Unmasking Colonial agendas: Beyond the façade

Diversity Matters hosted a creative participatory workshop at Central Saint Martins in support of a MA student’s research project using Anansi (the folkloric spider) to address colonial agendas.

The workshop which used masking making as an aid to discuss un-masking colonial agendas was in aid of Vaidehi’s research on legal agendas, their influence on the distribution of stories throughout the world, and how the historical context of Anansi the African-Carribbean folkloric figure informed her own agenda of decolonising knowledge.

Vaidehi shared her inspiration behind her project; “my character design of Anansi is an Afro-Carribbean feminist leader, and how I am disrupting the racist and euro-centric ‘heritage’/ ‘tradition’/ ‘culture’ of Commedia dell’Arte and redistributing the power over the definition of the word ‘culture’ itself. The goal was to prototype a process to articulate colonial agendas and then perform the creative works – in this case, the masks.


Kai’s Anansi mask rips up binding contract

I was awestruck to see Kai’s Anansi mask tear up the ethical form I had presented to one of the participants – Kanndiss. Kai then collaged the form on the mask to represent the sticky mummifying nature of Law and also, I consider, to rebel against it. Considering this was an Anansi mask and Anansi will resist.

The intervention design has been reworked to be applicable and useful for Diversity Matter’s stakeholders which include BAME young creative professionals. I foresee its use in creating communities of creative practise via this workshop to inform and strengthen diverse creative voices.

Folkloric stories, ‘myths’ inform and construct the human psyche and they reflect the stories of historical reality. It is essential to decolonise them at once.

Participants were invited to reflect on their own experience of colonial agendas and design their own masks (monsters) as a creative method of critique.

Out of respect towards the cultural heritage and historical context of Anansi stories and the original character design inspiring this workshop, the workshop was open only to female or femme identifying African/Caribbean participants, to explore acting out some of the topics explored through improvisation. 

Masks and decorative materials, as well as refreshments we provided.


MA student Vaidehi co-facilitating the creative workshop

If you find these ideas interesting, inspiring, and want to get in touch to find out more about this work, offer your criticism, your feedback, and share your own ideas, feel free to get in touch or comment below!

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