Solange Knowles – “When I Get Home” Director’s Cut : Screening

I attended the screening of the director’s cut of visual artist and singer-songwriter Solange Knowles’ performance art film, When I Get Home at the Southbank Centre.

I love, admire and respect Solange as a dedicated interdisciplinary artist, more precisely, her method of incorporating and interlacing varied mediums into very particular narratives. Whether it’s in the form and combination of dance, set design, production, visual media, lyricism and or art direction, she is clear, concise and creatively articulate. She allows no room for comparison to obvious candidates for such, she is stand alone in her way, in her brand communication and identity.

A refined evolved version of the same being, a new state of mind : a way of being…

If we go back a few years to A Seat At The Table :

Knowles provides a carefree, modern, fluid – well almost lucid, trail for other artists of this nature, that tend not to follow established and traditional ways of creative art making; especially done without protest. It never feels like she is in resistance, though in the moment of praise and appreciation we are acknowledging a clear pattern of resistance.
She possess a type of newly formed freedom – an assertiveness which is evident in her work.

Commentary by Obui Amaechi – Cranes in the Sky

…listening back, this album almost feels like a prelude to When I Get Home...

The context of the former was very pronounced in its delicate but extremely effective protest for self identification, with a documentary element to its narrative that retraced its roots through interludial genealogical references, and sociocultural commentative perspectives. The mood: solemn, existential, reflective, heavy.

When I Get Home

was an accompaniment to Knowles’ album of the same name, directed and edited by herself with contributing directors Alan Ferguson, Terence Nance, Jacolby Satterwhite and Ray Tintori.

Saw things I imagined
I saw things I imagined
I saw things I imagined
I saw things I imagined
I saw things I imagined
Things I imagined
Things I imagined
Things I imagined
Saw things I imagined

Enter scene glistening in a crystal encrusted tasseled bikini top, Solange swaying in and out of the darkness and to and fro the shadow of a crystal encrusted hooded figure… The space between albums and the art design curatorial work produced therein symbolised growth for many who followed her groundbreaking breakthrough reemergence into the limelight, no longer in the shadow of those that shone brightly before her. One could argue to the truth in this lyrical statement, that things once imagined had indeed come to pass… We cheer for our cheerleader, we squint and nod in silence, we grin in agreement, we smirk at the brazenness of a spread leg, a slow pan across an exposed crystal encrusted thong, bare buttocked, and stan a straight faced Queen. Shame does not exist here. All hat and cattle.

Professional dancers teased down and around a glistening pole. An earth based intergalactic afro futuristic display of hyper femininity and physical strength. After all, we carry the world in our womb, and life forms in and is brought to light through the black hole…

Grills, pearlised head pieces, blonde wigs “Do NOTHING WITHOUT INTENTION… NOTHING WITHOUT INTENTION.” Loosely tailored suits straight out of the late 90’s, natural and authentic African American braided styles. A sight for the sore eyes of those who are beat down by those that keep every gate; obsessing over respectability politics. bell hooks & Franz Fanon would be proud, of the self awareness, acceptance, actualisation. A leveraged agency towards a type of autonomy inside blatant parameters of socio political violence.

Knowles returned to her childhood home of Houston, Texas to pay homage to heritage and upbringing, staging the black woman and cowboy at the forefront. In a series of one two and multiple gendered parades in unison and slow motion scenes akin to the Angola Prison Rodeo. A cage, freemen, men, free? Cattle, escape, wrestle, power, white, brown, ropes, land, lots of land, new land, pastures, boundaries, white cattle screams Get off my back?! Trick riding, symmetry, geometry, men, black men riding the white raging bull, black men taking galloping strides on thoroughly bred stallions…

Mixed media, visual overlays and home videos the world could relate to.

“We are the walking embodiment of God consciousness.” Church. Choir. Let it be, so be it. Fiat. A star dances, several different hairstyles, malleability and adaptability, chaos and structure. “We are the walking embodiment of God consciousness.” Inches and inches and mid-rift galore, twerking for the Gods who made her in the image…
Hallucinatory chants beckoned to me. One that I could have sworn was edited out of an old Nollywood movie where the local Dibia’s wife comes to the main character in a dream to warn her of a terrible omen. But in this case to remind said character to stand firm in her identity.

Homoerotic renderings of male dancers with exposed genitalia flounced and swayed in repetition. A nude bear-esque cowboy rode a mirror faceted winged horse into a womb coloured sky, above an arena of dancing men, breaking the white western rigidity of masculinity out of their backs. My lord, this was deeply gorgeous and sensual. A perfect match to my favourite track on the album, Sound of Rain produced by herself, Pharrell and John Key, featuring guest vocals from (an actual babe =) Abra and Steve Lacy.

Imagine SunRa, Minnie Ripperton, Grace Jones, Frantz Fanon and Diana Ross produced a spore-like love child into the Universe… To be born and manifest itself on the Earth. I would believe and be saved with no fear of sacrilege or blasphemy of a religion were I am Gentile in servitude to a Son of Man with no personal account of his journey of becoming…

This is Solange Knowles.

An 8 by 100 ft. rodeo arena designed by artist, Boundless Body (2019), was positioned in the desert of Marfa. The off white tone of this sculptural work was geometrically balanced by the ranch brown coloured grazed pasture and monochromatic / two toned to black costumes of those who rodeoed above it. In other scenes the Rothko Chapel at the Menil Collection and architectural designs such as the IM Pei-designed Dallas City Hall were included .

Additional art courtesy of Houston artists Autumn Knight and Robert Pruitt and collage work by Gio Escobar of Standing on The Corner.

For so many years we’ve had Solange in the backdrop of the 90/00’s where her elder sibling reigned supreme as a Pop RnB superstar. While many of Solange’s skills were infused into the songwriting and harmonies of the early Destiny’s Child hits, we hadn’t seen her in full scope until now. This is the feedback I needed from her narrative with regard to the 90/00’s as a Black / Creole / African American woman and female artist. The visuals in Almeda take me back to a place undisclosed in the mainstream media, but very well loud, proud and brown on the back streets of every TV network. MTV Base anyone? Trouble? BET?

Brown liquor, brown liquor
Brown skin, brown face
Brown leather, brown sugar
Brown leaves, brown keys
Brown zippers, brown face
Black skin, black braids
Black waves, black days
Black baes, black days
These are black-owned things
Black faith still can’t be washed away
Not even in that Florida water

Solange – Almeda
This one particular track gets right into my psyche through my soul and into my spirit.
My girl loves to dance!

Words and audio commentary by Obui Amaechi


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