Friday, June 20, 2008

Collaboration with Nora Chipaumire

Since I mentioned this collaboration before, I wanted to give you at least one visual from the rough draft performance. I'm off to London soon so I'll be thinking about her choreography constantly while I'm away. Nora divided her movements into four sections, reflecting four ways that Africa is branded (I'm quoting from my memory of the dance, not from Nora directly)—1) the tourism brand, the violent brand, the real brand (that is rarely heard), and the exotic brand. Dearest expats, especially who have lived in Africa, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these ideas. I'm still developing the imagery and need all of the stories I can gather.

More about Nora is at I love this section of her biography. She has such a fascinating history.

Nora won a 2007 Bessie Performer Award for her performances during Urban Bush Women's Joyce season. In Dance Magazine's May 2008 issue, Eva Yaa Asantewaa writes, "Nora Chipaumire is a lioness--a regal, iconic presence hailed for her performances with Urban Bush Women as well as her own solo creations." The article continues to comment on Nora's law school degree and her decision to switch to contemporary dance so that she can take charge of how Africans are seen. Nora says, "Art can be transformative, reach a higher place in humanity without being dogmatic...for Africans, dance is a fundamental, democratic way to communicate."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Virginia Center for the Creative Art

Thin Cities: Underwater Hockey. Ink + gouache on vellum. 9 x 24 in. 2008.

I've been meeting to write this post since I returned from this heavenly place. If you find yourself unable to set aside large amounts of time to develop your creative outpourings due to family and / or work distractions, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA, is my recommended solution. I was there from May 14-May 28, and I met so many extraordinary artists, poets, and filmmakers. Email me at if you want more information. I highly recommend this residency program.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mad Land by Nicola Jane Barratt

More writing by Nicola Jane Barratt sent from Madagascar

We're winding down our two year stint in Madland and our 8 years abroad, at least for a year - returning to Jersey. Lots of wild adventures we have had - trying to get some closure by thinking back through all of it - but the sorting and packing, sorting and packing leaves me too exhausted for deep thoughts! Lots of people stopping by - Boudu and Roundu who have sewn curtains, shirts, suits, mosquito nets and finally a beautiful quilt made from Gabby, Jeanette and Haley's old dresses. Sahandra came with the framed prints from our favorite Malagasy artist who calls herself Sexy Expedition. Eric and Son came by to drop off 8 pairs of amethyst, aquamarine, and garnet earrings i've had made for some of you - he will return one more time with Jeff's birthday present to me - an emerald with 2 pink sapphires set in a gold ring (i got it - it's great). And the crates arrived to pack our stone table tops - jasper, agate, labradorite, petrified wood, and melange de pierre.

Did my last long field trip here last week - took 10 students south to work and visit three sustainable design projects - the Lemur Forest Camp where Daniel and Berenice have created a rainforest tree nursery and are slowly replanting the rainforest using proceeds from their ecotourism project - small chalets and restaurant built from their sustainable eucalyptus and pine forest project. Clearly though, they have been living alone in the forest for too long - when we arrive there is a whole goat roasting over an open fire, dinner is served in a windowless room, french rap music is at loudest volume, while their daughter's semi-nude photography is scrolling by on a computer monitor - quite an experience for many of the high schoolers! On to Fianarantsoa, where we worked for two days with the Society for the Preservation of the Old City of Fianar - we helped rebuild a home that was destroyed in Cyclone Ivan and built a composting latrine for the two families who will live there. On to Andringitra National Park for ring-tailed lemurs, caving, bouldering and views for a hundred miles.

I will keep in my heart the empty white sand beaches, the morning cries of the Indri indri, chameleons walking slowly with eyes in all directions, winding roads through misty mountains, zebu in the rice paddies, mangoes and litchis, bougainvillea and hibiscus, jacaranda and flame trees, the red soils and dust, the amazing game parks of mother Africa with lions, giraffes, rhino, hippo, leopard, cheetah.

But it is also the people, thousands of smiling children of all ages, mostly in tattered clothes, barefoot, a little snotty, running wild, climbing, playing football with anything even somewhat round, carrying little brothers and sisters on their backs. The women wrapped in bright, colorful chitenges or lambas or sarongs and the arab women all dressed in black. The bowler hats of the Malagasy and the covered heads of the muslims. The drumming, dancing and wailing into the wee hours of the dark, smoky nights. And people walking, walking everywhere; carrying anything and everything on their heads.

ok - the shippers have arrived