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Niamh Schmidtke 0:11
Hello, you're listening to Future Artefacts FM radio show hosted by Niamh Schmidtke. And Nina Davies.
Nina Davies 0:19
Earlier this year, several radio frequencies were discovered airing a collection of broadcasts. At first they sounded like regular news stories and interviews. They felt familiar, but also not quite belonging to our present. Slowly, the listeners came to believe that what they were listening to, did indeed belong to their world, just not their time. They were looking into the future through the mundane edges of radio recordings and public service announcements. While this material is still being meticulously studied by researchers in various universities and museums, your hosts have managed to gain access to this collection to air a selection of these broadcasts for you, our listeners.
Niamh Schmidtke 1:00
For full disclosure, we will not be sharing this collection with you, as this introduction is based on a fictional event. In this monthly broadcast, Future Artefacts FM, we will present speculative fiction pieces by artists and writers, followed by conversation with hosts Niamh Schmidtke and Nina Davies. The programme will focus on fictional works intended for broadcast, such as radio plays or fictional interviews, to carve out a better understanding of the now by exploring various interpretations of the future.
Nina Davies 1:39
Welcome back to Future Artefacts, Episode Seven. Yay. We're really excited to announce that this is our first episode that is kindly supported by the Arts Council Lottery Fund and as well as
Niamh Schmidtke 1:54
The Elephant Trust
Nina Davies 1:55
The Elephant Trust. So this is very exciting. And today we are going to be joined by Akinsola Lawanson, who is a British Nigerian multidisciplinary artist based in London, through different mediums such as moving image video game engines and motorised sculptures. Their practice examines a variety of themes, including relational systems, digital technologies, and process philosophy.
Niamh Schmidtke 2:17
Thanks for joining us on the show, Akinsola.
Akinsola Lawanson 2:20
Niamh Schmidtke 2:20
So the piece we're gonna listen to today is called Bosode. And it's about 10 minutes long. It's an audio narrative, it's a very atmospheric piece. So we highly recommend you listen to this on headphones, as the audio tends to move from one side of the headset to the other. We're really excited to talk about this with Akinsola today. Before we start listening to the piece, is there anything you'd like us to know about the work?
Akinsola Lawanson 2:49
Not necessarily I think it's just yeah, just get into it. And as Niamh mentioned, yeah, it's best experienced with headphones.
Nina Davies 2:58
Great. Well, we will see you on the other side. Enjoy the work
Niamh Schmidtke 3:02
See you back in ten.
Story Teller: Hello children
Audience (choir): Hello storyteller
Story Teller: How are you this evening?
Audience (choir): Fine, and you?
Story Teller: I’m very well, thank you.
Story Teller: Are we ready for an interesting tale about a girl who meets two deities?
Audience (choir): Yes
Story Teller: If you want to hear an interesting tale, clap your hands
Audience: clap clap, clap clap clap, clap
Story Teller: Story Story
StoryTeller: Bosode goes to Deptford Market to buy cowrie shells.
Bosode: how much for these shells ma?
Shop Seller: my darling 16 shells for 10?.
Bosode: only 16?! 2
Bosode: it is too much, they’re selling it for 60 for 10 in that shop?
Shop seller: Then go there, this one is imported. Fresh from nigeria.
Bosode: Sorry ma, one moment
Shop seller: Ahh!!
Audio piece consisting of underground train sounds, talking drum, echoes of a market place, dial up, whispers of the future conversation,
Audio: Background sounds of market place, Nolly wood sounds
Bosode: Who are you?
Orunmila: I am Orunmila, father of wisdom
Bosode: Ah, I remember this name. I remember my mum telling me a story about you and Eshu.
Bosode: Where are we?
Orunmila: We are at the main marketplace in the town of spirits.
Bosode: Why did you bring me here?
Orunmila: You are guided by your destiny.
Bosode: What are they selling?
Orunmila: Stories, memories, images of another time.
Orunmila: The spirits of this town have become restless and in their loneliness have become insane.
Orunmila (O): Divorced from their great dreams. These images keep their ashe alive.
Orunmila: Through nostalgic images, their dreams of rejoining their families in the metaverse are kept alive.
Bosode: The metaverse? I’m confused. Their spirits have families in the metaverse? Why don’t they go? I have an oculus they can borrow
Orunmila: Long ago, I devised an algorithmic system of fiction to allow for all things living and dead to realise their destinies
Orunmila: Through this system, your ancestors travelled throughout the different towns.
Orunmila: In the metaverse, they reflected on their past and created futures through mapping out bits of data, usually through stories, songs and play.
Orunmila: They travelled freely, to form new communities in the other towns; town of things and the metaverse.
Orunmila: and live amongst the people of the town of things, usually in a bush near your human dwellings. They formed relationships with your people.
Bosode: Then what happened?
Orunmila: Leibniz’ ‘EXPLANATION OF BINARY ARITHMETIC’ happened.
Orunmila: Jesuit missionaries in China wrote about their experiences.
