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When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Black Man
Jyoti Mistry

A black man runs through a field.

A black man runs on the beach.

A black man runs through a city.

The black man is always running, he is always chased, he is always running…

Running to save his life

A black man runs towards freedom. 

On screen one, the voiceover is constructed through the ‘alphabet of violence’. Instead of relying on subjective voice-over recounting experiences (testimony) or theoretical and historical references (perhaps Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, Patrice Lumumba or Malcolm X to name a few possibilities), the voice–over functions as a lexicon of violence.

The second screen functions to evoke potential, possibility, aspirations and ambitions of a future where the value of the black man in society is revitalised through a lexicon of freedom; he runs towards his freedom.

The script for ‘alphabet of violence’ and ‘alphabet of freedom’ was developed in collaboration with Kgafela oa Magogodi, a spoken-word artist, musician and playwright-director. The approach was to capture a visceral vocabulary of violence that also embraced the street and/or colloquial and the corporeality of violence on black subjects. Words-spoken and expressed in rhythm and with repetition by Magogodi produces in the mind’s eye images of violence that is denied in the visual representation shown on the screens.

On the other hand, the language of freedom resists fortified terms; those proselytized by liberation movements. Instead Magogodi includes words that pulse with possibilities of freedoms imagined and enlivening. Freedom in this alphabet is not an abstract construct but made tactile; tangible and physical – embodied as a state of being: with the freedom to float and with the lightness for flight.

Prod. format
Duration 00:10:00
Language English
Color Color+bw
Year 2017
In text Jyoti Mistry
Latest screening Nov 14, 2023
Jan 26, 2023
Rent this work for public screenings

About the artist

Jyoti Mistry

Born in Durban, South Africa in 1970, Mistry works with film as an interplay between cinematic traditions and installation art. Her films have screened at festivals including Toronto, Winterthur, Rotterdam and Durban and in exhibitions at Kunsthaus Zürich, Museum der Moderne Salzburg and Kunsthalle Wien. She has been artist in residence at the Netherlands Film Academy in Amsterdam and the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and was a member of the International Short Film Jury at the 68th Berlinale. She is currently professor for film at the University of Gothenburg.