Of Yasuke, the Western Lens and Historical Filters

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Making Yasuke Happen.

Great news this month. Deborah DeSnoo and I have obtained the support of a major company in Japan to partner with us in the production of an animated documentary and to pursue a live action multi-part series. It’s not over. We can’t buy a cup of coffee with it yet but agreements are in the offing this week.http://yasuke-san.com/2017/04/western-lens-historical-filter/

Yasuke is Now A Hot Global Property

News of the Lionsgate “Black Samurai” project to be written by Gregory Widen (Highlander) actually contributed greatly to the acceleration of our Japanese deal. The storyline of Yasuke as a slave probably makes sense to the Western mind, as internal biases and lack of a thorough grounding in 16th Century world history and cross-cultural interactions lend itself first to that specific idea.

Yasuke’s Story is World in Shadow

As Sun Ra declared musically back in the 1950s, “There Are Other Worlds (they have not told you of)” and a generation of us sprang forth out of the black hole holes of places like Mississippi with a velocity that landed us in far flung places geographically, mentally.  We were bred to seek worlds of alternative realities to explore.

In my twenties I lived in East Africa. I pursued  women participating in archeological digs unearthing evidence of an the African past we know in our hearts live in the basements of places like Terne, Berlin and London and the Field in Chicago.

hamPeople like Hammurabi Robb prepared me for this journey when I was 7 visiting his House of Knowledge where he often told us we were “AfroAsiatic.”  It would be 14 years before I understood his meaning.

The husband of artist and DuSabe Museum founder  Margaret Burroughs, Charlie, who was raised in the 1930s Soviet Union (a real black Russian during the time of Stalin) welcomesd me into their home (next door to Ham’s House of Knowledge, it was the Coach House our back) on Sunday afternoons  told me the tale of Pushkin’s grandfather, the African, Ibragim Petrovich Hannibal, right hand man to Peter the Great, hero of the Franco-Spanish War. I learned of so many others from the likes of J.A Rogers, John Henrik Clarke,  who left me with no doubt who we are in the “New World” and the old.

As an African American I am just another passenger on SpaceShip Earth. That thought came to me as I worked a ship sailing the Swahili Coast Somalia to the Cape in 1975.  I was regaled with stories of my shipmates glorius past to the sound of the Oud and under starlit nights on the Indian Ocean.

I ate ugali and nyama mbozi in the homes of my shipmates. Their children stopped their football games to greet me with the respectful “shikamoo” and I was grateful that I knew enough to respond “marahaba.” I stood within the ruins of Kilwa, a relic of rich trade and the spread of Islam.”

I worked with traditional Swahili sailors, on their ships, sailing in their beautiful Dhows. A few told me this is what their father’s fathers had done and the trade never ended.  I never learned to swim. I can float and not panic. That’s about IT! But I got in the boat and made sure I didn’t fall out.

There are stories yet to be told of this pre-western Africa and There is an ancient world of City-States and coastal Islamic outposts that has yet to be explored by western media.Europe had not yet partitioned the continent in the 16th century. This was 100 years before the founding of America. The old world was making way for a new world that imposed it’s culture and religions with as much zeal as any jihadist. None of what many of us think we know applies in that complex world of conflict, war, peace and love.In that imposition of culture, history is only half written. What we at Plug-In Productions intend is to dredge the dark corners of history to retrieve those lost stories that gave us a phenomenal character like Yasuke. He who stood with the men who became the pillars of a unified Japan, that once unified, turned it’s back on the west. What would that conversation between Toyatomi Hideyoshi and Yasuke be like before his departure from Japan.This is a story that is essentially African and Japanese. There is a mystery is this tale of a lone warrior. One in which we can only speculate Yasuke’s reality. But we can throughly examine the evidence free of a Western lens and historical filter.