Orunmila: Which led Leibniz to reverse engineer techniques practised through the divination process in the I-Ching. 15
Orunmila: Not long after, the interspaces were occupied by your current tech lords. 16
Orunmila: Highly secured Data centers were erected at the sites of the portals. Using the ashe to power their apps. 17
Orunmila (O): The portals were hidden. Free travel was now something of the past. Borders erected. The towns now siloed. 18
Orunmila: But some spirits were stuck in the metaverse. 19
Orunmila: They were the minions of Eshu, the trickster. 20
Orunmila: They now seek to cause confusion in the metaverse by reinforcing the binary structures that maintain it or collapsing them at their will. 21
Orunmila: Completely detached from the town of spirits, they work to destabilise the metaverse, in hope of reconnecting to the town of spirits. 22
Orunmila: The ancestors of your tech overlords attempted to corrupt all images that frightened them and delete the secrets they held. 23
Bosode: Why don’t the spirits try to form relationships with us again? 9
Orunmila: The spirits are lost because the town of things has forgotten how to chant our ancient songs. 24
Orunmila (O): You have new images, created for a new season, a new god, a new age. 25
Bosode: I still don’t understand, Why did you bring me here? 10
Orunmila: It is written that you will reconnect us to the Metaverse and town of things and recharge our psychic portals. 26
Orunmila: I have prepared a recipe for a charm. 27
Orunmila: This charm will unite the towns of spirits, town of things and the metaverse into one entity. 28
Orunmila: The portals will be opened, borders dissolved, all that live will travel freely between the towns. 29
Orunmila: use this shell to travel through the towns. They’re quite rare so please handle it with care. It hears you and guides you. 30
Orunmila: Using A raspberry pi, a red ethernet cable, a single crimson parrot feather, a power supply, a robotic arm and one moringa leaf. 31
Orunmila: You will assemble this charm in the great bush in the town of things once you have returned. 32
Bosode: Where will I find these things? 11
Orunmila: Let the shell guide you, Once you’ve made the charm. 33
Orunmila: You must go to a shrine I’ve set out for you. 34
Orunmila: Throw the palm nuts on to the tray. From there you’ll know what to do. 35
Orunmila: Also watch out for Eshu. He lurks at the crossroads in the interspaces. Safe journey. 36
Eshu whispers while Bosode floats through space.
Eshu: Where are you going? 1
Bosode: To the town of things. 1
Eshu: You’re following the orders of Baba Orunmila? 2
Bosode: How did you know? I thought you were quarrelling 2
Eshu: The shell you used to cross the border is rare. Only 3 exist. Orunmila has two. I have one. 3
Eshu: And We are not quarrelling. The nature of our relationship is complicated. 4
Bosode: It sure does sound that way. 3
Eshu: Chaos and order can’t exist without each other. (whispers) 5
Eshu: Be on your way and take this red feather. 6
Eshu: Continue your mission but remember that you can always choose. 7
Eshu: Baba Orunmila believes that collapsing all the towns into one will bring peace. 8
Eshu: The spirits in the metaverse have been destroying and rebuilding the binary in different ways since the beginning. 9
Eshu: But similar worlds emerged from the rubble each time. 10
Eshu: You must re-construct a new world from the rubble. 11
Eshu: But there are many paths to take. The paths are not static. They are dynamic links constantly changing. 12
Eshu: Submit to your ashe and the path you desire will be placed in front of you. 13
Story Teller: Bosode the audio play 2 1
Story Teller: see the sweet story. 2
Story Teller: Orunmila chose Bosode for big mission. 3
Story Teller: he say she should create a charm to destroy all the borders between the towns. 4
Story Teller: eshu met her in the interspace and persuaded her to submit to her ashe. 5
Story Teller: see big mission. 6
Story Teller: will she follow Orunmila’s commands? 7
Story Teller: why was she chosen? 8
Story Teller: which road will she take? 9
Story Teller: find out in the next production coming soon.
Niamh Schmidtke 15:20
Welcome back, we hope you all enjoyed, Akinsola Lawanson's amazing piece Bosode. Before we kick into main questions, is there anything you want to tell us about what we've just listened to? Or if there's any kind of introduction before we start probing a little bit more into some of the themes and research behind the work?
Akinsola Lawanson 15:42
Not necessarily, basically, this audio piece is kind of an extension of a film I made last summer, and I kind of wanted to expand on the conversation between Orunmila and Bosode within his audio piece. Yeah, so this is basically that.
Niamh Schmidtke 16:01
Then the first question I like to ask is, the piece begins with the storyteller. Kind of, you have the call and response between the storyteller and the audience, the children, what kind of world is she inviting us into or is she kind of setting up for us to enter?
Akinsola Lawanson 16:19
So I kind of use this format, of the storytelling the audience, make this call and response because there's this like odd TV show for to children in Nigeria, where a historical storyteller will begin to like write a story. And it's usually directed towards children. So I kind of use this format. This is how they usually introduce the play, or the TV show, but the world is a strange kind of world, we would have it towns or realms, and it's inspired by like early, like Nollywood horror, and magical realist literature. In Nigeria, mostly, one author is Emos Tutuola. It's a strange world where you meet different spirits, you go into the town of spirits, you can hear the spirits, sort of chattering and moving in the marketplace. So it's a weird world,
Nina Davies 17:15
The sort of town of spirits is just like, I think had such strong visual imagery for me. And the first thing I thought about was Spirited Away, it's just so like, I don't know, there's something about like that marketplace of spirits that I just,
Akinsola Lawanson 17:29
I thought was interesting, because the story starts with Bosode at the market to try and to buy some shells. And then she's she receives a phone call, and then she's transported to the marketplace of the town of spirits. So kind of showing that these spaces are kind of, well, within this story, they kind of collapse all these different towns around kind of collapse into one and she's able to move through them freely with the help of Orunmila, a deity. I suppose in a way it's an interesting reference. I guess, there are some similarities in that yeah.
Nina Davies 18:02
The town that she gets transported to is it kind of almost meant to be like a parallel world?
Akinsola Lawanson 18:07
Yes, I use the language of town as a reference to a Emos Tutuola's book, 'My life in the Bush of Ghosts'. This is an interesting book where there's a boy who is escaping a conflict, and he runs into the bush and then he is on this quest to find his brother. And he encounters different sort of entities or ghosts or spirits in different towns, these different towns were different, had like somewhat different metaphysics, so different sort of system, or logic, sort of, yeah, I kind of use this as a space with its own logic. Town is almost a realm or space with it's own system of values or way of navigating.
Nina Davies 18:53
Also, it makes me think of the Inside Out world in Stranger Things like where they're like, it's the exact same world, but they're like on the other side, like, where that character gets, like lost in on the other side. And you can hear, hear him trying to like, especially the bit where plays with the lights and the lights are flickering, but he's not actually there? He's like, in the inside out version. That was something that definitely made me think about, like, yeah, you kind of go into this town, and it's like, the spirit, the spirit version of the of the real.
Akinsola Lawanson 19:21
Yeah, exactly. It's kind of in a weird way, just like a lens in which you kind of move through the world, or kind of like a framework or a system of where, or a system of thinking that allows you to engage with the world. And that can allow you to kind of go through these different worlds that were that makes sense. Engaging with the world or a framework in which you kind of play with. Within the spirit realm there's another system of or another logic that allows you to engage with another aspect of the same realm.
Niamh Schmidtke 19:49
I think also that Bosode is the only person who can go between these worlds. For me, it's kind of interesting how she, she set up as kind of like a heroine in the story. Because when she's in the marketplace, we're in the human realm. And then she meets Orunmila and it's, we're in the spirit world. And then when she goes between the two, then she meets another, another spirit and another deity. But all of these kind of, I guess characters in the story can only remain in very specific spaces. They kind of can't move, but she can, like kind of she's dialled into the spirit world. And then she's transported back out of it. And then she has this, she has the shell that will kind of help guide her between the two as well. I mean, this is a little bit of a tangent, it seems almost kind of strange or kind of lonely for her in a way that she's the only one who can experience kind of moving between these kind of different kinds of spaces.
Akinsola Lawanson 20:48
Yes, and this is somewhat the main sort of quest that Orunmila gives both today is to essentially collapsed these worlds, or reopen the portal so that people can freely move between these worlds. So yeah, the logic is that or the premise of it is that there was a time where people moved freely between these realms, there was an event that happened, Leibnitz which Leibnitz is somewhat credited with the, I don't know the right word to use here, is it discovering or creating binary mathematics, which is kind of the foun- foundation of computation as we know it. And digital world is all based on founded on this binary mathematics, and this existed in binary, like divination systems across the world. So in the Middle East with an I-Qing, in China, and also I'm talking about the Yoruba divination system. And yeah, so in this world, they kind of freely travel, thought they want to kind of engage with this realm. Because the divination system, or the Yoruba divination system, especially, is, was created by Orunmila, to allow humans to kind of engage or to talk to the gods or consult with the spiritual realm. So it was kind of like a portal that allowed you to, you know, gain knowledge from another world.
Niamh Schmidtke 22:16
Just to reiterate kind of Leibniz then was the mathematician who, I guess was the first to publish maybe is a good way to standardise it, about binary mathematics, which is what kind of, I guess, in part is like from this era of enlightenment, where everything gets separated out, and kind of, I guess, you separate different forms of religion and spiritualism from the scientific or the technological. Which I guess is what's so interesting about this piece is, you bring them together, or you find the link where they're obviously so closely living with one another.
Nina Davies 22:51
Do you think that this spirit world that you're sort of like working within or writing within, do you see that as having like, a sort of binary relationship to the to the real world? Or is it something that's more quantum?
Akinsola Lawanson 23:06
Yeah, there's a relationship between a town of things and a town of spirits. Where yeah, they're codependent, they have this weird relationship. In this I was kind of thinking of a town of things as a space where things exist, such as like a car, like, you know, things are clearly defined, no car is a car, dog is a dog, but in the town of spirits things flow. The fundamental unit is almost the process or the link as opposed to the node, or the individual within the town of things. So this is how they relate what in the town of spirits, I'm thinking things move more like a field, or in the way of a field. And in a town of things, it's more like a particle, these two worlds that exist, but they are kind of dependent on each other. Or there's a there's a relationship or link there. But this is how I've kind of understood these two different worlds within this story.
Niamh Schmidtke 24:01
Yeah, I guess what I'm kind of hearing from that is that in one, in one world, kind of everything is very clearly defined. It has its its edges. And its kind of boundaries almost. Whether as in the other, things can slip between an or not one thing at the same time, but are multiple things at the same time. Kind of like the dog is the dog, but it's also related to the floor, maybe that it's standing on, it's also related to maybe another dog in the room. And it's kind of like the interconnections between things is much more a part of what it is as well as maybe the thing in and of itself.
