Tag Archives: Masquerade

“Space:Queens”: Shervone Neckles

cd2lwabusaak8dxHello Everyone! I am back from my Barbados trip, where I learned a lot about the country, including finding out about some great visionary artists and creatives there. Speaking of visionary artists, below is my interview with Queens-based visual artist, educator, and community activist Shervone Neckles whose work looks at the intersections between science, nature, art, story and community. I hope you have enjoyed my Astro-Caribbean series for the past few weeks and although I am back, I will continue it for a week or two, including some of the artists I found out about in Barbados. Stay tuned!

“I’m fascinated with the idea that the source of one’s healing and nurturing can also be the source of one’s pain and suffering…”


1) Tell the readers a little bit about yourself.

Im Shervone Neckles, an interdisciplinary artist, educator, community worker and art administrator. I am a first generation Caribbean-American raised in East Flatbush Brooklyn to Grenadian parents. My work weaves together concepts of nature and science with objects and practices rooted in Afro-Caribbean tradition.The art objects I make (book arts, printmaking, sculpture and multi-media techniques) are part of my ethnographic study on the social meaning of beauty, identity, and cultural authenticity within black womanhood.

In addition, my practice includes social experiments and curatorial projects that explores the commonalities, differences, contradictions, continuities and the many possibilities of cooperative learning and civic responsibility. I believe this exchange between community and artist is crucial to our ability to protect, preserve and make change where we live, work and practice from an informed and respectful place.

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StoryCraft: Jenny

Facebook illustration in celebration of Barbados Independence

Since I’m in Barbados with my mother for Barbados’ 50th Independence Day Celebration, I thought I should share a children’s story I had been working on inspired by my mother and Barbados culture. I wanted to write a kind of Bajan Cinderella story after hearing about my mother’s childhood and learning more about the culture in Barbados, like Crop Over festival and costumed characters like Mother Sally.

The story’s title and main character is Jenny, a shortened version of my mother’s name. Jenny lives with her aunt Sheila and three cousins who treat her unfairly and have left her behind to go to the Crop Over Festival. After they leave, Jenny is introduced to a new woman coming up the road named Mother Sally.

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The My-Stery: “Get In-Formation: Black Performance, Black Code and Black Spies”

The Mask as Technology Part 3:

Source: AllHipHop.Com

Although I tried not to add onto the dozens of think pieces that are already out there about Beyonce’s latest video, “Formation,” sometimes I like to jump on the bandwagon to either use it momentarily like a free ride to a needed destination or to veer it off into my own direction.

The video has opened the door for much conversation and possibility of new connections, which to me is the main benefit of it, and there has been valid thoughts on all sides about it from the possible meanings of its symbolic artistic imagery and bringing some focus to black cultures that often have been forgotten, marginalized or denigrated, even by black people themselves, to the critiques that highlight the problematic centering of a cis-gendered, non-queer, high class, wealthy, light(er)-skinned, thinner celebrity against the marginalized realities of poorer, lower-class, heavier-set, darker-skinned, queer and transgendered people. Looking at the video and listening to the lyrics, it is difficult to ignore its use of Western capitalistic and white-centric measures of power, including Givenchy and Bill Gates, and their stark contrast against the images of disasters that affected those marginalized communities and black traditions that helped us to survive the violence and trauma created by the former. It does appear on the surface to be a form of capitalist opportunistic exploitation, appropriation and a softer silencing/erasing of marginalized cultures despite the “inclusion” of their imagery.

But as a creative writer/artist myself, I tend to look at culture and imagery more ambiguously. In trickster philosophy, various contradicting realities and meanings exist at once; we all wear various conflicting masks to negotiate with and maneuver through society at large. At the end of the day, Beyonce is a pop artist, not an activist per se, and just as I can learn and be inspired by various sources, I can be inspired by her work and apply it back to my own work.

Certain aspects of “Formation,” and responses to them, kept stirring thoughts in my mind, especially in relation to recent posts I had on this blog. Not saying all the thoughts below went through Beyonce’s mind, but these are the thoughts her video inspired in me. Let us look beyond Beyonce because it, for me, is not about her but the larger symbolism and archetypes that are part of human psyche and social cultures.

