic (De)Colonialism, and Inclusion.
And where I am from, telling a story is a huge part of who we are. It is incorporated in our language “Papiamentu”, in which the word “Papia” means in Latin “Logo” (in English; Spoken), meanwhile the word “Mentu” means in Latin “Cognitionis” (in English; Knowhow).

Reason why I use such an ancient language as reference is because of the parallel tradition of bringing knowledge to the next generation. If you look back through history, each and every story is told from one generation to another, and there is always a narrator either foreseeing the future or telling how a story progressed. And it all has either a moral lesson or a warning for the next generation not to repeat. It is through storytelling one educates the other of the important things that happen. In the Caribbean, and also in Africa we ply the collective philophical lifestyle of an Ubuntu Umuntu Muntu form; an ideology of collectiveness in which individuality does not have a lot of room to be present, but rather the collaboration of all means for the greater good. One example of where I am from is the tales of “Kompa Nanzi”, the “Caribbean Spider”, which are filled with beautiful and yet painful life lessons.

Through my education and how I have been raised I have experienced and listened to stories and tales of a diverse group of people of different backgrounds of cultures, ethnicities, and perspectives. I have always felt at home within the concept of multi-vocality. That there is a multiple interpretability to a story or tale, and it is worth it try to empathize with the other. This lifestyle broadens your way of bounding with others. After coming here in the Netherlands and having started to study in Arnhem I realized I am missing the collectiveness here. Instead, I experience here that it is all about individual success. This difference makes it really difficult for me to bound with most of my classmates, schoolmates, and the community of ArtEZ that has grown within a eurocentric hetero normative lifestyle.

My story begins with the realization that multivocality (and its definition and meaning) is something that is not common or known within ArtEZ. I have encountered many obstacles within this institute because of the misconception of what I say, of what I meant to say, of what they get, what they say, and how it goes; mainly because of solo interpretability due to the existing white bubble and the unaware eurocentric view, the non-multivocality of the system. And that surprises me because, as this institute has sworn to dedicate itself with breaking the standards of hetero normativity, it seems to be caught in the systematic procedures that it has sworn to defy. I am not disavowing the effort here that is put into the diversification of the institute and all the assistance I received to help me integrate within the system, but as I see it, integration is a collective job where both parties must pursue of equal integration. And what happens more often than enough is that it is expected for me to abandon some cultural part of me, that makes me who I am, for the greater good of a collectiveness that does not invest in adapting towards me. Next to that, there is little to no understanding of the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. And this ignites a lot of fuzz within different ethnic groups in the school about whether it is morally acceptable to engage either in conversation regarding that topic, or to mock from one end (the less privileged end) to the other end (that beliefs because of their ‘wokeness’ they are entitled to say something without an accurate source of information).

It is particularly hard to have a conversation about the privileges one is holding, due to the pain it can inflict either on themselves as a group or on others, which they want to avoid. And there is also a strong tendency of listening in order to react instead of listening to understand, which re-establishes the unspoken rules within different stereotypical profiles. And that is not always beneficiary for the one on the lower social, and ethnic scale.

Things are not the same for everybody; there is a systematic difference that is affecting people to various extend and scale. For instance, it is the holiday season, which implies family and togetherness as vital elements of tradition. Let’s be aware that some of us, your colleagues and fellow-students, cannot go home for the holidays under the circumstances. This shows how diverse the institution is, and how important it is to be aware that we need to work harder on diversification. We have all heard people complaining how hard it is to be in isolation, solitude, and to be powerless because of a lack of genuine human interaction. As we are all longing for the holidays, the break, and all that it implies, so be aware of your privileges and try to talk about it.
Some time ago I was walking home, and it was raining. I reached there, pull my keys out of my pocket, and I just stood there not doing a thing; just standing there in front of my door with my keys in my hand and just staring at the door. I could not get inside mostly because it did not feel right; it was not “HOME”. I wanted to go home, like home Home. And it feels sometimes that there is not such a thing like home for me here in the Netherlands, mainly because I feel like I need to justify the why and how of my actions. And I do not feel like I’m welcomed to just be me 7 out of the 10 times. Then it hit me again: the question if for most people who moved here it might also have the same difficulties in answering the question; “Is this ‘HOME’”?

And I was there, standing in front of the door, soaked from the rain and looking at my keys, struggling with this immense question that I do not know an answer to yet. And then it hit me it was not the first time I felt paralyzed by a question a lot of us can take for granted. Answering that question has a lot to do with who you are, where you come from, and what are the possibilities of going back there and give your parents a hug. To whom realizes that not all students of ArtEZ have the means to do so, the concept of “home” becomes a luxury and a privilege.
We all have a reason of being here and at ArtEZ. We all made huge sacrifices in order to be here. Some, far more greater than the others. It should not be interpreted as a competition of who has it worse, but rather an awareness that it is a privilege to be here. I know for fact that privileges sometimes tend to feel like it is a normal thing; common even. We are all in the ArtEZ bubble which is full of privileges and what not. We should be aware of it. And also that ArtEZ, sometimes, is no different than the world that exist outside it, with the same problems and exclusiveness. Because I, as a black artist, more often than enough feel like I don’t have the luxury of being naïve. The world isn’t the same for me as it is for my white colleagues, and therefore I believe ArtEZ should not only be aware of that, but rather try to make an effort to facilitate our wellbeing and our incorporation within the system, even more; because that is what they pleaded for on multiple occasions, and in different ways. To be a diverse and inclusive school. For all the international students to feel like ArtEZ can be like “HOME”. It is time for that to be noticed, not only by just a few of us, but by all of us.

I would like to tell you a story, do not worry, it will not take long; this was just the start… a story about multivocality.

By Pompadó Z.R. Martha