TEETH KISSIN’ What I’ve been doing Lately, is an ongoing series experimenting with archive imagery as a source of poetic utterance. Combining photography, poetry, and music the series aims to capture a haptic resonance in image construction. Memory, imagination, and cultural anchors are thus employed as material from which to extract ways of visualising black experience.
MUSOYA, a term equating to ‘femininity’ in Bambara (Malian dialect) is a performance by Patricia Badin, (performance artist and dancer) in collaboration with Divine Southgate-Smith (transdisciplinary artist).
Drawn from a series of conversations, interviews, and workshops the performance is an audio-visual re-centering of the black gaze. A beautifully choreographed collage of Twerk, Afro-Fusion, improvisation, and film. The staging of the performance is simple and raw - the film substitutes the voice of a Dancehall MC. MUSOYA is an empowering celebration of the black female body in movement.
The performance focuses on the significance of Twerk and its evolution in the Caribbean, most specifically in the Jamaican Dancehall scene. Tracing the history of isolated movement in African Dance (hip, bottom, and stomach areas). ‘Twerk’ is a contraction of ‘twist’ and ‘jerk’ – two American dance forms that originated in the 1960s. The term first reached mainstream audiences in ‘Do the jubilee all’ (1993) by DJ Jubilee, a rapper from New Orleans. The dance form, however, dates back to pre-colonial Africa and subsequently echoes through a history of structural dehumanization, contraception, and racism.
Twerk is internal perhaps even more so than it is a spectacle; it is a trance both instinctive and liberating. Many black women struggle to embody the dance for it is often vilified as savage, uncivilized, pornographic, and degrading to women. Shame becomes a form of suppression, often reinforced by the black community, and designed to ensure survival and respectability for black women through a white-centric gaze. To the detriment of black female expression, this cultural erasure is inevitably founded upon European views that every facet of African culture is pagan and hyper-sexual.
“In dancehall, the words are important, they are instructions to the dancers and a reflection of the communities values and beliefs - often it can be empowering but it can also be homophobic and sexist”
— MUSOYA in conversation with DIVINE SOUTHGATE-SMITH
TEETH KISSIN’ Where Elephants Reside is an adaptation of my spoken word poetry written throughout the period of 2019-2021. The book uses photographs from various archives and original images to create a sequence of collages integrated with spoken word poetry. Publication as a site for conversation, reading as performance.
There are many nuances to ‘kissing your teeth’, a non-verbal gesture that since childhood enabled me to confidently object, agree, poke fun and even show love. An intimate tool for communicating, used in various Black and Brown communities to express a multitude of positionings and understanding. Whether it be political or personal. TEETH KISSIN’ is an ongoing series of works, exploring sites for conversation through a medium non-specific lens. It is a space I have carved out to address the personal, historical, and collective through storytelling and healing.