Coal After Audre

Barby Asante 

Barby Asante’s meditation Coal After Audre, has been created in remembrance and reverence of the power of poetry for black women as expressed in Audre Lorde’s 1985 essay Poetry is Not A Luxury. For Lorde poetry is “the quality of light by which we scrutinise our lives”. Coal After Audrereflects on Lorde’s poem Coal from her 1968 First Cities collection and an Alexis Pauline Gumbs quote from her 2020 book Dub: Finding Ceremony, which asks “How do you write a poem about coal?”

Lorde’s Coal takes the metaphor of coal as black fuel to create the and express the words being spoken “from the earth’s inside”. Coal After Audre takes this metaphor and reimagines coal as a much-maligned and rejected fuel, in a moment when words are difficult to find, yet somewhere within the ancient wisdom of coal; within its compressed matter of everyday life, there is light. The light that is attempting to make itself seen through the darkness.

Barby Asante is an artist, curator and researcher. Her artistic practice is concerned with the politics of place, space and the ever-present histories and legacies of slavery and colonialism. With a deep interest in black feminist and decolonial methodologies, Barby embeds within her work notions of collective study, countless ways of knowing and dialogical practices that embrace being together and breathing together. Through collective writing, re-enactment and creating spaces for transformation, ritual and healing Barby has developed a practice of re-collecting, collating, excavating and re-mapping stories and narratives that are often unspoken, invisible or buried with the archival document.

Her recent exhibitions and projects include: Declaration of Independence: For Ama. For Aba. Diaspora Pavilion, Venice, 2017, BALTIC, Gateshead 2019, Bergen Kusthall 2020, Brent 2020: Black Togetherness as Lingua Franca with Amal Alhaag, Framer Framed, Amsterdam, 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, 2018 and Baldwin’s Nigger R E L O A D E D, INIVA, London, 2014, Nottingham Contemporary 2015, A Language to Dwell In: International James Baldwin Conference, Paris, 2016, GOMA/ Glasgow International 2018, Somerset House, London 2019.