In a series of seven sculptures created by abstract expressionist artiste D-Empress Dianne Regisford, the multi-sensory performance installation, ‘Hersto-rhetoric? Na so today!!!’ is at once an incantation, a lament and an invocation for conscious engagement with the rupture of a culturally infused, collective memory of sexuality and sensuality. By fluidly weaving narratives, movement, voice and abstract, unfinished sculptures, the performance installation invites critical explorations of the notion of, ‘la femme libre’ (the liberated woman) from an African feminist perspective.
The works are inspired by what D-Empress describes as a ten-year initiation into teachings and practice of the ancient West African Mandinka badjenne tradition. This tradition is an intergenerational practice where elder women, the badjenne sages, are revered and honoured as the keepers of specifically female traditions who help to shape female identity through rites of passage of the girl child into womanhood. Though vibrantly alive today in different forms amongst Mandinka regions of West Africa and beyond, these traditions are increasingly becoming contested ideological and practice spaces. This becomes particularly pertinent as African women grapple to find belonging and liberation within often contradictory global narratives of femininity, feminism and the idealism of liberation in a globalised world.
D-Empress invites us to look again at the badjenne through a series of unfinished sculptures that create a space to unfold the complex, alchemic crucible of communion, culture and co-creation with the audiences. Believing that no act of creation is ever complete, D-Empress offers the unfinished works as an invocation to those sharing in the performance to move beyond merely receiving to sharing and co-creating.
The immersive installation, she suggests, may be an African-anchored pathway to a re-enchantment of romance, of seduction, of living, leading us away from a world bent on equality of the sexes into a space where we may ask different questions of ourselves. In such a space, the possibility arises of crafting futures that move beyond the binary bastions in which we so often become entrenched.
D-Empress Dianne Regisford
D-Empress Dianne Regisford is a multi-sensory, contemporary artiste invested in artistic enquiry, which creates spaces for cultural and poetic acts of encounter. Her artistic practice includes the visual arts (painting, sculpture), poetry and performance, and pivots around ideas of voice, participation and representation of women in the African-Caribbean diaspora.
Inspired by cultural and spiritual systems of Africa and her diaspora, D’Empress’s creations ‘churn the soul soil of identity, heritage, mythology and humanity, excavating narratives as pathways to social renewal’. She works with the socio-cultural fabric of diaspora voice, (re)constructed identity and sense of place in urban spaces, and is also particularly interested in the experiences of African feminist perspectives of gender, sexuality and sensuality.
D-Empress’s works weave sensory narratives that evoke, tie and sometimes knot threads of the cultured, the indigenous and the contemporary in the social fabric of urban spaces across the African-Caribbean diaspora.
Cite this: “D-Empress Dianne Regisford: ‘Hersto-rhetoric? Na so today!!!’.” Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds, 2017, https://writersmakeworlds.com/d-empress-hersto-rhetoric/. Accessed 10 December 2018.