we’re jumping right into this thing – and are excited to be documenting our process. facetime chats on a weekly schedule keep the momentum and energy high. we just recently put on our first show (images and videos shall be posted later) of what will be a continuing and growing project.
so here’s what we’ve conjured up so far:
a series of performances with, Ode to Black Wombman as the conceptual central idea, that will take place in varying cities (cities to be announced in a later post). a portion of the project will be performed as a separate but related piece in Richmond.
the performances will include artists solos, group performances, bodily sounds, handmade visuals, water, air, earth, fire and most importantly, black women.
richmond project synopsis a visual and performative interpretation of gentrification specifically within the Jackson Ward community in richmond, virginia. handcrafted masks with white faces in conjunction with black moving bodies via choreographic interpretation to create a perspective of the migration of black bodies from the entry point into virginia to their newly developed neighborhoods and the intrusion of whiteness into those spaces.
below is an example of the many masks that will be used in the richmond project and the upcoming performances as well.
keep checking in with us – we’ll be posting as we move through this exciting process! see you soon
There’s been a gnawing anxiety about performing Next Sunday, maybe it’s because I’m young…unorthodox in the way I create or just the mere fact that performance creates exposure into the deepest corners that none of us want to expose. I first performed “Ode To Black Wombman” in my old apartment in South Philly…next thing I knew I was looking up to an audience in my bedroom clapping and crying in the end of the performance. I didn’t know what it was about, I didn’t have a long thesis planned out, I didn’t have a huge budget. BUT I had creativity, a story, and a gift for wrapping things together….
I first did a showing back in October of 2016. Days prior I woke up to epiphanies halfway through a 21 day juice fast…songs, text, and movement kept me up late nights. I begin using the voice recorder on my phone and realized I had something…Weeks later I set up an informal showing, three best friends and two strangers appeared in the audience to be fed…and it began.
Fast forward to July 2017, I had just successfully completed my house show…those same epiphany feelings returned. I received an inkling to move forward on the road, visiting different cities and touring the work. I felt incompetent…how could I move forward with basic material and little money? The words “build and they will come” came to me, I knew it was time to jet yet I stood stuck in HOW? One week later my fear drove me to sign a one year lease for a West Philadelphia apartment just in case…I had all signs saying GET OUT including my new roommate busting through the door five days after signing my lease,throwing my items down the steps screaming GET OUT OF MY HOUSE. I had no business staying in one place and as uncomfortable it was to leave a house with a few dollars in my pocket, my furniture on the street , and nowhere to go I felt a sense of calm as I realized that this work was my answer….I had wasted enough time second guessing. It was time to see what my work could do…
Weeks later I stood on Broad St. finishing a teaching residency at UARTS with a bus ticket in hand, my bags, and the infamous mask on my way to Durham…little did I know, the experience of a lifetime awaited. (To be Continued)
On August 22nd 2017 “Ode To Black Wombman” entered the streets of Atlanta with magic sparkles, healing waves, and FAITH! This performance was presented at Gallery 992 with performers, Kamali Hill (dancer), Derrick the rapper, and Chantana Eshe (poet). This was the first confirguration of the show with a man involved as well as much spoken word. (I’d met Derrick two days before at Piedmont park feeding ducks…go figure!).
The performance entered through the door of the gallery with our famous “Ode” processional walk, leading into Kamali Hill’s solo to Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit as I mirrored the image of bodies hanging utilizing the same fabric that wrapped my body in numerous performances of before and after.
We transitioned through scenes utilizing Chantana’s beautiful words that demonstrated the rise of the black womb! My infamous “phoncecall heartbreak scene” was investigated utilizing the free spitting verses and rhymes of Derrick as he mirrored boyfriends of Black Girl’s past. I then transitioned into my Coltrane solo performed for swaying bodies in the audience to the syncopated rhythms of John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things”. Our performance concluded with Chantana stating a plethora of uplifting words to describe the black woman starting with “I AM” as we exited our stage in white, displaying our rise and overcoming the pain of the past. We resumed our processional walk back out as her words completely released the piece back into the wombniverse….
In this particular performance there was a standing ovation at the end of the piece and questions of “when will it be returning”? This was our first time having more than one child in the audience and that reaffirmed continuation and healing via performance. The infamous mask ended up on the heads of all children as laughter struck the room post performance. In our talk back conversations of developing the piece for schools and possibly prisons filled the space. Audience members offered the words:
Something to see,
In response to what they witnessed and heavy talk of future collaboration…
In THIS city our biggest feat was the audience! We had a show during rush hour so many who wished to make it could not… However, the RIGHT people were present and gave me just what I needed for future possibilities. Atlanta was a sweet treat that shifted my thinking for the future of this work…If we continue to invest ourselves how much further can we reach? Who else can be in the audience? How has utilizing local artists enhanced the piece? And what would a next time look like?
While in ATL I also had the pleasure of exploring the beautiful work of Dr. Martin Luther King. Sitting on his porch, visiting his church, and taking in black wall street! It was surely a treat that kept my wheels turning for the future….
Aside from the stories we tell, the moments we share and the emotional, mental and physical healing that this process is taking us through – we want to remind everyone that the Black Wombman needs her nourishment. The Black Wombman eats, and eats very well !
