Have your eyes recovered from Saburo Teshigawara's visual sensation, MIROKU? What did you think of the blue box effect? Did you find yourself travelling to the mind's eye, as Teshigawara implied? Let us know your thoughts!
"Our music speaks
for the people. We are influenced by the people who are struggling at home.
Their voices have been silenced. Someone has got to talk."-Thomas Mapfumo
Courageous: to have a quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or
pain. Entrepreneur: a person who has possession of a new venture or idea.
Musical: talented in or devoted to music. Exiled: expelled from a country, or
from a person's native land. Thomas Mapfumo: all of the above.
Thomas Mapfumo is a musician, political activist, and an admirable
human being. He was born in 1945 in Marondera, Zimbabwe, but now lives in exile
in the United States. Through his many decades of making music, Mapfumo has become
a cultural icon and is known as the "Lion of Zimbabwe."
This "Lion" is responsible for the creation of a genre of music
called Chimurenga, which means "struggle" in Shona. The composition is
traditional Shona mbira music, but played with modern electric instrumentation.
Characterized by revolutionary lyrics, Mapfumo's songs openly called for an aggressive
overthrow of the government. They reflected the uneasiness of the people around
him, speaking of the hardships in many of the rural areas, the young men
fighting in the war for independence, and the rising resentment against rulers
who had failed to recognize the Shona culture for too many years.
In time, the government banned Mapfumo's music from the radio and put him in
a prison camp in 1979. Large demonstrations occurred in protest of his arrest,
forcing the government to release him three months later.
Mapfumo's imprisonment and its uproar became major roles in the 1980 fight for
free elections. But when Mapfumo continued to aggressively sing about government
issues in the late '80s, he became the aim of numerous administrative
investigations and ultimately was forced into exile.
While sitting in the Africa gallery of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts recently, I was struck by the Nkisi--a sculpted wood figure of the Congo in which every blade, every nail represented an oath, agreement, or episode in village history. It was believed that when an oath was violated or crime committed against the community, the Nkisi helped in carrying out the criminal's punishment. Amidst the vacant eyes of the ancient masks, walking sticks, Diviners artifacts, and maternity figures of the gallery, the Nkisi captured, for me, the strongest sense of continuity in its' quest to honor the integrity of a community.
The essence of Nora Chipaumire's work seems to capture a similar sense of continuity and impassioned call for a return to such integrity--of adding to the layers, blades, and nails an ongoing dialogue with her ancestry. While the Nkisi tradition has its' roots north of Chipaumire's native Zimbabwe, the sentiment still holds a resonance in seeking to understand the human experience across borders, time, and bodies. We hold the truths and oaths the Nkisi is infused with in our bodies--Nora will be evidence of this when she takes the Northrop stage. Here is a body, not a wooden sculpture, imbibed with the memories, promises, betrayals, and possibility of a village of soul.
In this way, we all speak the nuance of Nkisi. No translator or diviner necessary.
last year, Japanese dance artist Saburo Teshigawara premiered a new duet
entitled "Obsession." Inspired by the creative efforts of Luis Bunuel
and Salvador Dali's 1929 16 minute silent film "Un Chien Andalou,"
the piece explores the rigors and conflict the psyche is subjected to by
suppressed emotion. The film, consisting of a dream logic narrative and a
series of unsettling images, played a role in ushering Surrealism into
celluloid. The two co-creators, Dali and Bunuel, are rumored to have carried
rocks in their pockets to the premiere of their first collaboration,
anticipating a potentially violent reaction from the audience. Much to the
disappointment of Dali, the crowd loved the film, thus rendering the use of
rocks in self-defense as unnecessary.
This got me thinking about resistance and weight--those rocks we
inherit, those we seek, and those we arm ourselves with to make it through
life. To what extent do these rocks prevent new forms, new modes of thought and
being from emerging?
Teshigawara lies an artist who moves with the path of least
resistance--honoring the presence of the rocks in their varying roles, but
ultimately moving like water around, above, and below them. His movements have
been described as "unnaturally fluid--" to see him move is to
experience the human body as an intelligent organism intimately connected to
the fluid system that informs, nourishes, and inspires it. With the upcoming
performance of his 2007 solo work, MIROKU, we'll catch a glimpse of the
heightened sophistication and articulation the body is capable of--an evolution
and transcendence of form before our eyes.
we're not quite capable of moving like Teshigawara quite yet, there's always
the fine Spring pursuit of skipping rocks--how better to celebrate the thaw?
Still Dizzy from Dizzy? Did you find yourself
itching to log on to iTunes to buy as much Gillespie as you could find? Did the
band's diverse backgrounds reach you through the music? What did you think of
the original compositions?