Jacklyn Janeksela

hustle* The Black Box

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*hustle*  Peek into a keyhole, search in a fragmented mirror, crack open a tinted door that could lead to a naked body –a collection of secrets & memories from Marlowe, a former stripper.

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From Indiana to Florida, chasing boys since I was a sprout, I follow yet another one.

Boxes filled with photos and other first love tokens are left to melt in the Florida heat. Two weeks of no eating; I shrivel under the pressure of being alone. And now, I have the entire bed to myself.

Except I can’t sleep. Not a wink.

This is what happens when I break up with my boyfriend.

I don’t break up with stripping. Not yet. If anything, I work harder. I go from one box to another via a box with wheels. Days, entire days, days upon days, weeks, I spend inside the box; they call it the day shift, but it could be the night shift for no one sees light –except the rays that cut the darkness when someone holds the door open for too long. The eye’s adjustment to the box.

My life is night. I only see the sun when I’m putting on my night face and even then it’s such an illusion; I call it transitioning.

I have more cash in my pocket than before. Yet while everything swells, I retreat.

At one point, I convince myself that it will only be a few more years. Me, living in this pinprick of a universe, wilting and shrinking to a squeak, squishing a prick into a pin, then taking freshly drawn bills from the hand of a wrinkled person. Time treads softly and without much indication. Time is a she because I say so. Time is a she because of fickleness. She has done so.  Tricked me, that is; she twirls like ice-skaters and ballerinas and circus tricks. Spinning –I bite down so hard on the bit to keep from falling atop the crowd, mouths agape. The height, a reminder of the pain of falling.

During the day-shift, the crack of the main door the only gauge of time. There’s always a door before the door. It’s like a story within a story; a box within a box. If the day shift is murky, then the night shift is an obscure abyss; a box so dark lives are conceived in shade like belladonna. The night shift girls deal with another class of drunks, night crawlers, and freaks –they leave a trail of mucus or some other wet gooeyness behind. Slug-like they move, slug-like they feel, slug-like they live.

On a few occasions, I have braved the pit, the writhing after hours. But the thought of wasting my days sleeping, tucked away inside another box, the real vampire life –well, I don’t have it in me. I leave it to them. Those experienced box-dwellers.

Night strippers deserve respect beyond their creature of the night status; those girls outhustle hustlers. They tentacle money from clients.  They lie like breathing.   They origami bodies.  They perform physical tricks that would shame any fitness instructor; more flexible than most professional dancers. They balance matches on erect nipples and light them on fire, they hang themselves with bondage gear and burn bald vaginas with candle wax, they do headstands, upside-down, backwards splits. In comparison, I am pathetic. The twinkling lights inside my head –the only lights I can hold onto -are my guide.  They illuminate the slowest, calmest beat. The only respite I have in this life, my moment on stage, naked in front of strangers.

I move deliberately because, duh, high heels, too. Despite sturdy legs, I wobble. Tragic is the naked girl who falls in stilettos.

Balancing on things, I make money and tuck all those bills into a box under my bed. Later, stacks of bills will go into a bank deposit box with a key; a drug-dealing boyfriend will steal that box from me. Cliché, I know.

Moving between boxes, I am the roundest thing I know.

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When I am in the back of the black box putting on my face and getting ready, I notice the faces, all the other ones. They are huddled around, closer each time –studying me; from my moves to my facial gestures, from my gait to my tongue. They box me in sometimes, asking me questions –the faces. They want to know my story. Who I am.  Where I come from.   What I’m doing here.   When I’ll leave.  Will I ever leave?  They pick at me. They prod. They lift an arm, a hair tendril, an eyelid. They are searching for something they might not ever find. They are them. They are also me. We are me.  I feel the panic, the sheer terror as I pencil in an eyebrow. This face is the only face I know –the others long gone, missing, or forgotten. This stripper face is me and will always be me. She will always be there –shading eyelids, drawing lips, fluffing hair. She is going to follow me into my 20s and 30s, she is going to laugh at me like a real bitch when I hit 50. She will cry when I turn 70. At 80 she will tell vulgar stories. One day she will forget me, or perhaps she’ll merely pretend she’s forgotten just to fit into a new box, that bitch. My last day on earth when I’ve learned, finally, how to put on my night face and release myself from a formative, box-like state into a new black box, eternal.

WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugre, jota cuadrada, & female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

Chargaux: A Magic Music Box

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Chargaux is the blend of not only two names, Charly and Margaux, but also a blending of sounds & styles. This is a string duo of innovative proportions created by a serendipitous meeting on a corner in Boston. In an era where morphing and transforming seem to be part of everyday life, although more prevalent in art/music/fashion, Chargaux appears to be ahead of the game. Throwing classical violins on top of R&B beats, mystical reverberations, synth sounds doesn’t quite describe Chargaux; I quote, “we make renaissance music. it’s hard to describe a color you’ve never seen before.” And they are so many colors, it’s not just evident in their clothes and hair, albeit fashionistas to the core. Get ready to hear unknown and unnameable colors.

Just put on “Lullaby.” Lie down, turn off the lights, and breathe.  There is spiraling and centering, tiny bells alter-calling. If you still don’t believe that Chargaux conjures, just take a look at their tour title “Magic Music.” Get caught up, get trapped, fall into the rabbit hole…

In their song “I’m So Pretty” –heavy with synth and bass drums, quasi-terror electronic house that beckons “Romeo/Rodeo” and uses romantic language “when the stars come looking in my bedroom/hoping that you’ll come through.”  Nothing like you’ve ever heard, I can guarantee it.  We need more voices like these.

“Burn Rubber” samples The Gap Band. With classic lines like “you took my money/you took my time/why you wanna hurt me, girl” & “just because you’re not for real/why you wanna hurt me, girl” –their female vocals turn the song on its side and inside out; the role switching brings a flavor that puts gender roles in question.

While Chargaux composes string arrangements of songs by Beyoncé, Kanye West, and the coveted Kendrick Lamar to Tove Lo, Sam Smith, and Taylor Swift –eclectic, indeed; it is, however, in their own compositions that they fly. This duo is Icarus if he had been less sun-hungry; propelled towards a heat yet retreating just in time.  Circling constellations on the strings of their violins, these girls are faerie-esque and out of this world.

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“The Earth is Flat” from Sofar New York is an interwoven spell, complete with drum invocations in a candle-lit room. How does one balance on a violin string and be still enough to evoke ancestral dance? Chargaux seem to have the formula.

See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwScmZe0wv0

They have played across the US in various hot spots as well as exclusive venues like the Lincoln Center and the Brooklyn Museum, but nothing more exclusive than the White House Gala hosted by Michelle Obama.  Voted one of NYC’s favorite “Avant Indie” of 2014 and recognized by Saint Heron as “Artists to Watch 2015,” this duo is on a mission. Imbedding dreams and reality; they are purposed to live their lives out to the fullest –as artists.

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Photo by Richard Corman. Courtesy of Rhythm Foundation.

Their album “Broke & Baroque” isn’t just a manifestation of their music but also their struggles. They discuss the hustle of their early days as street performers and why taking a job to work for someone else would get in the way of building their “own dream,” of making their “own machine work.” Chargaux is not just music, it is a way of life. They advocate creative control. They advocate star-reaching, dream-hunting, individualism-ism. Listen –let their passion plant something in you.

Find more information here:

http://chargaux.com/

See details below for their next performance with DJ KUMI on Thursday, October 15, 2015 at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) as part of Third Thursdays: Poplife Social Presented by The Rhythm Foundation

http://www.pamm.org/calendar/2015/09/pamm-third-thursdays-poplife-social-featuring-chargaux-and-dj-kumi-presented-rhythm

PHOTO CREDIT:  https://www.facebook.com/Chargaux-165822520100561/timeline/

(Unless otherwise noted)

WORDS BY: Jacklyn Janeksela

Darkmatter, Open Sex & Conversation for Enlightenment

 

Darkmatter yes

Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon, are the founders/creators of the South Asian performance art duo, Darkmatter.  Fashion icons, protestors/poets/playwrights, household names in New York City, they are pioneering trans voice everything.   From poetry to video to posts, they are a mélange of sound and power.

Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon articulate their insights on more than just gender issues. While they do, indeed, support the trans community, their goals appeal to opening chakras and third eyes. Both poignant and permuted in style, Balasubramanian and Vaid-Menon offer enlightenment in the form of letters and social media posts, videos and travel. They predicate their knowledge on an internal realization that comes from distancing ourselves from the colonizer, from the machine(s); they seem to be saying strike a yoga pose, look within, let the artifice of social constructs fade away, far, far away into oblivion; then, start anew.