Akinsola Lawanson 24:35
Yeah, exactly this.
Nina Davies 24:37
I guess there's something about the world that you've created. One would assume that this kind of spirit world is something like super mystical and, and even also like mysterious, but actually some of the things that you bring into the story are things that feel very present and very now and I was quite interested in how you kind of separate these two worlds, but this other world is actually, feels very much like our online, is our sort of online reality. And so suddenly that idea of this mystical place suddenly is like, oh, I'm actually like, you know when I was first listening to your work, I was on my phone. And I was probably like, looking through my emails, I'm sorry, I was probably looking through my emails while I was listening to it the first time. And I'm like, oh, I'm actually in that space. I'm already kind of in that space that that you're describing, which I thought was quite nice to play around with that. I guess describing the online spaces as a sort of, as a spirit world.
Akinsola Lawanson 25:30
Yeah, just in a state of flux.
Nina Davies 25:32
In the story. You've got the um, you use the word Ashe. Yeah. I was wondering, I was just kind of curious, because I was listening to it again, on my way here, and I was wondering whether you could describe like, this, I was sort of assuming that Ashe is like, is a sort of energy
Akinsola Lawanson 25:50
From, from my understanding within Yoruba sort of culture, or religion, or Ifa religion, it's the will or the power to act, it's the potential that, you know, an entity possesses to have an influence on its environment, this is how I kind of understood it, or how I have used it.
Nina Davies 26:13
It seems like it operates independently or autonomously from your understanding of yourself. So like, the can't remember if it's Eshu, or maybe it's Orunmila, it's like, let it guide you. So it's like something that's not I guess, sort of like in your direct consciousness, I almost read it, as almost like a gut feeling.
Akinsola Lawanson 26:31
Yeah, it's just like a presence that exists within you like an imagery within you. For me, I've just defined it as like the power or will to do something. Which is how I imagine it.
Niamh Schmidtke 26:40
Which kind of is quite interesting in relation to this story. Because at the beginning of it when Bosode is first kind of transported to the spirit world, it makes it seem like she doesn't have a choice, or kind of she's just told by Orunmila like, this is what you must do, you must collapse these worlds so that the spirits can, so that the spirits cannot be trapped. And but then as she's travelling between she meets Eshu, it's going like, why, why do you think Orunmila is telling you this kind of consider what what you're being asked and what this might cause. So it's kind of like the power to act. She's kind of being given the choice by like, I think we were speaking before that, like Eshu was kind of like, considered a trickster almost in a way. Can you speak a little bit about that kind of parody, like wield choice, perhaps or?
Akinsola Lawanson 27:27
For that, I think it'd be best to kind of explain it two deities or talk about the two deities. So the first Orunmila is the deity of wisdom, knowledge, and divination. So Urmila is credited as the person who founded the Ifa religion, Ifa religion is to religion as practised by Yoruba speaking people, whether it's in western Nigeria or Cuba or Brazil. Orunmila is credited as creating this sort of divination system. And yeah, this divination system was kind of created to allow for, you know earthly beings like us to kind of communicate to the spiritual world or the spiritual realms. This is, this division system has like a very simple logic, lots of logic that has like uses the binary mathematics as I was talking about, where the process of divination is that you kind of would speak to a babalawo or iyalawo, which essentially means father or mother or keeper of secrets. You consult them with either, you know, you have a question and you need to ask or, you know, there's some points you need to kind of reflect on, and then after this, you know, through a cowrie shell or palm nuts, they will then interpret this reading and there are 256 possibilities, through you know, this act, they will then sing a verse from the Odu Ifa. The Odu Ifa is a collection of texts or 256 different Odus or verses that have to be remembered by the babalawos or iyalawos, it's orally sort of passed down. So each time babalawo or iyalawos was trained, they will have to remember, all 256 versus. These 256 possibilities kind of account for all potential eventualities that could happen to a human. And then Eshu is, as you said, usually known as a trickster. And also messenger between the earthly and heavenly realms, and the guardian of crossroads, and Eshu yeah, usually within the stories Eshu always gives you know, human beings a choice or likes to present them with a with choice and as the crossroads is an interesting concept within this because Eshu tends to lurk in the middle of a crossroad. So, for instance, when Bosode is travelling back from the spirit world, and she meets Eshu, she meets him at the crossroad. And this is the point at which he kind of makes her think about the sort of mission or this quest that she's been given. And I thought these two characters played off each other well, because I feel like Orunmila. And these 256 possibilities, even though the process to achieve one of these new possibilities or outcomes is quite random, you know, you're just throwing cowrie shells or nuts. And then you know, this will correlate to a number, and then you read out a verse. So there's this, you know, this probabilistic element to it. It also has like a weird deterministic vibe. And, and one part of the story is talking about her destiny. And and this is her destiny, is to kind of collapse these worlds, but then Eshu always allows people to kind of see multiple sides to a story and kind of, yeah, give us an individual's choice. Because I didn't know at the crossroads, I feel like this is a space where you know everything kind of collapses.
Niamh Schmidtke 30:59
It's like a threshold kind of you can be here. You're not really anywhere.
