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Untitled (for martinique)

at hotel l'impératrice, fort de france, martinique, the past collided with present to ask questions of and propose a new trajectory of the future of the country martinique.  The ancestors of afrtican descendants were invited through actions and Haitian and Martinican Creole folk songs that were sung by collaborator, Maïmé Massol. The historical bond between Haiti and Martinique is ancient and strong. A song for battle/fight/war, a song for work, and a song for protection. Maïmé is a living archive of folk songs from Martinique, Guadelupe and Guyane. As she was completely masked in Madras as she sung, it positions Madras as language. Masking with Madras elevates the fabric from is historical link to servitude, race and class structuralism, to that of a tool available for co-opting oppressive systems still in place in Martinique and the region-at-large. It is in homage to the Yoruba people that were enslaved in Martinique. Words from their language are present in the Creole spoken on the island today. The deliberate inclusion of the masking with Madras goes further.  The complete masking of Maïmé also draws from the Yoruba masquerade called Egungun. “Egungun” denotes the specific masking tradition among the Oyo Yoruba where it is believed that the practice originated. ...the term “egungun,” the broader of the two, it thought to refer to the concept of the “powers concealed” and can relate to practices which work to both honor ancestors and gods, both of which are considered “beings from beyond.” “Egungun” has been more explicitly associated with the honoring of the ancestors in particular, the Egungun society and “a descendant’s commitment to continuing the traditions of his(her) predecessors and maintaining the reputation of his(her) lineage.”*

 

During this time, I assumed the role of the colonizer. I became the colonized, spitting at my own image- "Who taught you to hate yourselves?" -Malcom X

The colonizer had spitted on the colonized and the colonized spat back. A simple action with multiple layers related to the image and perhaps what the image represents. I was the colonized while cleaning the floor with white lace gloves, cleaning the reception desk the same. All of this while the ancestors were with us, never leaving. I could go to the ancestors and spin (as Egungun does in a "performance")and a song related to the task in which I was about to engage would emerge from the masked body among us. Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock the other masked figure in the room kept time, asking how long it had been, where are we now and reminding us that time will tell where we end...

 

Other collaborators, Nelly Sicos and Yuvi Lefroy filled the space with bubbles. Their iridescence, shining and obscuring light, holding wind, holding breath of a creator, disappearing after time reference the cosmos, referring to African Cosmology. Bubbles are time, like the stars. 

Literal blood, sweat and tears were shed during the time shared in the making of this work. 

This work was made during:

Festival International d'Art Performance, 2017

*https://sohe.wisc.edu/research-development/textile-collection/textile-resources-2/featured-textiles-collection/cataloging-mystery-yoruba-egungun/

all photos by jb barret except where noted

photo: benny rené charles
photo: benny rené charles
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