Cultural identity and language are two aspects of my work I have proven a commitment towards for over ten years. My work as a poet, a vocalist, musician and sound artist has taken me to many places linguistically. This interest has led me to work artists from Suriname, Hungary, Austria, Cuba and St. Lucia. Where language may encumber one’s understanding of another culture, it has only strengthened my awareness and commonality to others; thus allowing me to understand myself more fully as a woman, a woman of African Indigenous descent, and an artist.
The project, un momentu, began with a dance class. In searching for an activity separate from my graduate studies, I signed up for an Afro-Peruvian dance class at the Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco. At the same time, I came across a piece of artwork that took its inspiration from the 1780 peasant rebellion leader José Gabriel Conderanqui Tupac Amaru II: the namesake for the rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur. Inspired to learn more about the man Tupac Amaru II, I discovered his wife, Micaela Bastidas and his assumed mistress, Tomasu Titu Condemayta. Later, in conversations with Peruvian musicians, it was conveyed to me that Micaela (one of the chief deputies and comrade to Tupac Amaru II during the revolution) was part African, part Andean. However, many historians had cited Micaela as being Spanish, Mestiza, or Andean,
Astonished and enthralled by the question of her ethnicity, I began un momentu as a series of letters in persona, prose, and sound text to explore displacement and identity, mobility, and passing. It is a journey into understanding a woman like Micaela – whether or not her ethnic mixture may have allowed (or hindered) her mobility as a woman – and the relationships between Africans and Andeans during colonial Peru. My project also examines and contextualizes this experience with my own to explore how the act “passing” may even trickle down to the dynamics set in conceptual and contemporary art.
This project is being supported by The Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant.