M.A.M.A. Issue n.42: Afrooist and Wendy Carolina Franco

 

Procreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the 42nd edition of this scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. #JoinMAMA #artandmotherhood

July 2020: Art by Afrooist, Words Wendy Carolina Franco

Art by Sunshine Negyesi aka Afrooist

“This is a time of grieving but also a time of great change. Covid and the emergence of the BLM movement, served as a reminder that anything is possible. Never in a million years could we have predicted such unprecedented change. So as I watch the old structures crumble I am  reminded this is a period of infinite possibilities. The question now, is what world, what legacy, what vision I would I like to plant for the next generation.”

The most recent work of London based artist Afrooist, is a candid investigation into generational trauma. Her work reflects a personal journey of inquiry into her own family history, addressing the traumas which were entangled with the legacy of Colonialism .

Her work is fragmentary, working from big things which are edited down through various processes. These fragments relate to a bigger unseen picture, a remnant of something which has happened. Her art is the product of a performance where the unseen act of making is testified by her pieces.

She works across different media, ranging from live performances, painting and sculpture- using the poetry of hammering, beating, pulling, teasing and breaking, to express how her life has been lived and soaked in contrast. Her earlier works try to understand her black identity as it has been interpreted by society embracing the conflict revealed within the final pieces reflect the beautiful ugly of existence, that which is both attractive and repulsive, disquieting and squeamish, setting the viewer in an entanglement of something mucky, gritty yet sublime.

More about Afrooist

Born in London 1983, Afrooist was raised in a biracial family in Tooting, South London. Her mother is Filipino and father from Guyana . She studied classical studies at Warwick University ( 2005 ) and trained as an early years teacher at Greenwich University ( 2016 ). Artist and singer, she began as a self taught painter, and developed the ability to deconstruct and reflect on her practice whilst studying Fine arts at City Lit London (2018). During the Summer of 2019 Afrooist made her debut solo exhibition at The Ritzy Brixton which included a live art performance ritual framed around a character she named Black Persephone in musical collaboration with Tanc Newbury and Siemy Di.

A mother of 2 children, she strives to be the change she wants to see in the world. She is Co-founder with Dirish Shaktidas of a project called Futureseeds and is currently residing in South West London.

 

 Words by Wendy Carolina Franco, PhD

She her hers

A Body Other Than My Own

* This essay talks about the video of the murder of George Floyd.

When the day’s headlines about Covid-19’s devastating impact on the Black community were replaced with images of Black youth screaming next to burning cars, I reacted with fear. I was in full support of the protests but scared for the protestors. My 13-year-old twin sons felt that watching the video of George Floyd’s death was necessary for me to understand the rage in the streets. P said, “If you don’t see how he was killed, you are being a coward.” I replied that decades of seeing black people suffer changed nothing and only normalized seeing black bodies being abused. They chewed on that for a minute. My teenagers have plenty of complaints about me, but they respect my opinions on social and political issues.

I am a Dominican woman with a history of serial migration, meaning that my mother immigrated first, we reunited when I was twelve, and one year later, she was imprisoned for eight years for a drug-related crime a white person would have barely done time for, and was later deported. I grew up alone in New York City, dropped out of school. I eventually earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Now I specialize in trauma, counseling mostly minoritized people.

“Look,” I told the boys, “watching someone being murdered can be traumatizing to the viewer, and for young people of color, like you, it is particularly harmful to witness racially motivated violence.” Such videos reduce a person’s life to the day they were murdered, I argued. I suggested they focus instead on studying the origins of systemic racism, and—this part is really painful as a mother–on learning how to behave to stay safe. P and F told me they had seen many people of color die, and that their bubble of racially diverse kids had also seen all the viral videos. F said: “I don’t know if it’s good or bad for me to watch these videos, but this is the worst one I have ever seen.”

Still trying to protect my mental health, I asked them to describe it to me. I don’t know about all twins, but my boys talk at the same time and always contradict each other–it’s infuriating. This time, there were zero contradictions. P noted that the police and Mr. Floyd looked so calm that he thought it was fake, then he suddenly got scared for George Floyd. F spoke of moments he thought someone was going to intervene but were stopped.  They both described a slow realization that no one was going to help. The killer stayed on top of Mr. Floyd long after his body had gone limp. P concluded that if the officer had just gotten up, Mr. Floyd would have lived.

My face awash in tears, I had a knot in my throat. Avoiding the specifics had been a way of distancing myself from George Floyd’s murder. I still think that watching black people die is traumatizing for Black people and desensitizes non-Black people to their suffering. But the reality is that children are watching.

After my sons brought Mr. Floyd’s death to life, I looked for photos of him. A beautiful vibrant trio in a park summer outing came up. Wow, he was so tall and serious. He looked like a guy who kept his word. That little girl in his arms must have felt like God himself was carrying her. There was enough arm and chest for her to kick back and watch the world from up high. His partner was beaming, enjoying the circle they had created. It looked like a magnetic field, impenetrable and safe.

