When Visions Fall From Sky ” is an IR :: indigenous resistance CADO – a Cinematic Ancestral Dub Offering (pronounced as cadeau, meaning “gift” in French) – directed and edited by Ugandan filmmaker Joshua Black-Alibet.
“When Visions” pays homage to African ancestral practices, emphasizing the mystical experience while challenging the grand narratives and stereotypes that have been made (and used against) African peoples throughout modern history.
It also makes these interventions using the musical concepts of experimental dub to structure the narrative film according to the A-/B-side format of the vinyl recording.
The A-side is set on the beautiful Ugandan island of Senene, Black’s visualization of “When Visions Fall From Sky” uses the natural lighting of the early morning sunrise to create luminous, soft textures. It draws on the subtleties of the colour spectrum in ways that evoke Daughters Of The Dust (1991), a landmark work of African-American cinema in which director Julie Dash handled lighting in ways that caressed its Black protagonists in a beautifully affirming manner.
Woven within these moments of visual beauty there are bass-heavy voices of dub poetry and jagged dub inflected percussion. Together, these elements have the piercing effect of presenting what Sankara Future Dub Resurgence describes as “Our African story” (as opposed to his story):
18th-century literacy rates in West Africa
In places like Senegal
Were two to three times higher
Than any place in Europe at the same time
Plantation records in America
were often kept by enslaved African Muslims
using African languages written in Arabic script
because the slave owners could not read or write
In 1770, before the French and American revolutions,
There was a revolution in Futa Toro, West Africa
That not only abolished slavery but kings
They can’t take the book from you
If you are the book.
The “BOOM” behind each message represents the power of remembering African knowledge
The “BOOM” behind each message represents the power of remembering African knowledge-traditions in light of racist, historical erasure. As photographer and musician, Aniruddha Das notes, “seldom is there ANY depiction of African people with books or reading.”
“When Visions Fall From Sky” is also a multi-layered piece. this is where the film flips over to its B-side narrative.
Those with eagle eyes will spot a myriad of dub resistance references in the most unlikely places on the island location and in the various poster designs specifically created for this film by designer Dubzaine. The homages include references to African-American feminist-poet Audre Lorde, The Native Creative Process (1991), a seminal book by Jeanette Armstrong and Douglas Cardinal with photography by Greg Younging, editor and author of The Elements of Indigenous Style (2018), the militant experimental music of Dhangsha, Brazilian activist Marielle Franco, African anarchists, and the liberation movement for a Free West Papua.
The current genocide against the indigenous people of West Papua is criminally overlooked in corporate media, but not forgotten in this film.
Ultimately, the B-side of “When Visions Fall From Sky” pays homage to “the righteous who have passed here before us” and foregrounds this sentiment through images of Rastafari sistren Nelly Stharre and a Ugandan matriarch Mukuni Ayenyo.
The film draws on the knowledge of indigenous wisdom keepers and modern-day scholars like Dr. Rudolph Bilal Ware III
An integrated holistic approach to resistance, politics, spirituality, and physical and mental health is evident in the film with references to traditional Chinese medicine teachers and practitioners, psychotherapists, counselors, and healers like indigenous traditional healer James Carpenter from Turtle Island.
Embedded in between glorious images of nature and the smiling children found on Senene are Haitian Vèvè drawings found in Voudou that are connected to loa (spirit) of Damballah alongside a reference to the Haitian ancestral hypnotist Michelange Quay.
The B-side of “When Visions Fall From Sky” makes the link between ancestral traditions, wisdom keepers, healers and the fight for social justice in Africa as well as the Americas. One instance is through a photograph of Turtle Island indigenous elder and activist Art Solomon, who fought tirelessly on behalf of political prisoners and for prison abolition. Another is Dutty Boukman, one of the key figures in the Haitian revolution.
Lastly, the African anarchist reference in “When Visions Fall From Sky” also ties into a new Sankara F.D.R. track, “Anarchist Africa” which has the following lyrics
“Those who seek to reclaim our African glory o often put centralized African kingdoms
Like Kemmet Mali Kush
At the center of their story
Name-checking kings and queens
To add to the sheen