Akinsola Lawanson 31:05
Yeah, in between, like sort of spaces, you know binaries, you know, like, you know, good and evil doesn't exist at a crossroad or humanity and divinity. You haven't quite made this decision. So you're kind of stuck in this sort of space?
Niamh Schmidtke 31:17
Yeah, I mean, I wanted to ask, because I guess this, we're kind of left at the moment after Bosode's interaction with Eshu. And she's left with this choice of what she's going to do. The open ending of that, of this kind of sequence of this narrative, it kind of to me, it makes it feel like the introduction sequence of a game. It's like you've been given a quest, you have this powerful figure who's kind of speaking to you, we're introduced to that quest, you know, Bosode is given a set of tools to navigate the spirit world. Do you know what happens next in this world? Or do you know kind of what parts of this world that we're going to be? If this kind of part two, part three, whatever that you want to explore?
Akinsola Lawanson 32:05
Yes, funny enough. It's kind of funny. You mentioned the game aspects because I started thinking about, thinking through all these concepts when I wanted to make a video game, and it ended up being an interactive film, where you can choose one of the endings. With this audio piece, I kind of wanted to centre it more around the conversation between Orunmila and Bosode, and expand more on Eshu's role within this sort of world. But within the film, there's there are three endings. And this is something I would like to explore a bit more so with within the three endings without ruining the film, the three endings one were she, it's a bit daft, but one, and there's three endings because of the crossroads. But one ending where she kind of follows through with Orunmila' quest, and she collapses these worlds, creates this object, and yeah, creates the charm that would collapse these worlds. The other is that she chooses not to. And then there's another where she's kind of stuck in the middle of the crossroads, or stuck in this place where the possibilities are constantly there. So these are the three different worlds, or three different sort of endings,
Nina Davies 33:20
The character of Eshu is so, just totally make sense of the video game like this, even like the sort of like lingering at the crossroads. You know, like when you play video games and like you're on a specific quest, and then you're like, Oh, I think I need to talk to that person. And then they like, they have like a whole other quest within them that you're like, playing the game, right? Do I have time to take on this quiet like this second quest, like put it in my back pocket. Did you think that, oh, these characters, or these deities would just totally make sense in a video game, like sort of what came? I guess that's sort of what came first? Was it the idea to do this video game, and then use these characters? Or were you inspired by these characters.
Akinsola Lawanson 33:56
At first, I just wanted to make a video game with a daft quest. This was I've always kind of wanted to do this like, like a hero's quest or hero's journey. So this is what I was thinking through.
Niamh Schmidtke 34:07
Because the film is quite fun. Like the audio and the film like it feels. It's kind of interesting hearing the audio compared to the film because in the film, it seems kind of light in a way. It's like sort of early internet 90s graphics. And then when you listen to the audio, it's like, ooh, it's like this big powerful overlord who's asking me to do this thing like, oh, crap, what happens if I don't do it? It's quite. I can I can see where it like the it like started from the fields, like it's progressively getting more serious, maybe or darker in a way. As the layer kind of peal.
Akinsola Lawanson 34:45
Yeah, definitely. Initially, I just kind of wants to make it was meant to be an interactive, fun film, kind of tying together all these concepts. And there were aspects within that film that I kind of wanted to double down on so the Nollywood horror aspects, I kind of wanted to play a bit more with this in this audio piece. So that's an aspect from the film I kind of want to double down on. But yeah, it was, yeah, the film is quite playful. And I was kind of using, like early electronic music or early music made from computers. And yeah, this was quite fun and playful. So that's kind of created an atmosphere. And I wanted it to be quite playful and fun and easy to watch. I didn't want it to be too serious. But with this play, as I'm kind of trying to expand more on the conversation between Orunmila and Eshu I kind of wanted to kind of take this world a bit more seriously within this and actually communicate more of the concepts behind it. Because the other one I kind of lightly played with these concepts and the narrative was there, but it was mostly a playful thing to watch.
Nina Davies 36:00
We were talking before about your relationship watching Nollywood films growing up, and how your relationship to these stories have changed from being quite-, fairly dark stories or to do something else. And I was wondering whether maybe you could talk a bit about that. Or I can just explain that, no I'm joking.
Akinsola Lawanson 36:23
This is interesting for me, because kind of living in Lagos, or doing my high school in Lagos and then like watching Nollywood, you know, my grandma was had like the TV on and there's always some weird Nollywood film playing in the background. And I was absolutely, like, terrified of anything to do with traditional religion, like a lot of it was, you know, strange stories about, you know, someone or ritualist, turning song into a piece of yam. I was 11. And I was like, Okay, this is not something I want to play around with, or engage with. And a lot of this stems from, like, Christianity and colonialism, like early missionaries kind of converted lots of these deities into like, weird characters. So for instance, Eshu, he was a trickster who's playful, was considered the devil. And this is quite, I think this is one of the fundamental sort of techniques Christianity used are all across the world, converting folk heroes or different characters who are complex, into, you know, simplifying them into like, one dimensional characters
Nina Davies 37:38
Good and evil?
Akinsola Lawanson 37:38
Yeah, good and evil.
Niamh Schmidtke 37:39
I guess, putting them back into the binary again.
Akinsola Lawanson 37:42
Yeah. Whereas, like, Eshu did do some weird things, but also allowed you to see another world and would give you fortune, it could give you misfortune are so fortunate. So I feel like this kind of flattened this image.