I decided to watch the video, once.

From watching the video of George Floyd’s death I learned that he was a survivor. Even in the most frightening and compromised state, Mr. Floyd had the wherewithal to control the instincts we all have. He did not fight, or attempt to run, or freeze. These responses to danger come from the most ancient parts of our brain. He mustered the focus to try to de-escalate the situation by reminding the man intent on taking his life that they are both human.

George Floyd said he was in pain, that he couldn’t breathe, communicating that he is human and like all of us will die without oxygen. He tried to calm the officers’ fears. He said he would comply with orders. He tried to adjust his body. He called out “Momma.” This dying man claimed his personhood by calling for his mother. He had profound attachments and a mother who loved him, and there is nothing more human than that. I don’t need to know how Mr. Floyd lived his life. The video of his murder showed his fighting spirit, his focus on surviving for his family, his humility, his dignity. He did not give up, but clearly understood what he was up against.

F knows what it’s like to not be able to breathe. He had pneumonia when he was eleven years old, and a young white doctor refused to take his complaints of difficulty breathing seriously. She said his lungs were clear and sent us home twice. I called my dentist, an old school Peruvian MD, who said, “GET OFF THE PHONE AND CALL 911.” My son was too weak to walk. He was rushed to the ICU where he remained for a whole week. They told me that he would have been dead in one day.

For the local protest, F made a sign that said, “I CAN’T BREATHE.”  I was flooded with sadness. He was not copying the rallying cry this sentence has become, he does not know how Eric Garner died, and he was not thinking of the countless COVID-19 patients who suffocated to death, or of the air pollution our way of living creates. As much as he understands, he has no idea.

The pain of Black people only seems to bring about more pain. The Brooklyn protests we went to were completely peaceful and about 50% white, but Black and Brown protesters risk a lot more. They will be arrested and penalized more harshly than their white counterparts. Protesting also poses uneven health risks. Clueless celebrities and people who do not understand systemic racism claimed the coronavirus would be the ‘great equalizer’; instead we learned that racial privilege extends to levels of exposure to the virus and the body’s ability to fight the illness. The data on mortality shows that Black people die at three times the rate of white peers. Why do we accept so much black death?

Being the target of injustice creates a double bind, or a lose/lose situation. If you do nothing,

you suffer psychologically and emotionally, and if you fight back you risk further harm. Yet, I have to be hopeful. I see solidarity for Black people and a focus on action. I too come from pain. I can relate with feeling invisible, unimportant, and forgotten. But I will never know what is like to live in a body other than my own.

We naively think that our shared humanity is enough to experience empathy, but it isn’t, because of antiblack racism. We live in a society that assigns value to people’s lives depending on their identity. In this case, we have seen the repeated dehumanization and abuse of Black bodies, and for generations, we have labored to rationalize a world wherein skin color, gender and sexual identity, religion, place of birth and physical ability are risk factors for suffering and death. The human brain will distort reality to protect us from the idea that bad things happen to good people. As an example, victims of abuse, even in the most extreme cases, find ways to blame themselves. On a psychological level, having provoked the abuse preferable to the idea that something out of your control, like your body, can make you a target of violence. We make sense of systemic oppression by blaming the victims.

To undo lifetimes of mind-bending justifications of a racist system, we need action. Laws force people to adjust their belief systems. But we can go further and explore the barriers that keep us from seeing ourselves and our loved ones in the faces of Black victims of racist violence. Those barriers are constructs like “us and them or good and bad,” that keep us focused on our own suffering and desensitize us to the pain of others.


M.A.M.A. Issue n.41: Michele Landel and Ann E. Wallace

 

Procreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the 41st edition of this scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. #JoinMAMA #artandmotherhood

March 2020: Art by Michele Landel Words by Ann E. Wallace

 

Art by Michele Landel

 

For There She Was, comes from the last line of Virginia Woolf ‘s “Mrs Dalloway” and includes over a hundred embroidered, burned, dyed and collaged images. The series emerged from thinking about all the women who are currently speaking out about their pain and trauma and are refusing to go away. To summarize this moment, Michele brewed natural dyes in her kitchen using organic materials and then dyed small scraps of fabric (a cloth baby diaper, an antique tablecloth, a stained tea towel…) to represent the physicality of womanhood and gender roles. She matched the fabrics with small paper dolls that are digitally edited photographs from clothing catalogues to show the commodification and manipulation of women’s stories. To deliberately erase the women, she burned holes in the photographs and repeatedly stitched over their faces and bodies. Yet the women are still there. Their presence is even stronger.

