Appletree #1 - Black Speaks Back

Presentations and a conversation with Black Speaks Back: Emma-Lee Amponsah and Heleen Debeuckelaere.

Wednesday 27 February, 16:00 – 18:00
(doors open at 15:45)
Rijksakademie Reading Room


I have some food in my bag for you
Not that edible food, the food you eat? No
I have some food for thought
Since knowledge is infinite, it has infinitely fell on me

Erykah Badu, Appletree

In the 1997 track Apple Tree, Erykah Badu speaks of the infinity of knowledge that fell on her. The apples on her tree function as food for thought for those “who want to be down”. The song poses an invitation to an open and fruitful discussion that is also entangled with the questions that construct identity, knowledge and the power to voice oneself.

These are questions that are currently prevalent in many exhibition outlines, program descriptions and mission statements, which so often bring to the front untold or unknown narratives, represent marginalised people, and mark the ways that privilege is influenced by factors such as race, gender identity, ability, and sexuality. While there is an increasing awareness of the glitches in knowledge constructs and frameworks, it is also important to think beyond surface representations, which will not change nor fix anything if the systems that construct these remain in place.

Adopting Badu’s title, Appletree is a series of events curated by Vincent van Velsen that explores pitfalls within constructions of knowledge in relation to questions of identity. It focuses on the flaws and inconsistencies, awareness’s that have been laid on doorsteps, elephants that have waited in rooms, and all so necessary confrontations with blind spots, which have found their way into culture at large in the present.

The first encounter will be held on Wednesday February 27, with presentations and a conversation with Black Speaks Back: Emma-Lee Amponsah and Heleen Debeuckelaere.

Black speaks Back (BsB) is a Brussels-based media platform founded in 2016 by Emma-Lee Amponsah and Heleen Debeuckelaere. The collective draws attention to discussions that are not present in mainstream media. This is done through short episodes where they discuss a variety of issues that affect the African diaspora Belgium and The Netherlands. Through unique portraits and spoken word, they also demonstrate the plurality among black Europeans, the multiplicity of talents and focus on deconstructing stereotypes and dominant discourses on blackness. Frustration with the current media landscape was one of the fertile breeding grounds for the creation of the organization. However, BsB does not only speak back, but rather proactively initiates conversations.

Appletree is a public program at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, organised by curator and critic Vincent van Velsen.
Emma-Lee Amponsah Emma-Lee Amponsah Heleen Debeuckelaere Heleen Debeuckelaere