Remember. Black women’s lives matter. Remember even when the media deflects this imperative truth.
Bright bulbs highlight centered figure.
Around some beige framed eight body-length mirrors, to steady beating of deep drum thumps, provocative movement begins, slow and fluid borne from dark ground. Cloaked in brown fabric mystery, the lone, ubiquitous protagonist shifts and exerts kinetics, both scandalous and sensual, risque and titillating.
The Emancipation of Ms. Lovely starts on a note, a savory piquant flavored note of rhythmic dance. Emphasis on the figure’s lower backside takes immediate heed, the lights reflecting on gesticulating the voluptuous curves, the predominant curves that symbolize both beauty and vulgarity. Ritualistic exertion ends. The exposed one woman show opens up its jaw full of clandestine shadows further, letting audience sink uncomfortably on the bitter taste of a boisterous affair between Ms. Lovely and a married man. They are reaping horrible benefits of the empty situationship- which many fall prey to its twisted complications promising nothing more than cataclysmic writhing and emotionless ecstasy.
“What are you doing?” Ms. Lovely’s mournful conscious asks. “What are you doing?”
Past and present shift from historical to contemporary decades. Humor and sincerity merge, American nostalgia mixed with innocent curiosity and churlish giddiness. Ms. Lovely is the wild church girl slowly seduced by seeds of scandalous eroticism, eagerly slipping into becoming potential victim early. In between Ms. Lovely blossoming in stereotypical chains, in between darkened corners dissolving face, Sarah Baartman, the original Venus Hottentot is inserted. Long ago, Baartman was a source of European entertainment, a human display, a human hostage holding colonist eyes of ridicule and fascination. After her death, she is still prisoner, her private organs touring for two hundred years. In a defiant recording, Baartman speaks in both scowling contempt and ferocious dignity to the ethnic beats of African diaspora. The regal figure majestically performs gratifying choreography meant to celebrate and personalize beautiful form.
Ngozi Paul, writer, performer, and creator of Da Kink in My Hair, delivers a mesmerizing soliloquy, riveting monologues, blending together light comedy and thought-provoking drama, rendering forth a poignant narrative that is tough and chewy like stout jerky. She gets to the heart of the matter, candid and honest, brave and tender. Questions are aroused, debating about the oppression of black women’s bodies, facial constructions, identities, journeys to womanhood sometimes brutally thrust in the aggressive flare of masculine violence. The colonial gaze has negatively impacted what reflections sistahs see in the bevel glass. Self love is key. Black women need to engage in more self love, more self indulgence. Baartman knows her worth and value, knows that though they take and take, stealing what is not naturally own– a definitive metaphor of exploitative cultural appropriation, she is queen of her internal throne, something no one else can own. Each time Paul graces stage to the honeyed timbre of Baartman’s vocalized spirit, Paul’s graceful steps and gestures are confident and celebratory.
d’bi young anikafrika (director and dramaturgist), Roger C. Jeffrey (choreographer and assistant director), Birgit Schreyer Duarte (dramaturgist), L’Oqenz and Waleed Abdulhamid (music collaboration), Jeannette Linton (costume designer), and of course Paul deserve all the kudos in the world for pulling off this commendable vision!
Just eighty minutes long at Factory Theatre Studios, The Emancipation of Ms. Lovely runs tonight at 7:15 PM, Saturday at 12:15 PM, and Sunday at 5:15 PM.