A Daughter’s Cosmography

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NADIA MBONDE

Artist’s Statement

Inspired by Ntozake Shange’s A Daughter’s Geography, “A Daughter’s Cosmography,” is a series of nine pairings of poetry and photography that reflect on concepts of self-care, self-love, ritual, healing, daughtership, mothering and “the politics of the personal.” These ideas, which blur the boundary between theory and politics, reflect my interaction with Audre Lorde’s writings and poetry such as “Winds of the Orishas” and Ntozake Shange’s works we read in class, especially for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. In addition to studying their literary texts, I used the Ntozake Shange papers in the archives at Barnard College, the Audre Lorde papers at the archives in Spelman College and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

My photos and poems in “A Daughter’s Cosmography” draw on political, social, and affective forms of knowledge in Lorde and Shange’s works, which meditate on the voluminous notion of Afro-Spirituality. Analysing the supposed divide between the sacred and the secular, my work channels the energies and essence of the female orishas — Yemaya, Oshun, and Oya — from Afro-Cuban spiritual tradition. I drew inspiration from my Afro-Cuban dance class at Barnard which helped me adopt much of the physicality and presence which I express in my photos.

In addition to individual research and movement exploration, I composed the photos in collaboration with Barnard student make-up artists and photographers. Using the digital skills I acquired and was inspired by our discussions of artistic collaborations at the International Center for Photography, my project invites the viewer to engage in a visual and verbal dialogue with me through poetry and images.

1 we need a god

we need a god who bleeds

Make-up: Annya Serkovic
Photo credit: Anta Touray

Poem inspired by Ntozake Shange’s “we need a god who bleeds”

 

2 let her be born

let her be born

Make-up: Valerie Jaharis
Photo credit: Valerie Jaharis

Poem inspired by Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf”

 

3 birth

birth

Make-up: Simone Folasayo Ige
Photo credit: Yemisi Olorunwunmi

Poem inspired by Ntozake Shange’s Spell #7

4 oya

Oya

Make-up: Valerie Jaharis
Photo credit: Valerie Jaharis

Selected lines from Audre Lorde’s poem “Winds of the Orishas”

 

5 dance is

Dance is

Make-up: Annya Serkovic
Photo credit: Anta Touray

 

6 i found bae

the consummation of self-love

Make-up: Simone Folasayo Ige
Photo credit: Yemisi Olorunwunmi

Paraphrasing Ntozake Shange “i found god in myself”

7 oshun

Oshun’s cackle

Make-up: Valerie Jaharis
Photo credit: Valerie Jaharis

 

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Embodied Knowledge // Carnal Intellectuality

Make-up: Annya Serkovic
Photo credit: Anta Touray

9 daughter of shange

Daughters of Shange

Make-up: Simone Folasayo Ige
Photo credit: Yemisi Olorunwunmi

 

Photo credit: Danielle Fox

Photo credit: Danielle Fox

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