Niamh Schmidtke 37:57
I guess, then a question I have, because we spoke about this before about, I mean, we're speaking partially about how, like, Ifa religion practice by Yoruba speaking people has kind of, kind of coexists with Christianity or how they kind of like, mingle with one another. But then the other question I have is kind of how like, Ifa and these deities are able to kind of exist in like a contemporary world, like a world that's speaking about binary mathematics and and speaking about metaphysics, and kind of one of the tools Bosode has is a Raspberry Pi, what's your interest in maybe like bringing Ifa religion into a contemporary world?
Akinsola Lawanson 38:36
Like, as I mentioned, a lot of early, a lot of the references I have, are like, magical realist literature in Nigeria. One famous author is Amos Tutuola. This series of like many books, short stories, and novels, and he was, you know magical realist author raised in colonial Nigeria. And he kind of understood the role that like, modernization in quotes, was having on traditional sort of religion, and just ways of being. I think he grew up in a world where his name was anglicised. His grandfather was, like a Yoruba priest or chief, but then his father was Christian pastor. So he saw this change within his family, change within his society, even my name Lawanson, and this has been anglicised, and there was this like, movement or like, you know, move to kind of, to succeed within colonial Nigeria, you may have to, you'd have to anglicise and align yourself more with your, quote, British values or Christian values. So either way Amos Tutuola kind of, was in this world and saw this sort of change in and within his work. Like he as much as you read it, and it's this crazy tale of a boy turning in from a cow to a chicken to, you know, it's a bit nuts, but then within this he's embedding, a lot of Yoruba sort of rituals, practices, like the deities, they will characters or a lot of the characters were inspired by. Yeah, Ifa religion and this is something I thought was interesting to do, why I wanted to do something similar, then I chose the actors Orunmila and Eshu because I thought they were two interesting characters. And that kind of communicated something about Yoruba religion. And a lot of this is also a kind of like a personal journey, because as I mentioned before, I was completely scared to bits by by like Yoruba religion or your religion, but was only maybe recently the past few years where I've kind of started reading more literature more like a text from like different writers or philosophers one one of which is Sophie, Sophie Oluwole, she was a Nigerian philosopher who kind of talked a lot about Ifa religion and Yoruba religion, and all the different dimensions that existed within this, so yeah, with this text and like, text about her and like interviews, she's given where she's saying, Ifa contains, you know, so many different dimensions as a mathematics, there's medicine, there's physics, you know, there's all these different dimensions to Ifa And one common use it to this like fetish, or like juju, ,you know someone turning into a piece of yarn. And there's so many other dimensions to it. And this was how I think I was, kind of sparks my interest. And I kind of wanted to create a story that kind of talked this, or kind of included this, and I didn't want it to be, with the first film, I wanted it to be just a story that kind of makes these characters commonplace. Notices within within culture, so for instance, Zeus, you think of Zeus, you don't think of all the weird fetish, or sacrifices, what you think of the morals and the stories that this character kind of imbued, and this is what I wanted to do with, Orunmila and Eshu kind of create them as, yeah.
Nina Davies 42:17
Sort of, like, re complicate them, like, take them outside of that, like binary understanding of good and evil and, and let them sort of be what they are. I was going to ask as well, these stories that you that you've been looking at, are they? Are they written in a specific style? Like, are they meant for, are they meant to be children's stories? Because going back to the beginning of your story, where there's a storyteller, teaching children, or are they in a different format?
Akinsola Lawanson 42:45
A lot of these were children's stories. A lot of the literature I was inspired by children's stories. Amos Tutuola, he was famous for writing in like broken English, and is from the perspective of a nine year old. So it's like a teen novel. This is the author Tomi Adeyemi, she's a contemporary writer. She writes like Nigerian fantasy, or she's American Nigerian, she writes a lot of fantasy, em using Yoruba, sort of religion as the backdrop for different characters. So I was very much influenced a lot of literature I was reading at the time was teen or child literature. And a lot of the stories were like folk stories that would be told at a campfire. I don't know even, the first scene you could hear like fire crackling. So this was kind of playing into this, like a story told by two children. And yeah, this is, yeah I wanted to kind of make or use a sort of, make a child, a children's story, or use a sort of framework. To kind of introduce these characters.
Niamh Schmidtke 43:54
Yeah. But it's also it's kind of your findings, you're taking it out of the colonial gaze so that as you're saying, we can see all the complexity of these, of these characters in the story kind of, you know, Eshu is now is the trickster that makes you think, is like sitting at the crossroads. How Orunmila has this kind of, I guess, godlike presence, but is really just one, it's like just one of the deities who's kind of circling around with many others. Which kind of is for me it's part of why I I enjoyed like this story so much is that everyone is very much kind of this multi dimensional and multi-layered character, kind of the only person we don't really know much about is Bosode, kind of we just know that she's at the market. She's buying these things and then she gets transported. I mean, I guess one thing I'm kind of curious about because you you started by talking about Nollywood horror, which has this kind of very specific aesthetic of kind of super dramatic, almost, I guess, from my eyes like, almost like an overreacted appearance, as you were saying kind of makes this space with these deities or something. To be very, like, scared of. Do you still feel after all of this kind of research and reading and kind of recontextualizing, in your own mind about kind of Orunmila? And Eshu, do you feel, do you feel kind of superstitious or scared of them still, or?