Here is a list of my (random) thoughts:

Continue reading The My-Stery: “Get In-Formation: Black Performance, Black Code and Black Spies”

Modern Griots Reviews: Pop Up Exhibitons from CCCADI and Black Eye

Me and Edgardo Ramirez
Me and Edgardo Rodriguez

Last Thursday I managed to attend two pop up exhibitions, one in Harlem from The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI), and the other in the Lower East Side, Nicole Vassell-curated Black Eye exhibit.

The Spirit of El Barrio: Past, Present and Future exhibition was The Caribbean Cultural Center first in a series of events that will take place at the old firehouse at 120 East 125th street in Harlem. The center is renovating the firehouse to be the new location of their center and this event was an introduction into this new space. Opening with speeches from founder Marta Moreno Vega, New Harlem East Merchants Association (NHEMA) Program Director, Adriane Mack and NHEMA and Community Board 11 member, Holly Drakeford, in the first tour and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in the second, the exhibition featured art from Adrian Roman, Edgardo Miranda, Manny Vega, Oliver Rios and Yasmin Hernandez, as well as a live painting from Edgardo Tomas Larregui Rodriguez.

Besides being in the presence of gorgeous artwork, the steel pan music and the wearing of hard hats, the exhibition had a special treat which was the Augmented Reality technology (virtual visuals) from the Layar app. Layar is kind of like an updated version of a qr code, except that the added information is embedded in the artwork and not in a small box outside of it. When the image is scanned, another image or video pops up. This exhibition was a small preview to one of the future opening exhibitions of CCCADI in addition to an upcoming art auction.

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Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: Caribbean Futurisms

Thank you Kelly Baker Josephs for calling my attention to this!

id a post describing “Caribbean Futurisms” and listing a few books that would fall under the term as well as other sources for Afrofuturism, in which I was included:

“Considered within this conditional crux, Caribbean cultural forms have developed a conscious capacity to play with time and space, especially within the last century. For example, a Caribbean novel can leap “forward,” as well as “backward,” as well as speculatively vault “across” times, because its people have been integral to the creation of how human activity is narratively measured. As well, a Caribbean novel can traverse lands from around this world and others because its people, their ancestors, and new generations travel these vast distances.

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Modern Griots Reviews: Nick Cave’s Magical Horses in Heard.NY

DSC00014As Ebony celebrated Katherine Dunham, Nick Cave was featuring dozens of Alvin Ailey dancers wearing 30 colorful horse “soundsuits” in his public performance piece at Grand Central station, HEARD•NY. Presented by Creative Time and MTA Arts, the 30 minute performances included a grazing pastoral music and dance sequence followed by a rhythmic choreographed dance, “crossings” in two rings in the hall. The “crossings” take place two time each day, 11 am and 2 pm, this week until Sunday. Harpists Shelley Burgon and Mary Lattimore and percussionists Robert Levin and Junior Wedderburn provided live musical accompaniment and William Gill did the choreography.

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Behind the Mask: Playin’ Mas

“Playin’ Mas”
Sensay Carnival Troupe at Bermuda Festival

As we are in the midst of carnival season, I would like to share something interesting that I learned about carnival in Dominica. The other day I visited my family in Brooklyn and one of my cousins let me borrow his book, Ma William and Her Circle of Friends. Written by Giftus John, who taught my father in Dominica, the story centers around a storekeeper, Ma William, and the people who visit her store in the village of Senjo. The book depicts the characters coping with the rapid changes on their island and their effort to hold onto their traditions. I reached chapter four, called “Playin’ Mas,” a common Caribbean carnival phrase. I actually learned about it from Trinidadian dancer and singer Michael Manswell of Something Positive at the Carribean Cultural Center’s Roots and Stars Praise Dance event. “Play Mas” means to put on a mask or be part of the masquerade.

One interesting costume I read about in the chapter is the sensay costume. The sensay costume is of West African Twi (Akan/Ashanti) origin. It is one of the oldest forms of costume, made either of frayed rope and other fibrous material such as pounded leaves of the agave (called sisal or “langue beff”) or strips of paper, cloth, frayed plastic sacks and dry banana leaves (pai fig). A mask with cow horns is usually worn with the costume. The name comes from the Twi word senseh, which is a fowl with curled or ruffled feathers. The fowl is known for having spiritual properties amongst the Twi people.

Read more about costumes in Dominica here.