The ‘funny’ thing to note about The AYA TALKS series is the interconnectedness of our experiences, the way our personal stories and professional journeys intertwine, join, align. A thriving community is one where its members know and celebrate each other in this time and the next, irrespective of the space(s) in which we get to meet and interact.

Meeting Anna Tjé in Dakar late last year as opposed to Paris is the perfect illustration of that. She was one of the chosen (few) art residency fellows  at a creative hub based in the Senegalese capital, RAW – The Material Company. RAW was founded by the magnanimous Koyo Kouoh, a well-known art director, curator and today’s executive director of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (in Cape Town). In the shade of the mango trees, beside the small yet highly functional foyer, began a conversation that spanned over days and weeks and allowed for our recorded conversation to be held once Anna had returned to Paris. 

A fertile, prolific artist and performer, Anna navigates multiple worlds with what seems to be ease and confidence. She experiments as much as she experiences art in a way that is singular and deeply personal. In that, despite taking on distinct art forms and narratives, her creative process reminded me of Stéphanie Melyon-Reinette‘s, yet another gifted artist, performer and academic hailing from the island of Guadeloupe. Both seek the sort of creative truths that come from within. Both exhume intergenerational trauma to heal, repair, restore, grow. Both are women who can express themselves academically and artistically with compelling fluidity.  

Anna Tjé by Hannah Polinski

The artistic trajectory of Anna was not, is not linear and it certainly wasn’t immediate as she recalls having to first survive in order to explore and expand. Such is our reality in diasporic spaces – living is often not what we can afford. We must first situate ourselves (carefully) before we can claim ourselves (fully). The journey is imperfect, unbalanced, extensive but what joy to witness when some of us start blooming. Being and showing yourself unapologetically is a radical act of self and collective care that we know and hold to be true. 

In our work and in our living, we must recognise that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.”

Audre Lorde

Anna The Supernova (her artist moniker) explores Black femininity but not only, she has also comprehensively delved into futurism urging, in doing so, for a more accurate definition and re-appropriation of afro-futurism , one that would lean towards the fusion between ancestral belief systems and a more continental view on futurism. She constructs her performances and video installations to ensure that her audience connects kinesthetically and questions their own beliefs, histories, feelings. She characterises her productions as archipelago-esque – uninhibited trajectories formed through genuine bonding and unwavering hope. It is soothing to listen to her talk about afro-feminism and communities of womxn of color that shape our present-future.

Performance by Anna Tjé; Photography by Mathilde Assier.

It is reassuring to know that womxn with such amplitude lead the charge in contemporary arts movement as well as academic writing in the West. The co-founder of an artistic and literary review, la Revue Atayé, Anna digitally puts on paper words that can’t and won’t be erased, words that shape and reshape our shared humanities and for that not only are we flamboyantly (!) grateful but also, and perhaps more importantly hopeful. 

Our free­dom is out­side of the box cre­at­ed for us. Let’s hold our­selves with relent­less care and com­pas­sion while we pur­sue free­dom that feeds our heart and soul and dri­ves us towards a future that we can imag­ine and work towards with action and solidarity. 

Excerpted from “Seven Quotes about Resiliency from Black and Indigenous, Queer, Trans, Women“, SACHA, April 2020

If you haven’t already, read more about Anna Tjé‘s latest projects here. Revue Atayé is an incredibly rich literary and artistic platform, which I urge you to discover. You can follow Anna on Instagram @annathesupernova.

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