They discuss the missing or stifled trans voice of colour. They share tragedies in the trans world, they make us aware, they make us feel, they make us more human. Their pages burgeon with voices that have been hushed; they write to stimulate, they write to sharpen minds, they write to sever ties with an unsympathetic world.  Binary people and media-machines are creating limited narratives. Darkmatter creates to challenge your vision, question categories, and push you towards the tipping point; all in the name of trans.

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It is the surmounting social standard they seek to subordinate; Darkmatter’s force fostering the formidable failure. Listen quietly, Darkmatter exists within you. Words speak to open wounds. To speak is to expose truths and realities and heartaches, constructing a web which can hold us all when we need to be held. Darkmatter cradles. It is a universe that twinkles in the moments when we need it most in that dark hole in which we’ve been living.

Not only do they elevate the trans voice, but the voice of the other. Other being a lose interpretation; anyone who is not a product of the machine, a robot –one who refuses to regurgitate theory or educational schemes &/or rhymes. Darkmatter has its own language, a language that builds character, ideas, and integrity all in the name of art and love.

Most of us are products of some dynamic, but Darkmatter wants us to be products of our natural selves. Did you know that true freedom cannot exist in a binary space? Check your ideas and what freedom means. Things supposedly in opposition can live in harmony, there is tandem, there is peace in co-existing; Darkmatter kicks knowledge. May we become uncontainable and unidentifiable; may we frighten the State and it’s people.  Join Darkmatter and fellow fighters.

Watch this video to learn about how breaking up with success promotes better, real human beings:

Find Darkmatter here:

http://www.darkmatterpoetry.com/

https://www.facebook.com/darkmatterpoetry/timeline

PHOTO CREDIT:  https://www.facebook.com/darkmatterpoetry/timeline

WORDS BY Jacklyn Janeksela

 

 

 

 

hustle*

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Somewhere during 2005 in New York City, I met Marlowe, a stripper, with her chestnut Cleopatra cut and cowboy boots, with her fingers woven through Carpentier’s The Kingdom of this World. This is how I found her in a café near Chinatown. She wore layers of clothes and no make-up; she seemed almost shy. She had agreed to meet me, an insincere smile –it was all so unbelievable. I was, at this time, focused on a project about women and their bodies that propelled me into spaces the average woman might not go. Sure. Brave, I guess; but more than that, I wanted to study women and their habits, women and their relationship to their bodies, women and other women. Marlowe was discrete. Despite the fact that she appeared alone and lonely, her walk moved the room; more so, it was her stare. She had a fire within her.

She only cracked a smile when talking about her first time “taking it off,” as if it were a childhood memory. She was so unreachable at our meeting, a dwindling star or pinpoint or something.

The following is her response to our meeting. I had asked her to write about her experience(s) with her body. When I received her email, more than three years later, I was shocked. Not only had she taken the time to write to me but she was also clearly someone who understood the poetry of words. The title of her email read, “hustle.” *

The following is what she wrote:

hustle: Marlowe, sometime in 2005

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My hustle was once my body. Do not jump to any conclusions, please. Although I cannot judge what other women do and cannot pretend to understand the struggle, I was never a prostitute. I was a stripper. Although often synonymous and quite frequently intertwined, they are separate entities albeit both of the same orb –the sex industry bubble. Which then leads me to the question, my own personal question, Was I a sex worker who didn’t have sex? I guess the answer would have to be yes. Even porn can be faked with good angels and lighting. And in the black box, lighting, the lack thereof and the acid trip black light, is the conduit for which all dreams and illusions run. In that darkness, one can forage for much longer than one realizes. Like some underground worm or rodent.

I was a stripper, period. Stripped off my clothes for men to ogle me in exchange for tips. I never accepted money or goods for sex. I never did a sexual favor or sexual acts for money.

I had no kids, had no real bad habits. In many ways I was free, yet I wasn’t.   I could stay clean and survive. And I stayed clean in every sense of the word. Well, for the most part.

What did I do, then? The answer is multi-layered. It is fragmented mirrors and dreams and body parts. The answer the same thing one sees on the floor, not that backroom stuff. The answer lurking between words and not within them.