Who’s Afraid is intended to capture the tension between men’s anxiety of being unreasonably accused of inappropriate behavior and women’s fear of sexual harassment and assault. It is referencing the play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and the inherent tension between actors and audience that is part of a theater performance and in this play the volatile and complicated relationship between men and women. To capture this, Michele started with the gaze. Specifically the ‘male gaze’ as defined by the feminist film theorist, Laura Mulvey. She began with a photograph of an anonymous woman from a clothing catalogue.  The photograph fits interestingly within Mulvey’s three phases of the ‘male gaze’: How men look at women, how women look at themselves, and how women look at other women. She enlarged the photograph, divided it into small rectangles, and then printed the image on secondhand bed sheets. She pieced the photograph back together and painted, using machine embroidery, the woman onto a second bed sheet – covering her skin, hair and clothes with thread. She cut out the woman’s eyes to make the viewer uncomfortable and scared. Deliberately  referencing childhood ghost costumes made by cutting out eyeholes from old bed sheets, she is engaging with the idea of spectator and specter both of which have the Latin root word ‘spect’ meaning to ‘see.’ From a distance the embroidered figure on the sheet appears three-dimensional. The embroidered figure appears to ‘see’ the viewer when in fact the gaze is empty. The vacant gaze causes anxiety and feels powerful.

More about Michele

Michele is an American artist. She holds degrees in Fine Arts and Art History. Her work has been exhibited in Europe, the UK, and the US and she is extremely proud to have been in the 2017 Mother Art Prize group show. She was awarded the 2018 Innovative Technique Award by the Surface Design Association and is represented by the Jen Tough Gallery in Santa Fe, NM and the Muriel Guepin Gallery in NYC, NY. Her upcoming art events include Imagining Identity: Contemporary Textiles at the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation in Palo Alto, CA and the Hankyu Paris Art Fair in Osaka, Japan. Michele has lived in France for over 15 years. She has three school-age children and works out of her art studio in the Paris 9th arrondissement.

Words by Ann E. Wallace

Closed

Close the door.

She looks at me like I am ridiculous.

But I only left it open for a minute.

A girl raised by a father has not

had to think much about the reasons

a family of girls keeps the door closed

and locked.

A family of girls knows

the unwanted will enter

closed doors, will penetrate locks

uninvited.

We do not need to leave

the door open for them.

More about Ann

Ann E. Wallace writes of life with illness, motherhood, and other everyday realities. Her poetry collection is Counting by Sevens , from Main Street Rag, and her published work, featured in journals such as Wordgathering, The Literary Nest, Rogue Agent, Mothers Always Write, and Juniper, can be found on her website AnnWallacePhD.com. She lives in Jersey City, NJ and is on Twitter @annwlace409.


M.A.M.A. Issue n.40: Anna Perach and Jane Yolen

 

Procreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the 40th edition of this scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. #JoinMAMA #artandmotherhood

Feb 2020: Art by Anna Perach Words by Jane Yolen

Art by Anna Perach: Wearable Sculptures

 

Anna’s practice is informed by the dynamic between personal and cultural myths. She explores how our private narratives are deeply rooted in ancient storytelling and folklore and conversely how folklore has the ability to tell us intimate, confidential stories about ourselves. In her work She synthesises female mythic characters and retell their stories while placing them in the current climate. By doing so Anna creates an experience of eeriness, evoking a sense of both familiarity and distress.

Anna’s main medium of work is wearable sculpture and performance. She works in a technique called tufting, making hand-made carpet textile which she transforms into wearable sculptures. The sculpture functions as both a garment that is performed in as well as an independent sculpture. Through this choice of medium Anna is interested in exploring how elements associated with the domestic sphere operate as an extension of the self and reflect on one’s heritage and gender role. Her performances reverse this dynamic and exhibit the private domestic carpet as an external masquerade both exposing and hiding fragments of the self. 

https://www.annaperach.com/work

1. Alkonost, tufted yarn and hand embroidery, 80x130cm, 2019 2. Preety Lady (Kim), 190x80cm, Tufted yarn, beeds, metal and wood, 2020 3. Baba Yaga, machine tufted mask (portrait) 90x170cm, 2018 4.The Drunken Bride, tufted yarn & metal frame, 43x200cm, 2019

Words by Jane Yolen

Scars

I saw my mother undressed once.

There were ribbed scars on her back.

I rubbed my point finger

lightly over one of the ridges.

She shuddered at my touch.

I asked her if it hurt.

She said it was a reminder,

her voice almost cooing.

I was too young to understand.

Years later when they took my wings,

before I could even stretch them,

before the air had foiled around them,

I remembered that day. My daughter

and her daughters will never go

under that particular knife.

I will keep them safe, hidden

till the wind can lift them.

There is so much sky.

More About Jane

Jane Yolen will have published over 376 books by the end of 2018. She has worked in almost every genre possible. Her books include several NY Times bestselling children’s picture books, prize-winning short stories, and poems. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates. She was the first writer to win the New England Public Radio’s Arts & Humanities award. She’s mother of three (all in the book business) and grandmother of six.

“Scars” by Jane Yolen was previously published in Mom Egg Review Vol. 17, 2019.