Music from the African diaspora has played a prominent role within my studio practice and life in which I am a huge lover of blues, jazz and hip-hop music. With my new body of work about the erasure of black women titledThe EvanescedI am exploring music and movement that is integrated with making brushes and drawing while I dance.
This performance debuted at The California African American Museum on April 27, 2017. After the performance during the Q & A I was asked about my sources for the songs. My practice is intensely research based and comes from collecting, listening and studying musical forms from various time periods and sources. I have been collecting all of the songs featured for years with the exception of Zora Neale Hurston's folk song recordings. Jen Everett, an amazing photographer and sculptress sent me a link of her recordings from The Library of Congress after our residency together at The Atlantic Center for the Arts last year.
When I first heard Halimuhfack I knew that I had to start the performance off with it. Zora says she does not remember who she learned the song from but that she had to go in a crowd of women in the evening time to learn it. They would sing it to her and she would sing it back to them until they were satisfied that she knew it and then she said that she would carry the song in her memory.
"Oh you like my features
But you don't like me
Don't you like my features
Don't you shake my tree
Well you may go
But this will bring you back
A voodoo a hoodoo
A voodoo wagon
My heels are popping
and my toe nails cracking"
The image that her words conjured up of how she learned the song was so haunting to me, because like Zora I had to go through archives, websites, word of mouth and basically into these crowds of lost/missing black women to learn their songs and then carry them in my memory in order to channel them into this work. I am forever grateful to Jen for sharing Zora's recordings with me! The other songs I collected are from my experiences as a nomad living in Louisville, KY, Brooklyn, NY, Baltimore, MD, and Los Angeles, CA. I have been carrying them with me for years. Many of the songs are about sexuality, rebellion, joy, hurt and raw emotion. They are chain gang songs from prison camps, songs about being a sex worker, the joys of twerking and about transgressive acts throughout the diaspora. I plan to continue this body of work and there are so many more that I have to add to this set list.
The Evanesced #24, 2016 India Ink and Chalk on Acid Free Recycled Paper
Click on the songs below and listen for yourself. In this way the music continues to work its medicine and magic.