When Artistic Director, Gerry Morita, approached me to curate the 2021 Winter Salon the first thing I thought was, “Which ACB femmes do I know that I can invite to perform with me?” And then I immediately thought: Am I being repetitive?
My work centres African, Caribbean, Black (ACB) and femme identity. I have come to describe my process as researching to create and creating to research. In my research, I have prioritized understanding how ACB femme bodies are represented, perceived, and treated. And in my performances, I explore taking up space to resist and challenge negative stereotypes of ACB femmes. So, it is easy to feel like I am always doing the same thing, saying the same thing, asking the same question: what does it mean to exist in a body racialized as Black and gendered female?
At the same time, I feel like we have not gotten to a point in history where it is no longer necessary to ask this question. The urgency of this question is marked by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the increasing levels of gender-based violence and the income disparities highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic. I have to keep asking myself what it means to exist in this body – a body racialized as Black and gendered female – to find ways to assert my sovereignty. I explore this question through performance to resist death.
One of my mentors, Elissa Weinzimmer, reminds me of the power and utility of repetition because the human brain needs to hear things multiple times to absorb it. A younger me used to talk about using repetition to encourage seeing the same thing (same people) again in a different way – re-presenting. In this re-presenting though, I was always justifying my humanity to others. The more I ask myself what it means to exist in this body the more I am learning to claim my own humanity for myself.
I continue to centre ACB femmes and make space for their voices because ultimately, we must define ACB femininity for ourselves, to turn towards each other and recognize our own humanity by recognizing each other’s. I do this work through performance because I still believe representation matters, and where given an opportunity we must speak for and represent – re-present – ourselves…
*Photos by Stephanie Patsula, taken at MZD’s mid-winter salon Site/Sight/Place (2022).