Black Hair in The Hague:

Conversations on the Lockdown

he Association for Black Art_ists e.V. started in 2020 with the idea of organising the festival that would centre the works of Black artists, for which funding was needed. Because it is often difficult for individuals to apply for funding, co-founders Princela Biyaa, Fayo Said and Marny Garcia Mommertz founded ASBA to have an organisation through which it would be possible to apply for grants and funding. Whereas the festival itself has not yet materialised, the legal body, through which it was planned to apply for funding for the festival, has been growing over the past one and a half years. It is important to note that while throughout this time collectivity has been placed as an important value in ASBA’s work, individuality and the individual careers of its members and collaborators are equally as important – a perspective that raises questions on how collectivity and individuality can go hand in hand.

ASBA’s first project took place in September 2020 and is called “Black Hair in The Hague: Conversations on the Lockdown”. It is a documentation of the experiences of Black people with their hair throughout the pandemic. Conceptually, several key aspects were important. Firstly, it is the question of locality. Whereas different members and collaborators of ASBA live in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands or France, it was emphasised to place the project within an already existing community of which at least some members or collaborators are part of. Another aspect is self-empowerment of Black people. Therefore, creatives that did not yet have many opportunities to work in the cultural sector were invited to take part in the project. Lastly, all creative collaborators were paid by the association – even though it was a relatively small project.

Overtime ASBA has especially been concerned with questions surrounding the topic of archiving Black narratives. What can be learned from different communities in African and Afro Diasporic contexts? When is an archive and archive, who is it for and who can have access to it. Whereas those were questions which particularly concerned Princela Biyaa, Fayo Said and Marny Garcia Mommertz in their individual careers and projects, they also became the starting point of a border conversation of archiving. Out of this interest grew the conversation series Walgahi: Conversations on Black Archiving, which gathers Black creatives and activists across Europe to connect, share and exchange about their experiences and perspectives. The series was carried out in Essen and included a safer space panel discussion for Black people at PACT Zollverein.

Today, ASBA continues to work on being a platform for Black creatives living in Europe. Throughout the organisation’s existence, key moments such as exchanging with other organisations like VKII and also individuals artists and cultural producers have been highlights of the work.