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A response to ‘Superpowers – on Motherhood, Witchcraft and Killing Bad Men’, a blog by Amaara Raheem

Image: Book covers of 'My Body, the Buddhist' (1998) by D. Hay, 'The Prince' (1532) by N. Machiavelli, 'The Little Prince' (1943) by A. de Saint-Exupéry, 'The Methods of Nonviolent Action' (1973) by G. Sharp.Image: Book covers of 'My Body, the Buddhist' (1998) by D. Hay, 'The Prince' (1532) by N. Machiavelli, 'The Little Prince' (1943) by A. de Saint-Exupéry, 'The Methods of Nonviolent Action' (1973) by G. Sharp.

Dear Amaara,

Thank you for this blog post. Brazen, lucid stuff.

For what it’s worth, my memory of your “fit of passion” at Roehampton University after Charlie Ashwell’s performance lecture Becoming Witch was that you said something like: “I want to tell people what to do because everybody else does”. You qualified this sentiment in relation to Marcus Coates’ advocacy for artists being courageous, outspoken visionaries that might describe their ideas as visions in the same way that business men and women do. Furthermore, the work does not stop at being (a) visionary; one has to actively share ones visions. This speaks to me. At the same time, I find continue to find myself in awe of the humble, multifarious, diligent practices of many dance artists who do not impose themselves and their ideas on the world in a loud, righteous manner but rather get on with what they do and let these things radiate outwards modestly, patiently and holistically.

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I have some responses to your questions about (super)powers and ethics. Had I not seen Becky Edmunds’ documentary, Turning Your F^*king Head, followed by Deborah Hay‘s performative presentation, A Continuity of Discontinuity, at Independent Dance on Saturday night, I might have called these source materials ‘answers’ to your questions. Deborah Hay (b. 1941) is a Brooklyn born, Austin-based choreographer who has been inspiring dance artists for generations. In the spirit of Hay: being served by anything I can see; noticing feedback, listening for it, surrendering to it and letting it go; no presumption; accepting that “it doesn’t have to be big, right?”; and considering that “what you are doing is already what you want”, I venture that we can indeed afford to embrace “the difficulty of not looking for answers”.

Your questions are rhetorical but here I proffer a few source reactions – from one fox-witch to another! – which all cropped up this week inside a 24-hour window around your blog post being published.

The first, The Prince, a book by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-157), cropped up in my experience of The Assimilation Project, an hour-long one-to-one conversation-based performance conceived by Robin Dingemans as part of his MRes, last week on Tuesday evening. The express purpose of the performance was for the two of us “to change one another”. Robin told me I must read The Prince. I went home and bought it online. In one of those marvellous search engine upshot moments The Little Prince, an abundantly popular twentieth century French novella written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944), also appeared on my screen (and not for the first time, metaphorically speaking). When I told Robin about my brilliant double-edged book-buying splurge I discovered that the stars really were aligning for us as he has a friend that keeps telling him to read The Little Prince since he makes pieces for children and it is a must; the perfect assimilation?

Another source, 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action by Gene Sharp (b. 1928), founder of the Albert Einstein Institution and multi-Nobel Peace Prize nominee, came up last week on Wednesday afternoon in a conversation with Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion about beautiful lists and textual content with substance. Jonathan also brought up The Rolling Saint in India…

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A fork in the road

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“More or less, in all the performance-presentations, in a multiplicity of ways, the following has been brought to the surface: …dreaming with foxes, blowing out candles, falling open, falling apart, falling from hegemony into muscle, tissue, blood and bone, asking ‘what is beauty?’, wearing masks, taking off masks, doing and undoing, reclaiming and resting, turning lights on (and off), finding and sharing resilience.” —Amaara Raheem

An extract from Egmont’s 2009 edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

And he went back to meet the fox.
“Goodbye,” he said.
“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
(Chapter XXI, p. 68)

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“Is Lucy a superhero? To Stand Up, Speak Up, Fight Back – to masterfully use all of the weapons that have ever been used against her? Having been forced to eat from the Tree of Knowledge Lucy gained Supreme Intelligence. Is Brain Power the ultimate weapon for Women of the new world?” —Amaara Raheem

A quotation from George Bull’s (Penguin Classics, 1999 edition) translation of The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli:

One must be a fox in order to recognise traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves. (Chapter 18, p. 57)

According to Anthony Grafton’s introduction in the same edition (pp. xxviii-xxix), Machiavelli:

…gave permanent, unforgettable literary form to the sharp, unforgiving vision of politics that had long been cultivated by members of the Florentine élite. At the same time, however, he made clear the limitations of that inherited vision, as well as those of the more idealistic one that had previously dominated political literature. No wonder that his portrait of the prince, like Savonarola’s, retains its power to fascinate, to frighten and to instruct.

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“Is the Buddha a superhero? Is extreme non-violence a superpower? Is eradicating Self and Ego i.e. truly being Awake to the inter-dependence of all things save this world?” —Amaara Raheem

Here, A Force More Powerful – filmmakers Steve York and Miriam Zimmerman and nonviolent conflict experts Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall – summarise Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action:

Practitioners of nonviolent struggle have an entire arsenal of “nonviolent weapons” at their disposal. Listed below are 198 of them, classified into three broad categories: nonviolent protest and persuasion, noncooperation (social, economic, and political), and nonviolent intervention. A description and historical examples of each can be found in volume two of The Politics of Nonviolent Action by Gene Sharp.

Read the full list of Methods of Nonviolent Action: www.aforcemorepowerful.org/resources/nonviolent/methods.php


More saucey sources:

Amaara Raheem’s blog: amaararaheem.blogspot.co.uk
Deborah Hay’s Mission, Scores and Notes.

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