Myth-making and Performance

October 13,  7:33 pm

I’m working on a performance. Its been an amazing, creative,  challenging, eye-opening process. I’ve found it to be an exciting task that I look forward to allotting time to. In fact, sometimes when i take a break from the more mundane readings and can storm around chapters in my library books to brainstorm and THINK CREATIVELY i feel like writing and working like this ought to be a right.

I’m going to share with you the conceptual brief/organized brainstorm of my piece along with a clip of an artist whose work really inspires me.

Before i dive in let me offer some context:
I am an African Caribbean woman, I grew up in a family primarily of African Caribbean women who arrived to Canada from Trinidad & Tobago via Brooklyn as a sisterhood of teachers, nurses, a home care aid and my mother, a social worker. As a family we occupied the conflicting space of striving towards a ‘Canadian identity’ while maintaining a very distinct Afro-Caribbean culture inside the house.  This means that as a child when asked what my favourite food was my response would be “pizza” when I really wanted to say “roti and curry goat”; It meant watching my older brother being put back a grade for being educated outside of Canada and myself having to endure ESL training because of my Yankee/Caribbean accent, despite the fact that English was not only my first language but the only language I spoke. Amongst all the sociocultural cues my mother had to absorb and rely back to us children (in addition, of course, to her economic burdens) being AfricanCaribbeanCanadian also meant that somewhere in-between those twin hyphens lay a confusion about my history. I did not understand what it meant to be African, Caribbean nor Canadian.  Conflicting messages and dateless stories came from school, church and TV. The family members who could enlighten us didn’t have the time, felt as though children couldn’t understand such a complex history, or they didn’t know. So I was left, like many of my friends, asking questions to each other, inventing answers to fill the gaps and relying on traumatic, violent movies about slavery to ‘educate’ us on our history.  It is in a search to piece together some of these missing stories that inform my performance idea.

The working performance idea:
Im working on creating an Arrival Myth. Something similar to a creation story but about the arrival of Afro-Caribbeans to Canada. Ideally this would be a combination of my personal story, my family story and the broader political history of arrivals into Canada, a type of bio-mythology.  To me myth-making is important because it can explain stories the way no other form can, turning trauma into victory, where dark caves are safe places and black pointy hatted witches are more complex than good or bad. I’m inspired to create this myth because i want the missing pieces of our stories to be gaps filled with wonder and magic, where the healing power of imaginations can take over. Yes, this will be a story of arrival but its greatest intention is to claim a space in the Canadian historical normative narrative and to enforce the significance of the contemporary Afro-Caribbean presence in Canada. The intention is to create a myth or a story that a parent would be proud to share with a child because it is empowering, magical and explains an often-confusing history.

I’m working on the details now. What is written above is the grand idea and I’m honestly not sure where it will take me.  I’m still in the research phase and will begin the writing process in the next few days and will be on my feet shortly after. As I go through these steps I’m looking into the work of other performance artist who use testimony and multimedia to tell their stories. Below are two amazing examples of performance and testimony by Sarah Jones. Take a look see and share ideas of artists you think I should look into.

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One thought on “Myth-making and Performance

  1. I love the way you share your experiences- it really resonates with me.
    Sadly your ESL experience mirrors mine when I first arrived from JA.

    Looking forward to more of your posts.

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