The lingering remnants of slavery, colonization and identity affect the lives of people of color mentally, spiritually and physically. A group of black female artists has developed an artistic production they hope will spark dialogue in Miami.
Snatched is a multidisciplinary performance showcase that begins this weekend at the Miami Light Project for the Here & Now Festival 2015. The creators say the production brings stories that many run from into the public realm.
Artists Hattie Mae Williams, Loni Johnson, Shaneeka Harrell and Alexis Caputo are four black, beautiful and brave women artists who deliver a promise of dialogue opportunities and continued chance to embrace others in community. Snatched was conceived by Hattie Mae Williams, with co-development and visual art by Johnson.
Snatched pays homage to Sarah Baartman, Ota Benga and Josephine Baker in recognition of their narratives, and the parallels between their experiences and those of modern black women. The stories offer a look into the eroticism of the black female body in a racist, capitalist, patriarchal society, and recognize the negative effects or imprints the imperial gaze continues to have.
Snatched allows audience members to reflect on how they take ownership in their beauty and ancestry without falling victim to the exploitative structures that are presented for them to express their femininity/masculinity. It also allows them to examine their awareness and the duality as viewer and subject.
The women are a semblance of snatched pearls. They resonate with a historical tongue while painting visual imagery. Each weighs in on their role:
Williams wants “people to have their own free experience in being a part of this journey” while Johnson explains, “This project requires much of me. That is, to step into a realm that is new for me through performance, since I am a visual artist. Yet still, I embody Baartman honorably.”
Harrell shares, “I am giving you me and there is no way around that.” Caputo will perform an excerpt from a piece she wrote titled I Am Sarah Baartman.
“I respect and believe in Williams’ work. She is one of the strongest women I know. I love her and love what I have learned in working with her,” says Caputo. “We share a common language and explorative narrative with landscape themes. Being a part of this project, is confirmation of the value and significance of our work respectively. It is wonderful to be working with these centered, giving and gifted women on so many levels.”
The women say they are doing the ground work and changing lives in ways designed to enhance and give others tangible ways to measure the value of art, women, community and education through the arts. As natives of Miami and Miami-based artists, the collective has achieved in academic, artistic institutions and in diverse community settings.
Williams is a New World School of the Arts and National YoungArts alumna who graduated with a bachelor of fine arts from Fordham University in New York City. She is the director of the Hattie Mae Williams-The Tattooed Ballerinas interdisciplinary company.
Johnson is a visual artist, educator, mother and activist. She graduated from the New World School of the Arts and received a bachelor of fine arts degree from SUNY Purchase College in New York.
Harrell has toured the world with renowned artists Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Jawolle Willa Joe Zolla. Her collaborations with Tony-award winning choreographe, Bill T. Jones have included working as an original cast member of Fela! on Broadway (2009-2011); assistant choreographer on The Seven for New York Theater Workshop; dance supervisor for his original multidisciplinary gala production for YoungArts; a company member/vocalist with Bill T. Jones/Arne Zane Dance Company (2002-2007).
Caputo was educated in America and Europe. She received instruction at hybrid institutions New York University, where she studied at Circle in The Square Theatre School, Tisch School of the Arts and at the School of Culture, Education and Human Development. At the University of Paris, (Sorbonne), she studied language.