By Kelvin Haizel.
I have never been to prison and I sure do hope never to be subjected to the conditions of such a place. That is if I am not deluded into thinking I am free out ‘here’. Being imprisoned could suggest a state of dependency. The term prison also evokes the state of denial of liberties. When liberties are denied, choices are constrained. By this logic, independence affords one the liberties to choose and live with its consequences. Independence, thus, evokes a state of perpetual freedom of choice. Therefore availability of infinite choice is intrinsic to infinite freedom (or independence). However infinite freedom becomes infinitely bound by itself. Consequently, our independence cannot decouple itself from its dependence. The two only negotiate the ‘line of dominance’ at any given situation depending on the material conditions at play, influenced by the ‘police’.
These material conditions are evident in our daily lives, but for the purpose of our voyage into the collapsing belly of the Ussher Fort, Nkrumah seems a perfect example. Kwame Nkrumah went from the Usher Fort prison as a political prisoner to the Christianboug Castle as an elected prime minister. The prison had paradoxically held a captive and a liberator. The position of the ‘line of dominance’ dictated by the ‘police’ manifested in either Nkrumah as a prisoner or a prime minister. But [how] do we get to influence the position of the line?
In another instance, while going through a diary I kept from 2010 to 2011, I found a telling narrative of a prison experience narrated by M.K Asante. As he walked through a jail, he noticed one inmate’s room had no mattress. The inmate had rolled it and tucked it under the metal bed. So being a little prying he asked; “where do you sleep?”. “Sometimes I stand against the wall, sleep on the floor, on the metal bed or on the bare floor”, replied the inmate. He again probed; why do you subject yourself to this? The inmate responded; “Comfort in a place like this, numbs you to the reality of where you are”.
I find the inmate’s statement quite revealing as one of the possibilities against the line dictated by the ‘police’. Why provide comfort in a place crafted to deprive comfort? Why accept the comfort of their bed; which implies an acceptance of comfort in discomfort? By rejecting the bed, you reject discomfort through discomfort [for comfort which is always to come]. Would you rather settle with comfort in discomfort? Would you side with discomfort in discomfort? Would you wish the condition away and live as though it doesn’t exist? Or work towards re-inventing the entire system of dominance. What might be other possibilities to [re]discover in this voyage?
Kelvin haizel took part in the 2015 Asiko art residency, culminating into the ’28 days in maputo’ exhibition. His work fictionalizes personal memories as a child who grew up in a large household in Achimota. Currently, his project adapts (non)familiar games into ephemeral monuments. He is a member of Exit Frame collective based in Ghana.