We’ve decided to share some of the recipes that currently have our souls and our tummies full. Check them out and be sure to try them out yourself !
What you need:
16oz of chickpeas | 3 med tomatoes | 2 yellow onions | 1 lime | 3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp coconut/ olive oil | 13.5oz of coconut milk | 2 tsp coconut flour
1.5 tbsp garam masala | 1 tsp curry powder | 1/4 tsp cumin | cayenne pepper to spice | salt and black pepper to taste
In deep pan, on medium high heat , add your oil. Add diced onions and tomatoes and cook for about 10 mins. Add in chickpeas, garlic, garam masala, cumin, curry and cayenne pepper.
Add in coconut milk and stir. To slightly thicken, add in coconut flour. Then bring curry to a boil and reduce to low for about 10 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper if you like, Remove curry from heat, squeeze lime and stir. Let sit for about 2-3 minutes.
Let us know how you like it by using the hashtag #odetoblackwombman and follow us on Instagram !
Our second home! Nastassja (visual artist) and Sanchel ( choreographer/curator) both are graduates of VCU so being in Richmond was truly a treat. Each time we perform this piece there are many questions and gray areas in terms of how it all will come together but low and behold it always happens. This past weekend just a few miles a way an uproar of racism too place in Charolettesville, VA with riots and violence connected to the removal of the a confederate structure. There was some trepidation behind performing outside while all of this happened but we pushed through and the results were such a sweet treat.
This time around “Ode” was performed on Clay Street in Jackson Ward formerly known as the Black Wall street of America. We utilized a neighbors porch, the sidewalk, fences, and the outside of the Historic Hood AME Church. Our audience was full of friends and community as many stopped briefly on bikes, watched from porches, and paused while on evening strolls. Our presence was enhanced with the infamous mask and simply four beautiful black women performing, a site that is rarely seen anymore.
It always amazes me to see the response of this work in each community, All who came were thoroughly touched and offered their “one word” responses at the conclusion of the performance. A new ritual that seals each performance. The words offered were:
“bravo! very encouraging, this has the potential to be a whole new market”
“strength, clouds, shifting, great transitions from part to part”
So yes! Racism was present this weekend in VA but so were we and we cleared the air! The power of #BlackGirlMagic. We are on to something….
Yesterday, we had the pleasure of gracing Jackson Ward, of Richmond, with the magic of Ode yesterday evening. Once again, we made our mark on yet another community and made our stories heard.
With this being the first performance to take place outside, within a neighborhood that’s so important to the history of Richmond, we received a different kind of attention and attendance than before. A natural attendance – as people took out their trash, walked to their car or even peeked out their window, the type of audience we had the opportunity to share with was an everyday one.
Looking forward to the next city, the next community and the next set of stories to be told.
Last night “Ode To Black Wombman” was performed by Sanchel as a sole show following her Baltimore Afro House Class at Dogtown Dance Theatre. In attendance were 4 black women, one black man ( videographer/artist Torian Ugworji) , and one white man. All had viseral and personal responses to the work…at the end of the showing a lightened applause struck the room. Two participants of Saturday’s performance was in attendance and seemed to have a keen interest and excitement about shedding their #blackgirlmagic and personal reflection. Their is common dialogue with the audience about putting the mirror up to ourselves when evaluating seeing this work performed. I think the best part about this performance is being a part of it while witnessing it at the same time.
One word responses that were written by audience members:
“It’s an Experience :)”
We are on to something in #Richmond…Looking forward to Saturday’s performance.
To say this piece is magical is an understatement. This past weekend choreographer/producer, Sanchel Brown, and visual artists/performer, Nastassja Swift, had the honor of kick starting the “Ode To Black Wombman Tour”!!!
Besides all of our venturing through North Carolinian Authentic culture including Waffle House and Cookout runs the impact of this piece has shown itself in numerous ways. We had the honor to do a small showing immediately after teaching an Afrofusion workshop at NC Underground Dance on our first night in town. Those who were in attendance spoke on the striking message of the work deeming it “a reminder of what art is really about”, most were intrigued by the amazing mask created by Nastassja (GO GIRL!) and want to see MORE!
Fast forward to day 2. Sanchel had the wonderful opportunity to teach alongside talented Durham artists Sakarah Hall-Edge and Danielle Criss for the “Do It For The Culture” Diasporic Workshop. Immediately after, our audience was able to catch a fuller showing of “Ode”. We included Jaded Beauty’s (Local NC Artist) beautiful poetic words along with Dani’s ferocious dancing weaved into what existed before. Needless to say once the performance was over the abundance of striking messages made me realize that this piece HAS to be done and that we may have more on our hands than we originally thought ( in a good way).
Feedback from the audience included seeing more mask on each dancer, specific choreography for the mask, and deeper exploration of the different “versions” of the black woman that appears within the piece. However there was an overall heartfelt performance and in black fashion a hat full of donations at the conclusion. We are on to something…
THIS WEEK we visit Richmond, VA and perform our work in the heart of Jackson Ward, a historically black neighborhood in Richmond that will soon have side effects of gentrification. We will be making our mark on this place, challenging ourselves with a new location of performance, and NEW Artists to join the POT!