Akinsola Lawanson 45:16
I've always been, I always will be, I think, I think once, once it's put in your mind as a child, it never leaves. And depending on the region you're from, and I can only speak from a particular part because I lived in Lagos and the Yoruba, but it's very much part of the psyche. Whether you're Christian, or you practice another religion or you eat just this has an influence on your life, whether you want it to or not. Yeah reading about this made me a lot less superstitious, or a lot less scared, and more like, intrigued to understand the sort of processes and divination process because before, I wouldn't have picked up a book about divination, because I think this is a bit spooky. I don't enter this realm. But now at least, I'm more curious about.
Nina Davies 46:03
You told us a story about your mom, about your mom, sort of mentioning that she's still, she's still afraid.
Akinsola Lawanson 46:10
When I made this film, my mum was saying that I should be careful. The forces of delving into, my mom is Christian.
Nina Davies 46:20
I so, so powerful, and so scary.
Niamh Schmidtke 46:23
Dut they're powerful. They're powerful characters, like having having someone summon you and give you a quest, like, even even the voice that you have that like it's this booming, it's this like, deep, booming voice that you hear. They're not like, light characters in any way.
Akinsola Lawanson 46:39
Yeah, definitely. I feel like my mom's attitude as I was mentioning, I think it stems from this kind of demonisation of Ifa. And through discussing with her and kind of discussing all the sort of the different aspects to Ifa it was kind of interesting having this discussion with my mom, because she was kind of raised in somewhat of a British institution in Nigeria, one of the public schools. All public schools are set up by the colonial government, sort of King's College and Queens College to like famous schools. And I feel like a lot of her knowledge is quite similar to mine, where she has heard odd stories of people doing rituals, and...
Nina Davies 47:25
She sort of grew up to fear these things.
Akinsola Lawanson 47:29
Yes, well, yeah. On the face of it, yes. But then still has interesting sort of ways of dealing with spirituality, which I feel are still rooted within this sort of practice. She's Christian, but then occasionally, I feel like the, these boundaries are not a bit more fluid than they make out to be.
Nina Davies 47:52
But you still like you're still like learning within the context of these stories, whether the stories have been changed, they're still the, the characters are still there, as you were saying that with Christianity, they've adopted these characters, they might have turned them into good and evil, but these stories are still underlying,
Akinsola Lawanson 48:07
Yes. And I feel this religion is so embedded within culture, and yeah, just kind of psyche. And like the sort of spirit of like, it's hard to kind of separate these things.
Niamh Schmidtke 48:21
So then, I guess, because we're nearing the end of the conversation. One thing that for me, keeps on coming up, again, and again, as kind of as we were speaking with you before, and as we're speaking now, is, the piece kind of explores different understandings of binaries. And you kind of, you sent us on a really great video by Sophie Oluwole, where kind of she speaks about how different binaries exist in Ifa religion, and I guess relating that to like a Western European form of enlightenment. I guess I'm wondering kind of how how this has come up in your research when preparing for this work, or kind of how you see maybe these different kinds of binaries existing in this piece itself.
Akinsola Lawanson 49:05
So the binary was important for different reasons. One of which is that the binary mathematics was interesting, understanding that this is kind of the basis of our computational world. And this was something that was very interesting to me. And understanding that this was also used as part of different religious practices across the world.
Niamh Schmidtke 49:27
Because I think for me, the thing that likes really stuck out like in Sophie Oluwole was saying was, she was speaking about the binary as the front and the back of the hand, and how, you know, one can never exist without another. You sent us this part of the script for this piece where it's kind of order cannot exist without chaos, or chaos cannot exist without order. It's kind of how the two like have to sit alongside one another, which I guess also feels like Orunmila and Eshu, kind of, they're not opposites, as you were saying earlier, but they're kind of, they feel to me almost like the two sides of the same coin, where once you find one, the other is going to find you.
Akinsola Lawanson 50:07
Exactly. Yeah, this is something that was very interesting. And I kind of saw, there's similarities between this, like, I knew very little about this, but I saw similarities between this, like Yin Yang sort of philosophy. And even within I-Qing, they have you know these, these similar logics. So it's kind of interesting how this, this frame of thinking, can be connected to this binary mathematics or this sort of divination process.
Niamh Schmidtke 50:35
Because you sent us on this on a great paper that kind of used binary mathematics and coding, and comparing it to their kind of 256, divinations in Ifa, as well. I guess that was that part of kind of where the interest came from kind of seeing how these two worlds are like kind of collided and or broken together.
Akinsola Lawanson 50:53
Yeah, within it's a kind of wants to see like it. Like for me, divination is, especially Yoruba divination is somewhat a form of computation. And there are parallels to this beyond the binary mathematics, but I felt there was a strong relationship there, which I kind of wanted to play with. And I was kind of imagining, you know, all the, you know, the shell, because for divination process, you may need like either cowrie shells or the palm nuts, then you have like a divination tray. And I wanted to see this as a form of computation that allows you to access the digital world or access another world just the same, you know, your, your laptop allows you to kind of communicate to another sort of realm. I wanted to imagine this also as, yeah. Yeah, of like, a proto-computer of like, a way of talking to the spiritual world. And I wanted to kind of, imagine these worlds as being the same or similar. Just flavour.
