Esther Kondo Heller – 2022 Cornell Biennial

ESTHER KONDO HELLER

Ceaseless Waves
Visual | Auditory | Zine
  • September - November 2022
  • TBD
  • TBD

Ceaseless Waves

Ceaseless Waves takes its title from an untitled poem by the Zanzibari poet Haji Gora Haji, whose poetry is maps of the Ocean. Haji’s poems map the names and ways of the Indian Ocean as a compass to the ancient memories of the ocean. Similar to Haji, the 19th-century poet Muyaka from Mombasa in his poetry draws wind maps to relay the knowledge of winds and the relationship of the wind and the ocean. Muyaka references these winds to make people aware of when there would be the likelihood of enemies arriving at the shores of Mombasa ( Abdulaziz, pg 12, 1979). Poets have been mapping the ocean to guide us through the histories and memories that it holds. The Saint Lucian poet, Derek Walcott speaks of the “The Sea is History”. While Dionne Brand writes in her book A Map to The Door of No Return writes “Water is the first thing in my memory. The sea sounded like a thousand secrets, all whispered at the same time” (Brand, pg.8, 2011). These whispers, as well as historical knowledges are what Ceaseless Waves will journey with. By using the guidance of poetic maps, that have been given to us by Black writers and poets that are cartographers and guides to these knowledges and histories of the ocean, rivers, lakes and channels.

I am approaching this project with the words of Édouard Glissant in mind, “one way ashore, a thousand channels.” Ceaseless Waves will host a workshop that invites participants to think of the poem as a map to navigate the changing waters of the times that we find ourselves in, but also to think of knowledge of history and ways of being that we can learn from waves to guide us into the future. These poems as well as commissioned poems will be anthologized in a Zine that will be made in collaboration with Image Text Ithaca. Additionally, there will also be an evening of a virtual talk with guest speakers (TBC) Christina Sharpe, M. NourbeSe Phillip, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. Lastly, the project will literally be travelling across waves as I will compile a 2-hour poetry soundscape of poets based anywhere in the world but for certain from Ithaca, London, Mombasa and Berlin that will be premiered live on THFradio Berlin and will then be made available to listen to online.