“She Poems”: GIVING VOICE TO THE BODY SO THAT IT MAY SPEAK
By Marcia Mzindle (Guest Writer)
Begun in 2013, She Poems is a Contemporary Art project inspired by poems written by women and created and produced in Africa. The series is created by Aïda Colmenero Dïaz (Madrid, Spain) in collaboration with a diverse range of female African artists from across the continent including Khadija Nasibu and Happyness Majige from Tanzania; Phulusho Khwiyane and Phindile from South Africa, Khoudia Touré from Senegal; Rosy Timas Tavares, Susana Tavares, Sualia Lima, and Julia Dias from Cape Verde and Estelle Foli from Togo. This is the second time She Poems is being featured on the JOMBA! platforms, having had an earlier edition shown in 2018 as part of the festival’s “JOMBA! @DAG” platform at the Durban Art Gallery.
She Poems dislodges common stereotypes around African women’s bodies, Black African femininity and ideas of “Africa” as singular thus challenging a Western collective imaginary and its impositions on Black African women. The choreographies are made by and for women who blossom in their cycle of creativity, work, and sexuality; who encompass both fire and a cool breeze or water that can either soothe or drown you; women with soulful hearts.
She Poems is a thrilling exploration of life, retreat, the act of fear and its removal, general conversations, the abyss and the life after, when we have returned to dust. It is an interweaving of dance, poetry, choreography, photography and film-making that transgress convention in order to offer unique artistic works.
Dïaz describes She Poems as “a collection of stories, narratives, hopes and dreams…little windows that expose, narrate, reflect, and embody certain aspects about the artists and the city they are from”. The creative process applied has great synergy with this year’s “Border Crossings” theme, with Dïaz and her collaborators crossing borders in relation to form, style, language, geography and consciousness. Dïaz says her vision and method in working with the different artists was to try and dare them into working with different things or themes, and in different ways than they may usually work.
She Poems offers a collection of bodies reflecting, and excavating memory to speak, utilising the body as a mode of expression, giving voice to it so that it may speak. The works on offer centralise bodies that speak to the possessions and subjugations of their imprisonments and a yearning to be free; bodies that recall that want to be seen, heard, and wanted… bodies that challenge convention. In doing so, the work captures stories of women who have lived through time and at the edge of the world.
She Poems is a truly remarkable experience that awakens all senses. I am left asking myself: is there anything the Black African female body cannot do?