We are all "Kanaken"
In his essay film, Wir sind alle Kanaken, Kervin Saint Pere demonstrates the complex layers of meaning associated with the term "Kanake" that have been violently imposed through European colonialism. The appropriation of the term is closely tied to racist practices of European colonialism in the Global South, and to this day serves to legitimize violence. Saint Pere examines these colonial practices using imagery of unscientific myths and "theories" that illustrate how the terming of an individual as "Kanake" is used to dehumanize, degrade and mark them as other and foreign.
It is exactly these objectified people who are cut out of historical post-cards and photos that appear in the film, leaving haunted silhouette windows through which archival material of European expeditions are glimpsed. The use of these mattes concentrates and magnifies the filmic gaze, effectively serving as a second camera eye focused on our own colonial gaze. The observers of the film no longer see the people who have been reduced to "Scenes of Violence", but instead those who participate in these forms of categorization and pejorative judgement, namely, the Europeans. Saint Pere achieves a reversal through this formal accentuation: Europeans who assume seemingly heroic poses as observers instead are transformed into objects of critical investigation. The voice-over repeats the phrase, "...as in the thought patterns of the European colonies", to precisely clarify how contemporary meanings of the concept "Kanake" – as guest-worker, refugee and so-called unassimilated individual – continues to be associated with colonial and racist imagery. In the past as in the present, the word serves as a form of categorization that legitimizes violence and guarantees an unjust system while it perpetuates unfair power structures and further forms of discrimination. (Cana Bilir-Meier)
Translation: Eve Heller
Archival footage »Neuguinea Papua« by Adele Kraft (Österreichisches Filmmuseum) and materials from the archives of Weltmuseum Wien and MARKK Hamburg
Wir sind alle Kanaken
22 min 20 sec
Kervin Saint Pere