Our world may be post-colonial, yet it has not been decolonized. Colonial powers may have left, but their past presence casts a long shadow, stubbornly occupying our mental, aesthetic and epistemic spaces. Everywhere colonial wounds lie wide open.

If decolonization is another name for freedom, then it can only be unfinished business: a permanent horizon, never reached yet always longed for, as long as human life is structured by relations of race, class and gender domination. In the face of lingering coloniality, decolonization is not a bygone historical event; it is an everyday task. Always decolonize!

The historical figures of African liberation struggles never separated theory from practice or thinking from action. Theory is a weapon in the battle of self-reinvention. Colonization is like a thick cloud standing between us and ourselves, dispossessing us of our identity. The challenge is to un-distort the view, to achieve ownership over one’s own image. “Independence, what for? First and foremost, to be ourselves.” (Amilcar Cabral)

This is not a selfish exercise. Nor is it a petty one. It does not consist of retreating into an exclusive, narrow identity. On the contrary, it is based upon solidarity among those who dwell in the margins. “We wish to be the heirs of all the revolutions of the world” (Thomas Sankara).

One of the main hurdles facing the project of self-determination is the hegemony of Western modes of thinking that have classified everything and everyone on the planet according to their own methods and categories, while producing a linear narrative of progress that pushes other cultures outside of history. Philosophical categories are turned into conceptual kernels of colonial violence, producing a double obliteration: erasing the human diversity of the world, while at the same time denying that erasure.

In Morocco, the generation of artists and writers gathered around the journal Souffles knew this fifty years ago. They energetically called for a “cultural decolonization,” without which political decolonization would remain moot. In the words of Abdellatif Laâbi writing in 1966, “it seems to me that any process of cultural decolonization must begin by questioning the status of the humanities and social sciences in the colonial context.”

In a series of talks, panels, screenings and performances, 1-54 FORUM will modestly gesture toward these large issues by foregrounding the need to decolonize knowledge production, to unlearn Eurocentrism and build new modes of being, to invent new futures by re-membering the remaining fragments of folklorized pasts, to forget about catching up with Europe and instead wage a battle of the imagination in order to invent new ways of acting and thinking.

Omar Berrada
1-54 FORUM Programme Curator 2018