Multidisciplinary artist, dancer and performer Natisa Exocé Kasongo was born in 1995. He lives and works in Berlin. “As Sun Ra, one of my greatest sources of inspiration, used to say, I am the dream of my ancestors,” confides Natisa Exocé Kasongo. “Sun Ra linked spirituality and art. You can’t have one without the other. Creation links us to God. We are creation, and creation is in us. Like Cheikh Anta Diop, Sun Ra’s philosophy and serenity gave Africa a new image. He inspires me infinitely.”
Close to the modern Afrofuturist movement, Exocé also knows how to look in the rear-view mirror: “I’m Congolese. And in my country, for many, many years, we were prevented from being who we are. In the fourteenth century, conversion to Christianity distanced us from our traditions. Today, I can live the life I want, I can be who I am in a way. So, as an artist and performer, I’m making a return to my country’s cultural heritage.“
“As a dancer and visual artist, I draw inspiration from my ancestral heritage. It’s this legacy, this spirituality, that inspires me, nourishes me and drives me to create. It’s a question of research, as well as a quest for identity.”
For PAM, Exocé let his imagination run wild: he created a whole series of collages, inviting the “Positive Mental Attitude” of hardcore Rastafarians the Bad Brains, Tunisian ritual music and the iconography of Fela to the table of his naked feast: “A musical figure celebrated far beyond Nigeria, Fela, as a fine Pop strategist, took care to build a visual pantheon, intended – among other things – to hit the media hard,” explains Exocé. “His stage costumes, his saturated covers, the styles of his backing singers and dancers, right down to his collection of brightly-colored briefs… Musical and political, the Afrobeat rebellion was also driven by a powerful aesthetic muscle. To understand the path taken by Fela Anikulapo Kuti before he created Afrobeat is also to immerse oneself in an incendiary iconography. That’s what I’ve done, for example, in The Fela covers combination.”
With Punk is Roots, Exocé questions and replaces the considerable contribution made by Afro-descendant communities to the punk movement, a scene all too hastily judged as white. “If the mohawk worn by English punks in London in the 77’s has become legendary for its transgressive scope, what can we say about Afro hair, systematically shorn by the colonizers? What if Fela, and his many incarcerations, wasn’t the original punk? Or maybe it was the members of Death, the black Detroit trio who prefigured the first punk rhythms, as early as 1971? And don’t forget that the greatest New York hardcore band of all time was Rastafarian!“
“These creations are doors, portals for education and self-education. I love the total freedom afforded by image collage, I love the freedom of its technique, as well as its accidents. In collages, everything is possible, I have no limits, there are no judgments, only choices. I can go wherever I want, and I love that. It’s an ideal discipline for translating my Afro-cosmic universe.“
“With my clothing brand, Kasapio, I deploy another way of communicating,” confides the visual artist. “I’m Congolese, and we have ‘sapology’ within us. Kasapio is the spirit of human clothing. In fact, the word Kasapio is a syncretism between Ka, the spirit, the spiritual energy that together make up the being in ancient Egypt, sape and sapiens… Kasapio is art to be worn, art in motion. These creations, their cuts or the colors used, contain messages and tell stories. Kasapio is a way of putting into perspective all the metaphysical knowledge that Afro culture has brought to humanity.“
A metaphysics of dance, trance and creation permeates Exocé’s hybrid, bubbling work. “We are but messengers of the spiritual world. Everything that happens in the spiritual world has an impact on the material world. The reverse is also true. Cosmic forces make and unmake us. I try to be a channel, to initiate myself even more deeply into my connection. I feel guided, and I need to understand why. When I better understand why, I’ll open more doors.“
They’re opening up here and now, with a fashion show, a performance, this first collection and an original exhibition, presented hand-in-hand with PAM and the Nyege Nyege Festival, on July 14 at Le Point Fort Aubervilliers.
Exocé presents Kasapio, fashion show, performance, exhibition and afro-merch
Where? Point Fort d’Aubervilliers (metro line 7, Fort d’Aubervilliers).
When? July 14, 2pm to 1am
How? Buy your ticket here.