Praxis. Performance. noun. an act of staging, the act of carrying out a task or function
Becoming Lizzie (& Pomp)
“Rooted: The Storied Land, Memory & Belonging,” was supported by a Muti-year “Call & Response” artist residency at The Lynden Sculpture Garden in River Hills, WI. The overall vision for this project involved collaborations between myself, other artists, a food scholar-chef and community. in August, 2018 I staged an open air performance on site- Lizzie’s Legacy-for an audience of 50. This was one of several movements in my proposed residency. Each a re-imagining/response to the built slave cabin created by artist-designer Folayemi Wilson. Her permanent installation “Eliza’s Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities” imagines the life of a futurist shape-shifting slave woman whose cabin doubles as a curio-where she stores memorial objects collected from the past, present and future. In dialogue, I created an Emancipation Subsistence Garden adjacent to the cabin and reimagined my Great aunt-Lizzie, as a binary character-who would have been tending this garden. My childhood memory of Aunt Lizzie is as a white haired old lady. However, stories about her own peculiar personality when in her prime, have always intrigued and amused me. When my mother was a child, her aunt engaged involved the children in poetry, story telling and performances. The stories about Aunt Lizzie were passed on to the children and grands of her nieces and nephews. One that we all learned to celebrate is a ghost-hobo character dubbed “Uncle Pomp!” created from her own radical imagination.
Aunt Lizzie, would become Pomp, riding out of the woods on a horse-to entertain and, when when necessary, exact discipline. When I was a very small child visiting my grandparents, I would occasionally see a hobo figure wandering the dirt roads leading into the woods near the Toogoodoo Creek and believed such a figure to be this mythical Uncle Pomp. My mother says that when Pomp appeared, dressed as a man, in old “raggy “clothes, Aunt Lizzie disappeared-masquerading in her deceased husband’s old jacket’s, overalls, and a mashed up felt fedora, embellished at times with moss.
Lizzie’s Legacy, my performance, begins with my mother’s voice, recalling the antics of Lizzie as Pomp. She shares that sometimes “This Uncle Pomp, would appear on a horse, if you were too late coming home from school!” My mother shares that Lizzie taught the children in the family to recite poetry and to “put on plays” for the family and the rural Oakville, SC community.
The Video captures the recreation of this oral history; my performance, as both Unlce Pomp and Aunt Lizzie. I rode in as “Uncle Pomp” on a horse, and presented myself to the audience from the staging area (the porch) as Lizzie. The performance consisted of a written monologue, (Lizzie’s looking out at the Emancipation garden-named in her memory- created by her grand niece (Portia) followed by the sharing of Gullah superstitions, and a reading of the dialect poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, an early 19th century negro poet and lyricist.
Among the poems that I shared in dialect, is one that may have influenced her creation of Pomp-it is Titled “De Boogah Man.”
Collaborators included The Jazzy Jewels (a line dancing ensemble) and The Silverado Trail Riders (a Milwaukee area Black Cowboy Guild).
Work in progress includes a completed documentary video of the full performance and the full development of Lizzie’s story as a one woman stage play.