“calling ancestral” was a 30 minute participatory performance in three parts exploring ritual practices of ancestor worship and maternal ancestry. In the first part, the audience gathered around me on a sheet or around a door. I began reading a poem as a chant and handed out pages so the audience could read along with me. Written on large paper, like a storybook, this first part of the piece alluded to a mother reading to a child.
ring ring ring
libations, serpents, birth, tree
ring, ring, ring
They continued to chant until I slammed my fist and yelled “ecoute moi!” (listen to me!). I then poured sugar into a salt container and mixed it while humming a gospel refrain. The audience picked up on the melody and began to hum with me as I handed out teacups of sugar. While laying down, on top of the book pages, I gestured for them to fill my mouth with the sugar. The sugar filled my mouth, nose and ears. We hummed together until everyone had offered their sugar to me.
I arose as if from the dead, spit out the sugar and began the third part of the performance with the idea in mind that grandmothers are women who have much to offer and need help along the way. Through the action of stepping or walking on objects, I exposed the vulnerability of the body. By risking physical harm I asked the audience to empathize, and ultimately help me move forward. I attempted to walk on teacups, saucers, a box, a soup touraine filled with water and roses. After offering the audience chocolates, I walked on what was left behind. After the performance I was greeted by audience members, some who had been laughing (at the ironic humor of the work) and others who had been crying (in empathic response to the risks I took).