I paraded in clear plastic heels and black thongs. Tiptoed through dark, putrid bars and tried to act like I, too, didn’t smell the stench –rotting wood and flesh, damp carpet and pussy, urinals. Despite such conditions, I pretended to be attractive and attracted. Grabbed a brass pole where a girl had just ground her pussy. I, too, let that pole slip between my legs or gave it a good titty fuck. I twirled around on platforms, I showed nipple, but not bush. Men paid me tips and twenties to stare at my body, to fantasize about coitus, to watch me strike poses. I, we, were all moving bodies minimized. I, we, were persons forgotten. We were hustlers.

bodies minimized

Many people in this world have a hustle. Whether legal or illegal their hustle is their life force. It is a beacon of light on some horizon out there resting and waiting. It is a dark place where they hide. It is both with and without. Hustle, a word typically associated with something grimy; plenty of street smarts and on the grind mentality. Working hard, so hard it hurts. Working long hours to make it work. This is hustle. It is an aggressive word, synonymous with push and shove and jostle, even manhandle. Manhandling ourselves, jostling ourselves out of hard times, shoving our asses out of the bed, pushing us toward paper, toward success.

My hustle was stripping. I stripped to pay for college. Most girls will say this in the black box –it’s their line, their hustle. But it wasn’t mine. I went in with a purpose, stuck to it like fly on window. It was very much like that –me, stuck inside looking out, wondering when something would open or break.

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When I learned that my parents hadn’t saved any money for my college tuition, I sank. To tell you the truth, I think my parents had the money. It was that old proverb –teach them how to fish bullshit. And I learned how to fish, fish money out of the pockets of strangers and creeps and perverts. There was this one customer who paid 20 bucks a song for me to dig my heel into his dick. No lie, 20 dollars –and with my clothes on. I fished until I paid for my BA and then I fished some more until I got a Masters. I took my clothes off for money, for pieces of paper, so that I could get an embossed, larger piece of paper with my name on it. How ridiculous is that, right? This is hustle, people. I hustled until it hurt my heart.

And I was good at it. I still, to this day, dream about stripping. In my dreams, it is always murky. There’s this feeling like I might miss out on some money, always in a rush to hit the stage or the “floor.”  Despite my panic, I don’t stumble once in my platforms. I keep roaming the room looking to score a dance. When I am called on stage by my stage name, I am reluctant to go. I am confused between my real self, my stripper self, and my dream self. All some strange triad: the mother, the daughter, and the Holy Spirit.

To have hustled is to have peeked into a world few see. To have hustled is to have breathed oxygen unknown. It is to break something and put it back together knowing it will not be the same. Hustle is such a strange word, even as I hear it in my head in relationship to myself, I laugh and cringe at the same time.

*(This piece has been edited, but the bulk of the writing belongs to Marlowe.)

Meeting Armen Ohanian, a Multi-Layered Being

Armen

Armen Ohanian is more than a protagonist propelling the plot of Dear Armen, she is a ghost dancing, spirit reciting form evolving.  Armen Ohanian is a vestibule for exploring identities; Dear Armen, the installation on her life, is where the invisible becomes visible. Ohanian represents those before her and those after her, the genderqueer voice that, until now, has been mostly silent or at least subdued.

Dear Armen, an immersive theater piece, is literally walking into spaces that are alive and moving. Based on Ohanian, writer, dancer, political activist, and survivor of twentieth-century anti-Armenian pogroms in Baku, her story is told through the character of Garo via lee williams boudakian and Kamee Abrahamian.  They are the creators, the shells through which Ohanian and Garo enter.

The live installation carries the weight of both Ohanian and Garo, the second protagonist/researcher.  Dear Armen is private spaces and poetry, photos and pronouns – the hatching of seedlings or birds, the birth, the re-birth.  And despite it being a fragmented narrative, it is cohesive.  To watch it is to watch the unraveling and the uniting of something bigger than oneself.

Dear Armen is confrontational because it advances a threatened voice; yet, the voice is threatening. It demands to be heard. Esoteric on various levels, Dear Armen motivates viewers/participants to peel away layers and value nuance.  It is a space proving we are more than mere body, more than a title or a category; we are energy and so are Dear Armen and the creators.

I had the opportunity to see the installation in Yerevan, Armenia and meet both lee and Kamee.  They were generous enough to answer some questions I had about the installation and their creative process.

What is your writing process like in general?

