|weißer neger (white nigger)|
Video-installation with live performance reading.
A DVD (42 minutes) of the poem layout with an unsynchronised double voice soundtrack for projection was created in 2012 (image format 4:3) – trailer 2 minutes.
The live concert "CrissCross/Anamnesis #10“, by the composer and experimental live-musician Jules Desgoutte, 13.-14.10.2012 included recorded passages from Tanya Ury’s poetry series weißer neger and passages from Krýstóf Szabó’s DER VERREIFTE GARTEN BAUCH LIEBSTER ATEM (The Decaying Garden Belly Beloved Breath), Barnes Crossing in Der Wachsfabrik, Cologne (D)
Like half dimensional poems 2009-2011 and cement 2011, weißer neger (white nigger) is prose poetry, written in English and German. In style and sense these are concrete poems, a collection of jumbled abstract thoughts, misunderstood conversation and misread text, which, reflect the daily life and temperament of the Jewish artist. This piece, unlike Tanya Ury’s other concrete poetry will however be presented with several actors and thematises Jewish identity and life in Germany today.
In the summer of 2010, after treatment for breast cancer I went to a health cure rehabilitation centre in Scheidegg, Allgau, Germany. On the first evening in the clinic I sat myself down next to a group of women sitting on the terrace, who were talking about the weather. We were experiencing a heat wave and I told them that I often knew when it would rain because my hair reacted strongly to dampness in the air. An elderly woman observed me, and my frizzy, grey hair and declared “weißer Neger” (white nigger).
You are what you say and although this woman possibly wasn’t intentionally ill mannered, her remark remained racist. None of the other women reacted to my outraged facial expression. When the naïve woman asked me from where my parents came (probably expecting me to explain my Mediterranean-looking hair with exotic origins) I elucidated that my parents came from this part of Germany and were deported to concentration camps from Ulm by fascist Germans, and that I’d had quite enough now. I got up, removed myself from the group of women and left for home the following day – it was clear to me that the only thing that I had in common with this group of German women was cancer.
Of course I had already hear the expression “Weißer Neger” (white nigger) in connection with a book title; in 2004 Axel Hacke published “Der weiße Neger Wumbaba“ (White Nigger Wumbaba) a book, the title of which came about through the misunderstanding of a line from the song “Der Mond ist Aufgegangen“ (the moon has risen): “Der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget / und aus den Wiesen steiget / Der weiße Nebel wunderbar.“ (The forest stands black and silent / and white mist rises wonderfully / from the fields.) In his childhood, Hacke had misunderstood the last line (Der weiße Nebel wunderbar) and misinterpreted it as “Der weiße Neger Wumbaba“ (The white nigger Wumbaba). If one consciously publishes a book with such a questionable title, this is indisputably a racist act.
Statement to The White Nigger Wumbaba
It is for the Federation inexplicable and totally incomprehensible that this title and the image of an African with white face paint have been chosen for these books about the misinterpretation of various song texts. The employment of the word “nigger” and the continued reproduction of the caricature of an African with “bone in hair, thick lips and grass skirt” on the book cover is for us unacceptable. This caricature is strongly reminiscent of illustrations from a past that we had hoped was long gone. Without wishing to insinuate that the authors or the publishers intended to take an explicitly stereotypical and racist position, it is with dismay that the African Confederation of North Germany has noted how a sensibility that might have been demonstrated by avoiding the use of racist words and images has not yet taken place in sufficient measure. One is mistaken in imagining that the “nigger” word, which has rightfully been banned from (German) language use in general, reflects only the pain of slavery, which has not yet been overcome by African people, the suppression and the crime of colonialism, and what’s more the terror of National Socialism – it also calls to mind the discrimination and disparagement that black people are still faced with daily. The expression belongs moreover, to the language of xenophobes, racists and organisations displaying contempt for humankind who, by deliberately employing the word “nigger” intend to humiliate and insult people of colour.
The African Confederation of North Germany is actively committed to encouraging positive processes of integration; it also engages and involves itself when other organisations and institutions take a stand against discrimination, racism and xenophobia. It is therefore even more regretful to experience that this engagement is thwarted by the reproduction of racist stereotypes.
With this positioning the African Confederation of North Germany is not merely concerned with taking a stance on political correctness regarding expressions and images, it wishes to cultivate deeper understanding; it is about gaining a sensitivity as to how insulting and humiliating this kind of racism is for African people, even when the hurt wasn’t intended.
All of us who are active in this association strive towards an atmosphere of mutual recognition and respect for all members of society in Germany and invite people to confront racist images and expressions critically so that a dialogue may take place at eye-level.
Hanover, March 2010, Abayomi O. Bankole, Chair of the ADV-Nord e. V., Dr. jur. Arnaud Lionel Ngassa Djomo, delegate of the ADV-Nord e.V. http://www.adv-nord.org/?Presse:Stellungnahme-zu-%84Der-wei%DFe-Neger-%0AWumbaba%93
Tanya Ury’s written poetry may be regarded as “concrete” because of its visual design, and unconventional aural effect when spoken - the texts thereby gain in dimension beyond accepted meaning.
2011, Ury created visual images of 17 concrete poems, to be presented online and as print versions (23.5 x 32.45 cm), digital image processing Mirco Sanftleben, two of these poems being femininity and femininiation, the rest being part of the series cement, weißer neger (white nigger), concrete party & oral call and since 2011 Tanya Ury recorded 6 of the more traditional poems (toned poems: 5.54 minutes) to be found in the poetry series, together with Kasander Nilist (double bass, sound and mix), also for the June edition online of Imaginations – Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, University of Alberta (CA) with Ury as featured artist. HYPERLINK
2011, Ury created visual images of 17 concrete poems, to be presented online and as print versions (23.5 x 32.45 cm), digital image processing Mirco Sanftleben, two of these poems being femininity and femininiation, the rest being part of the series cement, weißer neger (white nigger), concrete party & oral call and since 2011 Tanya Ury recorded 6 of the more traditional poems (toned poems: 5.54 minutes) to be found in the poetry series, together with Kasander Nilist (double bass, sound and mix), also for the June edition online of Imaginations – Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, University of Alberta (CA) with Ury as featured artist. HYPERLINK "
Ury has also created other artworks that might be considered visual poetry. Moving Message 1992, incorporates an LED sign displaying the words: you are why; Sonata in Sea 1999-2000 is a photo series combined with poetry and wrestlewithyourangel 2001, is a neon sign produced together with the neon sign neonazi 2001; the title of a double photo portrait lesser is me more or less 2003 plays on the name of the German Post-Impressionist Lesser Ury, as does the title of a further double portrait or else 2007, which refers to the German writer Else Ury. The title of a third photo-portrait Beelzebularin 2005 (in the Promised Land series) reveals itself to be an anagram of the biblical Bezalel Ben Uri. half dimensional - semi detached 2010, combines the first of the half dimensional poems with the photograph semi detached.
Concrete poetry in the series:
femiNINIty – femininiation 1984 & 2011