Kama La Mackerel

Jade Boivin
  • Kama La Mackerel, "Race" is a Drag, 2012. Photo: Elisha Lim
  • Kama La Mackerel, Bois d'Ébène, 2016. Photo: Lily Hook
  • Kama La Mackerel, Bois d'Ébène, 2016. Photo: Lily Hook
  • Kama La Mackerel, Bois d'Ébène, 2016. Photo: Lily Hook
  • Kama La Mackerel, My Body is the Ocean, 2017. Photo: Võ Thiên Việt
  • Kama La Mackerel, My Body is the Ocean, 2017. Photo: Võ Thiên Việt

From a Plural Voice, Resistance

Kama La Mackerel draws on her own experience to make her works into a means of self-affirmation and of challenging the status quo. For La Mackerel, a racialized trans woman, art is a matter of survival, a vehicle for overcoming and healing from everyday violence, but also a way of tackling and defusing racist and trans-misogynous systems. If one were to identify two central motifs in her work, resilience and resistance would probably take centre stage, for her art can be both gentle and hard, a balm and a weapon.

Taking as a starting point a collection of poems in which voices of women, spirits, and Mauritian goddesses intermingle, the exhibition My Body is the Ocean (2017) expresses the pain of colonization in a spirit of love and reconciliation. La Mackerel has created watercolours, textiles, and various performances from which emerges a fictional decolonization that aims to repair the damages incurred in crossing the ocean. This journey was made by her ancestors — workers and slaves who travelled from East Africa and South Asia to Mauritius — and by La Mackerel herself, from Mauritius to Tio’tia:ke (Montréal).

The artist’s voice is plural. Her works allow her to transcend words alone and to open a door to her communities, her trans sisters and her ancestors, by connecting past and present and re-inscribing them in her historicity.

La Mackerel understands femininity as a complex amalgam whose various layers (material and sensory) cumulate on the body. In From Thick Skin to Femme Armour (2015), this idea forms the basis for a series of wearable objects and garments — her “femme armour” — the creation of which is a daily artistic ritual. Words embroidered on fabric, for example, are worn during a performance, which in turn is photographed. The initial purpose of the armour is transposed into another form, and with time other armour is created in response to her need to (re)create herself in ways that are personally meaningful.

[Translated from the French by Louise Ashcroft]

Captions
Image 1: Kama La Mackerel, "Race" is a Drag, performance, Montréal, 2012. Photo: Elisha Lim, courtesy of the artist
Image 2: Kama La Mackerel, Bois d'Ébène, performance, Montréal, 2016. Photo: Lily Hook, courtesy of the artist
Image 3: Kama La Mackerel, Bois d'Ébène, performance, Montréal, 2016. Photo: Lily Hook, courtesy of the artist
Image 4: Kama La Mackerel, Bois d'Ébène, performance, Montréal, 2016. Photo: Lily Hook, courtesy of the artist
Image 5: Kama La Mackerel, My Body is the Ocean, performance, Montréal, 2017. Photo: Võ Thiên Việt, courtesy of the artist
Image 6: Kama La Mackerel, My Body is the Ocean, performance, Montréal, 2017. Photo: Võ Thiên Việt, courtesy of the artist

Number: 
91

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