Kamee:

A wonderful blend of otherworldly magic and excruciating pain.

lee:

The writing process for us is a collaborative jumble featuring equal parts dream, play, talk, plan, visualize and sit clicking away. Kamee and I work together in the ideation, we plot out events and characters, talk through the ideas we are aiming towards, delve into motivations (our own and the characters), and then we divide tasks. I tend to do a lot of the clicking words onto the screen, and Kamee deals with lots of the visuals and choreography, but we feed into each other’s process and offer feedback to one another regularly. It’s a coming together, then separating to work away and then coming together again, on repeat.

If you could present “Dear Armen” anywhere, where and why?

Kamee:

Probably at the Tbilisi opera house in Georgia- it’s where she performed as ‘Armen Ohanian’ for the first time!

lee:

Personally, Armenia was one of the most significant places to perform the initial inceptions of Dear Armen, both the stage version and the installation. As a “cultural homeland” for all of us, including our characters and each of Kamee and myself, it has a significance that for me cannot be easily reduced to answering “why” other than: it is/has been/will be so significant to keep bringing ourselves and this work back to Armenia time and again.

Beyond Armenia, I am desperately dreaming of taking the show to Beirut, London, and I look forward to the day that visiting Allepo may be possible. For me, these places hold familial/ancestral/cultural significance, as members of my family have come from these places, and these are also places that hold significance for our characters. As well, London was the first place Armen was hired to perform after leaving South West Asia and North Africa.

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How might Armen Ohanian feel about today’s society in relationship to the struggles of the past?

Kamee:

I can’t assume her perspective on anything, not right now, and perhaps never. She’s like a hall of mirrors… All those masks she wore, identities she crafted – not only is it difficult to fully understand who she really was, it’s also not my place to appropriate her ‘voice’. All I can speak into is what she has ignited in me as a person, an artist, a woman.

lee:

I wonder a lot about what Armen might feel or think, especially politically. Her art makes it difficult to “know her” from the “construct of her.” And for me, it has always been more interesting to know her through her own constructions and art than to search for empirical facts about her life. I am interested in the fabric of the life she authored. It is the textures and masks she created that fascinate me. And necessarily, it is the way she weaves her political perspective into this texture that remains most important for me.

Her first memoir, The Dancer of Shamakha, is the central text we use as inspiration for the show, and in that text she embeds her political positions, her critiques of herself, the communities she comes from, the politics of the lands she was born and raised on, and her critiques of the West and the Eurocentric lands she eventually takes her art to — she embeds all of this amidst poetry and description and the possible dream/hope/vision found through movement, dance, poetry and art.

I suspect she would continue in that work. I suspect she would continue to link the shifts that have happened politically and socially over the last century and embed them into her work. I suspect her socialism may still be a rooted part of her work, at the very least, a desire and commitment to speaking into and creating art against oppression and towards social justice. I suspect she would still be an incredible force, making brilliant things happen, in the face of systems that would otherwise try to shut her up. And/or perhaps all of this is projection… But when I look in the mirror that is Armen, these are the things I see reflected back at me.

Finish the following phrases.

If Armen were an animal…

Kamee:

She would be a cuttlefish! Always dancing, changing colours and patterns, both beautiful and ugly…

lee:

a tigress. enraged eyes. beautiful coat. gentle with her own. and fierce as fuck in the world.

If you were a something that grows…

Kamee:

I would be a mulberry tree!

lee:

a tree. roots stretched deep and connected to the land and the forest. branches stretched to gaze at the clouds in the sky and the moon. and a silent wisdom that speaks through the ages.

Find more info here:

http://deararmen.com/

https://www.facebook.com/deararmen

DEAR ARMEN TOURS THE PACIFIC COAST  –  OCTOBER 2015

San Francisco (NOHspace: 2840 Mariposa St) – October 6 & 7 @ 7:30pm 
Berkeley/Oakland (La Pena: 3105 Shattuck Ave) – October 8 @ 7:30pm 
Los Angeles (Play Collaborative Arts: 1018 S Santa Fe Ave) – October 10 @ 7pm & 9:30pm 
Portland (Performance Works NW: 4625 SE 67th Ave) – October 16 @ 8pm 
Seattle (Youngstown Cultural Arts Center: 4408 Delridge Way SW) – October 17 @ 8pm 
Vancouver (Roundhouse Performance Center: 181 Roundhouse Mews) – October 19 & 20 @ 8pm 