Niamh Schmidtke 51:50
Yeah. So like computation to the, to the spirits, in a way.
Akinsola Lawanson 51:54
Yeah, it's just..
Niamh Schmidtke 51:56
I'm way over simplifying.
Nina Davies 51:57
But also, when you were describing the divination process before, like you sort of you in Ifa like you, you come with sort of questions about, about your life. And this is sort of verses I was, as you were explaining that before, I was thinking about that stuff, like, I don't know whether you ever do it, but like type questions into Google. And like, sometimes I'm like I don't know how to phrase this other than a question. I'm like, Why do? Why does my foot hurt in this specific place, or something like that? And then you kind of get this like information back? Or that you do those kinds of like, tests of like, what? I'm so embarrassed, what Disney princess or you? Or like, and there just seemed to be this sort of like, you kind of forget that we are like constantly asking questions to our computers all the time and getting this information, information back. I don't know what there's 256 outcomes, I think there's probably more, but
Niamh Schmidtke 52:51
I think Google can give you millions, at certain points, yes,
Nina Davies 52:53
Akinsola Lawanson 52:55
Yeah, I think this is an interesting sort of analogy. Or thing to kind of reflect on,
Nina Davies 53:01
We don't consider it to be a sort of spiritual practice of asking questions, or just putting questions out there to not necessarily anyone, like there's no physical person on the other side, that we're asking these questions to, we just kind of throw them out there, into the ether.
Akinsola Lawanson 53:15
Yeah, and so just like kind of crazy space with like, 1000 or million or billion responses, and you have to select one, which is going to be appropriate for you. And then, like yeah, you have like, you can kind of put a question out or like, you know, you have something goes sort of reflecting on
Nina Davies 53:32
I think about also like the, I guess like the like tarot cards or like, you know, that's another form of divination, and how like, you know, this infinite amount of ways that you can read the cards when they come down? It's the same thing as like, like, I could look up, like, what are the health benefits of eating an apple every day? Or I could also look up? Like, why is eating an apple every day bad for you? And I like get answers, like, get the answers that I want.
Niamh Schmidtke 53:57
In a way though how you're speaking about how binary mathematics, kind of in the context of Ifa religion, so bringing spirituality and religion with technology is reminding me in a way of the previous episode with Nina's last work, where we are talking about techno faith. And it feels like this kind of this overwhelming desire to think of technology not purely as something which is kind of removed or separate. Or also that, that's not a useful way to frame technology anymore. I mean, this is a massive question. I guess I'm wondering maybe where that desire comes from? Or maybe if either of you have like, maybe if you have, like Akinsola have like an ending kind of comment about that before you wrap.
Akinsola Lawanson 54:40
Like we're all increasingly understanding the world is complex, and it's really old, old ways of thinking and of deducing don't quite make sense in a lot of cases. So there are like I feel a lot a lot of people are turning or finding ways or trying to understand complex systems or engage with complex systems because the world is complex, like the environment, it's a fundamental. It's an interesting example of this, you know, like technology in like the way technology is approached in the West, it's like Applied Science, you know, like engineering go like, yeah, it's all applied science to use.
Nina Davies 55:18
That well, science and technology are like, quite physical, we have a very physical understanding of what science and technology are.
Akinsola Lawanson 55:25
Yeah, but it warps our way our world in ways we don't understand. And we have ways of thinking about unknowable things. And this religion has, you know, kind of provided us with answers or like ways of engaging with complexity. And I feel like, for me, at least, I'm not saying that religion is going to solve any of our issues. But..
Niamh Schmidtke 55:51
I see where we're going with it. I guess it's kind of saying that the two are not separate.
Akinsola Lawanson 55:57
Yeah, the two are not separate. To understand systems, we need to we can't isolate this and say this is that it always sits within a context. It all sits within a world. It alwayds disrupts worlds, in ways that we can't quite understand.
Nina Davies 56:16
Well, I think we're gonna have to finish here. Thank you so much Akinsola for coming in today and talking to us about your work and sharing your work as well.
Niamh Schmidtke 56:26
It's been really great having you on the show. Thank you for sharing so much about your research, and also your own life history a bit as well.
Akinsola Lawanson 56:34
Thank you for having me. It's been really fun to kind of work on this. And yeah, hopefully everyone gets into it, and kind of enjoys it. And lets is take them somewhere.
Niamh Schmidtke 56:45
You can now also for any, for any more details and information about this radio show, Future Artefacts FM, you can follow us on our dedicated Instagram account,
Nina Davies 56:57
Brand new, fresh in
Niamh Schmidtke 56:59
Which is futureartefacts.fm. We'll be having all of our information about current episodes, previous episodes, upcoming. We'll also keep you up to date on where artists are at. Thomas is going to have a really cool three day show happening in Hart's Lane, in New Cross, southeast London, which is going to be open from the
Akinsola Lawanson 57:25
Eighth to the 10th
Niamh Schmidtke 57:27
Eighth to the 10th of April. So that's actually going to be on right now while you guys are listening. So do pop down if you're in the area.
Nina Davies 57:38
Akinsola Lawanson 57:39
Nina Davies 57:41
Niamh Schmidtke 57:41
Nina Davies 57:42
Akinsola Lawanson 57:42