“Performing is a part of my identity”, says the Dutch Surinamese vocalist and producer Pink Oculus. Two years of not being able to do what she loves the most led to a brand new sound, and new music too: her forthcoming album, ‘Before Wisdom’, is expected in 2022. At Le Guess Who?, she will premiere these songs through an Afrofuturistic collaborative show where art, scenography and music become one.
Interview by Stephanie Afrifa
Photography by IAMKAT
Pink Oculus has always been an artist that alludes self love, self awareness and reinvention of the Self. “Getting closer, out the dark, I’m led by the woman I have become” - ‘Overdue’ (2015). Yet again, you have grown into an elevated version of yourself. Can you tell me more about this rebirth, and the wisdom that comes with it?
“The inspiration for the new album came from a very toxic relationship. The songs are about the relationship you have with yourself and post-traumatic spiritual growth. It’s about what you do and how you relate to yourself when you get out of such a damaging relationship. I asked myself what’s next. Am I going to be a victim or use the hurt to rise and be a wise woman? There’s this quote by Maya Angelou: “A wise woman wishes to be no one's enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone's victim.” That’s what I decided to be. But during the relationship I wasn’t that wise woman yet. That’s why the album is called ‘Before Wisdom’. I sing about the journey to becoming a wise woman.”
The humbling journey of life. What did this experience teach you?
“That trauma has two sides: the painful side, and the side that expands your understanding of the world. You can’t know what Light is without having experienced darkness. Also, you have to choose yourself at all times.”
How did this experience translate into your new multidisciplinary project ‘Before Wisdom’?
“An abusive relationship makes you feel as if you’re not safe anywhere. Not even in your own body. That’s what I’ve experienced and still experience everyday. I find myself asking if I’m at a place where I can express myself freely because my authentic expression has been doubted and attacked before. So I was like, I have to create that safe space for myself. When I perform I feel like the stage is my safe space. The audience are just spectators to my performance. Whatever I do – they have to accept it. With the help of spatial designer Dennis Vanderbroeck and audiovisual artist Boris Acket I’m creating the scenography for the show. It expands the ways in which I can tell my story.”
What defines a safe space to you?
“A safe space is a place where there’s no judgement. Where you can express yourself freely. A place where you can grow and come together with people, like-minded or not. I create those spaces but the first place to be safe is in my body. I consciously work on making my body a safe space everyday by not judging myself and allowing my raw emotions.”
Did that translate into your music as well?
“Yes, because I make the music that feels closest to me. Also, the process of producing the music together with producer Binkbeats was a way to regain my power. The songs on the album started as ‘Pinkstagrams’: one minute songs and videos that I shared on my Instagram. The structure and sound are different from my earlier music. I don’t stick to traditional rules in producing. It’s literally off the grid. Every time I showed the tracks I recorded to Binkbeats he was like ‘you don’t start at the count of one’. It’s experimental and sounds more industrial. It’s actually very metal. Not the genre but the element. It still sounds very warm though. It’s me talking to myself.”
Metal. Is this where Afrofuturism chimes in?
“Aspects of Afrofuturism are more visible in the visual design of the show rather than the music. The stage becomes my temple with the help of kinetic lights. Regaining my own power and creating a safe space can be linked to my Surinamese Maroon heritage and to the essence of Afrofuturism. You’ll have to come check out my show at Le Guess Who? to discover it.”
Pink Oculus presents Before Wisdom at Le Guess Who? 2021 on Friday 12 November in TivoliVredenburg.