 

 

 

Dreaming Her Next Poem: A Chat with Mercy L. Tullis-Bukhari

Words stacked on words stacked on bodies stacked on memories stacked on history stacked on truth stacked on realness stacked on you, me, she, we; Mercy L. Tullis-Bukhari carries us to crossroads where we confront identity and construct new ideas about cara y cabello. She speaks sinewy through a boisterous beating heart and a lashing Latina tongue. She is conquering antiquated conventions with her words; she is reconstructing the Latina through her sounds. Smoke, the title of her poetry collection, summons jazz and salsa clubs of New York City, voices and skin color, smoke signals, confusion, misrepresentations, misplacement, magic, caldrons, ceremony, churning and burning, fire-wood-tree-nature. (See the real reason below.)

It’s impossible to take the Latina or the Bronx from Mercy L. Tullis-Bukhari. Don’t even try, it would be like removing her from her. It’s never more prominent than when you hear her speak either through the page or through her charming, girlish smile. Via amalgams, she brews a stew that doesn’t lack sabor nor rhythm, color, stroke, incantation, song, or sun, moon, and star. Her words dance; swirl skirts and twirl on high heels. Accompanied by live music, she provokes her listeners into movement of the mind, of the soul, to the tip of the toe.

She speaks to the female. She speaks about female. She speaks about what she knows-woman-ess, interweaving her stories with first-hand accounts; she is documenting the traces of her, of the multiple her. The hair and skin complex(tion) brought to the forefront, she battles social labels. Compiling a list of comments and questions she’s heard over the years, she confronts the identity others have superimposed upon her; this allows herself to surface among the smoke. A Plathesque phoenix rising; a Clifton homage to body parts. An incarnate of her poetry; she is a model of Honduran-American proportions, she tells the story of her and the hers before her. She is ubiquitous female energy.

Tullis-Bukhari insists we listen. And it’s impossible not to, with drum beats and poignant words, we are invoked. Through well-coifed dreadlocks and radiance, we cannot look away. All the while, a toothy smile. Her words bustle; the buzzing means she has permeated a pore on the body. It is her gift of speaking volumes with little; her staccato style reflects shards of her identity, her experience, her life.   If we retrace her steps, her veins, her tendrils we will, no doubt, encounter something both organic and supernatural. It is not just her femaleness or her culture that gives her a fullness, although both play a large part in her art, but her ability to pluck a chord in others. She talks to her by being her. And by being her she shows the multitudes of mother, lover, girl, and woman.

Culture Designers had the pleasure of getting to know her.

CD: Why the title Smoke?

TB: An event happens, and the intensity of that event as it happens feels overwhelming, strong, sometimes poisonous and other times invigorating. That initial emotion eventually reforms into a new entity—still existing in our consciousness but transforming throughout our personality. That event infiltrates how we see ourselves, our surroundings, our universe.

Thus, the title, SMOKE. Like smoke itself, how we see the initial puff, at the moment of its exit, will change in its future moment—always existing in the air, always transforming. This book of poems exudes puffs of honest, raw tales that—in its transformed state—inflict pain, educate survival, and force growth.

CD: What are your favorite sounds of the Bronx?

TB: Open hydrants, and the kids playing with the water. Cars speeding by blasting Hip Hop, or Salsa, or Merengue. Folks talking English with the Bronx accents and Spanish spoken with English influence. Children just playing. Always playing. Always outside just playing, just hangin’.

CD: What are your favorite sounds of Honduras?

TB: “¡PAN DE COCO!” Garifuna women with rags wrapped around their heads and huge baskets that were the size of baby bathtubs, carrying warm bread made with coconut milk wrapped in manteles. Some of these women have a baby wrapped around their waists. They would walk around la playa, el pueblo, through las coloñias, yelling “¡Pan de coco! ¡pan de coco!.”

My grandmother’s friends, sitting on our porch, bonchinchando in their native language, Garifuna. I was never taught the language, so it always sounded so foreign, so African. And my grandmother was always most comfortable speaking Garifuna with her friends. From our porch, I heard laughter, I heard African, I heard Spanish, and I heard more laughter.

We lived by the beach, so I actually heard the palm leaves brushing against each other because of the beach breezes. Hearing the palm leaves and feeling the beach breezes were always meditative.

