Red Summer Road Trip

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Zulu Sign Language

In 2015, Thamsanqa Jantjie, the infamous ‘fake interpreter’ for Nelson Mandela’s memorial, unintentionally shed light on corruption in South Africa and the disenfranchisement of the deaf community. When confronted with his administration’s handling of the hiring of Jantjie, President Zuma took the insult a step farther and coined the fake signs as ‘Zulu-Sign Language’. This is when, as an artist, I wanted to investigate if there actually was a Zulu sign language, and the differences of signs used by blacks in America and beyond.

In my work I ambitiously explore blackness in the most unexpected places, and this is uncharted and somewhat risky territory for me. As a performance artist, I create work that deals with the oppressive nature of the world we live in. A lot of my work performances deal with how labor and stress relate to the body. Entering work through language is new for me. Sign language is a complex hybrid of politics and movement that fascinates me.

For my new performance titled Zulu Sign Language, I envision a stylized video shot frame-by-frame in time-lapsed animation. I will be standing against an African savannah that peels away to reveal a historical image of Zulus celebrating after a victorious battle against the colonizing British. Ultimately, in editing, I will convey a collage-like performance video in which smoke, dramatic lighting and atmospheric space will be an effective spectacle. The nuances will become apparent as I will sign in ASL black nationalist literature. I want to embody and physicalize struggle and seek to use this language to insert power and duality into the performance. At times my artwork is more about struggle than a beautiful picture. In this situation, I have the opportunity to potentially do both. With this work I will be establishing a visual dialogue that will begin with a page of passionate poetry and will gradually turn into a stylized experience that will reveal a multitude of social issues and experiences.