ARA Week: Farida Nabibaks

This week is the Anti-Racism Awareness week and our university Radboud University contributes to this with an amazing program created by the DEI office and the ARA network! Have you checked it out already? If not, just quickly jump over there! 💪🏻💪🏼💪🏽💪🏾💪🏿

But what do we contribute to this? As our platform strives to not only present women that shaped our society but by doing so, be an inclusive and open platform committed to intersectionality, we also see Anti-Racism as a position we have to take. It is not enough to be non-racist, but we have to actively speak up and fight against racism by being anti-racist! And with this said, we wanted to find a way to contribute to the program of the Anti-Racism Awareness week and still keep our format: this week we will provide some addition to the program created by DEI and the ARA network. Our articles will act as background information to women that are part of their program.

And with this post we have come to the end of our week of articles dedicated to ARA and a week of growing, listening and learning. We still have something special waiting for you to close this week off but first let us draw our attention to a woman that has touched many of us during this week in a special way: Farida Nabibaks. 📝

With her performance of Radiant Shadow she has been part of the opening of this week and also closed it. In her work as dancer, performer and creative director Farida draws attention to the topic of “black flesh suffering” which means that she explores the cultural memory of violence and pain inflicted on (black) bodies. That also means that she raises awareness of unconscious traces of the Dutch colonial past in our society. 🎭👯‍♀️

Learn more about the impactful performances and their origin in the article down below. To get a preview of her work, go to the end of the article, our author has added the link to an impression of her recent production of Radiant Shadow.

Farida Nabibaks | * 03-06-1965| Republic of Suriname (Country of Origin)/ The Netherlands (Place of Residence) | Dancer, Choreographer, Initiator and Creative Director of Music- & Dance-Theatre production Radiant Shadow (Schitterende Schaduw) and Founder of Reframing HERstory Art Foundation

Today we will redirect the spotlight to creative allrounder Farida Nabibaks. Nabibaks was born in Suriname and moved to the Netherlands with her husband in the 1980s. She took ballet classes as a child and decided to continue this in the Netherlands. Encouraged by a ballet scout, Nabibaks followed her passion and went to study at the Scapino Dance Academy in Amsterdam. After graduation, she performed in many modern ballet productions and in 1995 she also played the female lead in Faya, the first and only Dutch/Surinamese musical so far, which tells the story of two star-crossed lovers, a Creole boy and a Hindu girl, living in the newly independent Suriname of the seventies of the last century. 

Today, she is active as a performer, choreographer, artist and philosopher. In her work she raises awareness for unconscious traces of the Dutch colonial past in present day society. Nabibaks also studied philosophy at the Radboud University in Nijmegen and obtained her master’s degree in 2011. As a philosopher, she combines lectures with performances. Her thesis Evolving to the Profession of Being Human; An Individual or Spiritual Philosophical Practice as the Future for Philosophy (2011) has no cultural basis, but instead advocates a feature with a more practical philosophy that leaves space for a practice that also entails individual attention and awareness. 

In an interview with Dutch tv-program Nachtzoen she explains how she, after her graduation as a MA Philosopher, became aware of her feelings of shame for the colour of her skin. Before she ‘lived colourless’ but now, for the first time, she felt the impact of skin colour and the value she unconsciously gave to it. She started a search for the origin of her feelings of shame and discovered that this was embedded in the knowledge that her ancestors were reduced to slaves. This experience was extremely painful for Nabibaks. She learned that she feels unsafe in this hostile world because the problems that her ancestors faced are still not solved. 

This cultural memory of violence and pain inflicted on (black) bodies is a topic of research that has been increasingly gaining interest in the public field over the last decades (see for instance Elizabeth Alexander’s ‘‘Can you be Black and Look at This?’: Reading the Rodney King Video(s)’ (1994)). Nabibaks argues that performance art can make it possible to emphasize with this topic of ‘black flesh suffering’ palpable amongst people with the same cultural heritage but also to others who do not share these experiences. The experience greatly influences and inspires Nabibaks works. Her performances are focussed on achieving a theatrical experience with the audience, that leads them to open up and give space for and understand another’s perspective. Below I will briefly discuss a few of her dance performances.

A part of Nabibaks choreography Traces of Time was performed at the Africa in Motion film festival in Edinburgh in 2015. It is about a female descendant of this oppressed culture who tries to come to terms with the slave past. Nabibaks will perform this piece again during the Anti-Racism Awareness week. For her performance This Is Me/ As Time Goes By (2016) Nabibaks worked with philosopher Bianca Janssen Groesbeek. The pair took bodies and physicality as the base of their performance. They communicate, reflect and dance, apart or together, on live music of pop duo Geminga, in order to seek interesting, vulnerable and confronting intimacy. During Erfgoedfestival Gelderland 2020 Nabibaks performed a choreography that was inspired by the history of Radio Kootwijk, a former Dutch transmitter park that connected the Netherlands with its former colonies via a radio connection. She wanted to bring together the Indonesian story and the Dutch story of the colonial and slavery past in her performance, in order to learn the audience to reflect on who they are, as a person and as a story. 

This is also the theme in her most recent project Schitterende Schaduw, in which Nabibaks encourages the audience to confront themselves with this painful past and simultaneously she tries to open up the conversation about it. The tour of the project was shut down due to covid-19 but it will be performed again on March 26. Besides, starting in April 2021 the NWO-funded research project ‘Feeling the Traces of the Colonial Past’ will develop new methods to make overlooked or ignored traces of the past tangible, palpable and negotiable. Prof. dr. Liedeke Plate will work with embodiment researcher Vicky Fisher and Farida Nabibaks on responses to music and dance-theatre performance Schitterende Schaduw/Radiant Shadow to understand how it functions as an affective methodology and how embodied knowledge can be made perceptible and negotiable in the public domain. A sneak peak of the performance, with an interview (in Dutch) can be found in the link below:

I would like to end by sharing an inspiring quote by Nabibaks which she shared in an article on the occasion of the 140th jubilee of the abolition of slavery in Suriname:

‘Let us be who we are, feel what our power is and where we can grow, and from there reach out to others.’


Author: Yvette van Engelenburg
Image: Private Collection

Find us also on our social media platforms where you can always reach out if you have any question or suggestions.  

Instagram: @w_o_t_t 

Facebook: @WomenOnTheTimeline 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s