CD: How do you imagine poetry?

TB: Poetry is a stream of consciousness that even if you don’t get it when you are reading it, you enjoy the release of your present reality. Poetry allows you to get on this out-of-this-world ride of rainbows in hell, and enjoy that ride so much that you want to go back for more.

CD: Where do you get inspiration?

TB: Everywhere. Literally. Television, other people works, orgasms, pop culture, being married, my children, the cute guy I saw mopping the floor at my local Starbucks, my childhood experiences, my friends…

CD: As a female, give one piece of advice to other females.

TB: Love your pussy.

Honor your vulva, clitoris, and vagina.

CD: As a mother, give one piece of advice to other mothers.

TB: My one piece of advice: You will get inundated with advice by everyone, as to what you should do and who you need to be as a mother. Fuck all the advice. Let me explain…

Technology is straying us away from our instincts and people always want to give unsolicited advice. Be in tune with your instincts. You are the expert of your child, more so than your child’s doctor, than your mother/mother-in-law, and definitely more so than that old woman who feels is an expert in child rearing even though she has not raised a child in at least thirty years. You are the end and the beginning. Really, no one will look at all the people who gave you unsolicited advice; everyone will look at you, and you will be the one living with your decisions. Of course, humble yourself and ask for advice, but don’t let unsolicited advice and the internet be the ultimate decisions on what you should do with your child. Be in touch with your instincts and use your instincts as your ultimate guide.


 

Tullis-Bukhari is a healer. She makes a potion of words and sounds, gently stirs, then flicks her tongue. Perhaps not always so temperate; she shakes up storms in severe situations. Nonetheless, Tullis-Bukhari, albeit young, has the spirit of a thousand grandmothers roaming her bones. The amulet she wears intangible; it is within and around. It is a light. The resolve a shiny piece of saliva dangling from her mouth as she dreams her next poem; listen to the ancestral howl.

Take a deep dive into her work and world here:

Facebook
Poetry for Smoke
Performance 
Amazon 

WORDS BY Jacklyn Janeksela

FEATURED PHOTOGRAPH BY Marcia Wilson 

José Alejandro González: A Romantic in Love with People and their Stories

It starts with a man and his camera. Just that simple, just that unassuming; but it grows, this thing, this project, this heart of José Alejandro González. From videos of young drug addicts, waste pickers and professional recyclers in Colombia to all the faces he meets along his expedition from New York to Bogotá, José brings us faces upon faces of what the world really looks like. He speaks to us in the portraits he takes. He tells us numerous, multi-layered stories.

González found a beginning on the streets of Bogotá. It started with Barcecolombia that transitioned into The Insider Project; now he’s given us Todos Somos Buenos. Separate projects all of them, but the common denominator is the vision of one man and his camera. It’s not just his eye; just take a peek at the videos and the photos — something behind their eyes, too, shines. There is a camaraderie between viewer and viewed; romantic voyeurism, perhaps.

He’s quite a romantic, José Alejandro González. Not in a Parisian sense, although it seems quite possible, but in his sensibility to capture people who are, ultimately, invisible and make us love them. He captures them as they are. He makes them visible; he gives them life. He interviews the marginalized, he photographs the unassuming beauty of society; their honesty is staggering-something about González beckons them to reveal their inner workings-that thing called a soul. Clearly, they can perceive his altruism even from behind the camera’s lens.

In the dark streets of Bogotá, González wandered, much like those who live there, searching for something, someone. Barcecolombia; floating interviews with street dwellers. Both his bravery and their honesty is staggering. He delves into the lives of recyclers and drug addicts; with candid interviews that illustrate humanity-from his side and theirs. We are welcomed into the streets, into a world rarely seen. And González does all of this so naturally because his art is just that natural. A romantic, indeed.

If that isn’t proof enough, he’s taken a photo-journey across half a continent. Literally, using the elements in his favor. Finding people in their habitats, touching them with light and a quick flash; this is his new project titled Todos Somos Buenos. He moves seamlessly between classes and cultures, between genders and identity- he does something of witchcraft with that camera of his.

José Alejandro González bends light and reflection with the intention of stirring. Gaze at his photos and you will see a glimpse of the artist himself; he is the background to which they are bonded. And if you stare long enough you will see something of yourself.

Find his work here and here.

WORDS BY Jacklyn Janeksela 

Featured image via Facebook