Kama La Mackerel

Breaking the Promise of Tropical Emptiness: Trans Subjectivity in the Postcard

Kama La Mackerel, Breaking the Promise of Tropical Emptiness:
Trans Subjectivity in the Postcard
Artist Statement

My work aspires to articulate languages of decoloniality through inter-textual and inter-textural artistic practices.

My life’s work emerges from a concern for justice and an imperative to heal from colonial pasts. I reimagine and reformulate languages of the self in order to offer “a countermemory, for the future” (Gordon). I explore ancestral loss— as the loss of bodies, histories, cultures, languages, genders, knowledge systems and spiritual practices— in order to rewrite the marginalized and silenced voice in contemporary contexts of global imperialism. I draw from the past to interrupt the present, and offer possibilities of being for future, as a “reacquisition of power to create one’s own i-mage” (Philip).

The “i” in my work is multiple: it is an i that is descendant of Slaves and Indentured labour, it is an i that grew up on the plantation island of Mauritius, it is an i that is economically working-class but culturally middle-class, it is an i filled with queer desires, it is an i that crosses normative gender lines, it is an i that grew up in a half-Catholic and half-Hindu family, it is an i that is East-African, South-Asian and in the process of becoming Canadian… The i in my work refuses to be restricted by singularity, it cannot be: my voice is multiple, moving beyond and across definitions, a voice imbued in “complex personhood” (Gordon).

The i in my work, then, is not constrained by the boundaries of disciplinarity. I work across live performance, poetry, installations, textile and visual arts to speak multiple aesthetic and political voices that enunciate a decolonial poetics. The voice in the body of my work expresses itself across different media and in the interstices between these media. These intermedia spaces provide the terrain for elaborating “strategies of selfhood— singular and communal— that initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation” (Bhabha). Through an inter-disciplinary practice, I create a range of ‘in-between’ spaces and ‘in-between’ voices which offer a kaleidoscopic view of my subjectivities as they relate to space, time, history, and kinship: “this interstitial passage between fixed identifications opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy” (Bhabha). I thus re-figure my own corporality as multiple, transgressing genres, locations, bodies, tongues, spaces and temporalities.

“Breaking the Promise of Tropical Emptiness: Trans Subjectivity in the Postcard” is a performance-based photography series where I call into question the dominating aesthetics of postcards as orientalist visual artifacts that have historically portrayed island spaces as “exotic” landscapes, devoid of local subjectivity. In this series, I disrupt the colonial postcard frame by positioning my queer and transgender body in the foreground of stereotypical postcard-like landscapes. “Breaking the Promise” also articulates a visual vocabulary with which to reclaim the scapes of my home/is/land and return my transgender body back to the land I had to flee in order to birth my queer femme self.

Kama La Mackerel is a multi-disciplinary artist, educator, writer, cultural mediator and literary translator who hails from Mauritius and now lives in Montréal. Their work is grounded in the exploration of justice, love, healing, decoloniality, and self- and collective-empowerment. They work within and across poetry, photography, performance, installation and textile arts. @kamalamackerel