Kama La Mackerel (they//them) is a Mauritian-Canadian multi-disciplinary artist, educator, cultural mediator, writer and literary translator who lives and loves in tio’tia:ke (Montréal), Canada. Their work is grounded in the exploration of justice, love, healing, decoloniality and self- and collective-empowerment. Kama’s artistic practice spans across textile, visual, poetic, digital, and performative work; their work is at once narratological and theoretical, at once personal and political. A firm believer that artistic practices have the power to build resilience, to heal and to act as forms of resistance to the status quo, their work articulates an anti-colonial praxis through cultural production.
A theatre practitioner since the age of 15, Kama immigrated to India at the age of 18, and completed a BA in Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Pune. During this time, they trained in contemporary dance, and Kathak under the mentorship of Pt. Nandkishore Kapote. In 2008, Kama moved to Canada where they completed an MA in Theory, Culture and Politics at Trent University while training in physical theatre with Theatre Korzenie.
Kama moved to tio’tia:ke (Montréal) in 2012, where they have since developed a multi-disciplinary and community-based arts practice. The creator and host of GENDER B(L)ENDER: queer open stage (2013-18), Kama generated a cornerstone of the Montreal queer performance scene where, over the span of 5 years, they presented 650+ performances from 300+ artists and collectives from Montreal and beyond. They also curated and hosted The Self-Love Cabaret: l’amour se conjugue à la première personne (2012-16), résistance//résidence (2012), Home Invasion: Queers Shaking the foundations of all White Houses (2015), Contemporary Poetics of Trans Women of Colour (2016-18), SPEAK B(L)ACK: a Black History Month Spoken Word Show (2016-19), Voix et Résiliences (2019) and Qœur-à-Qœur (2020). In 2016, was named one of 9 artists whose work is making a difference in Canada by CBC/Radio Canada.
In 2012, alongside artist and illustrator, Elisha Lim, Kama co-founded 2-qtbipocmontreal, an arts collective that sought to visibilize art practices by queer and trans artists of colour in Montréal. 2-qtbipocmontreal later became the Qouleur Festival and ran between 2013-16. Kama has been an artist mentor with the AMY Project (Artists Mentoring Youth) in Toronto in 2017-18, and was the founder and Artistic Director of Trans Gemmes: the AMY Projects Creative Mentorship Program for Trans Women and Trans Femmes (2017-20). In the Spring 2017, alongside Nikki Shaffeeulah and Aliyah Jamal, Kama co-designed and co-facilitated Parallel Tracks, a national training program in community arts facilitation for racialized artists. Between 2017-19, Kama designed and directed Our Bodies, Our Stories: a qtbipoc writing and performance mentorship program with Project 10 in Montreal, and mentored 40 emerging queer and trans artists of colour aged 18-25.
In the summer of 2015, Kama did an artist residency at the Robert’s Street Social Centre in Halifax, and in 2016-17, they were awarded an 8-months artist residency as part of the P. Lantz Initiative for Excellence in Education and the Arts in the Faculty of Education at McGill University. In 2018-19, Kama was recipient of Alliance, Programme de Soutien aux Artistes de Montréal, from the MAI (Montréal, Arts Interculturels), where they started developing their new interdisciplinary solo show, ZOM-FAM. ZOM-FAM was also recipient of a creation residency from the Réseau AccèsCulture de la Ville de Montréal.
In 2020, Kama published ZOM-FAM as their debut poetry collection (Metonymy Press). The book was widely reviewed by publications including in World Literature Today, Brown Girl Magazine, Arc Poetry Magazine, Xtra etc. ZOM-FAM was named a CBC Best Poetry Book and a Globe and Mail Best Debut of 2020. It was also a finalist for the Quebec Writers Federation Concordia University First Book Prize and the Writers’ Trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ2S+ Writers.
Kama’s work has been published work in English, French and Kreol both online and in print, including in Lettres Québécoises, Mœbius, Ellipse Magazine etc. They have contributed to the Lambda Literary Award Winning anthology Glitter & Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy (2015), as well as We Mark Your Memory: writings from descendants of indenture (2018).
Their translation of Kai Cheng Thom’s From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea was published in French as L’enfant de fourrure, de plumes, d’écailles, de feuilles et de paillettes by Éditions Dents de Lion in the spring of 2019. Their co-translation of of Vivek Shraya’s I’m Afraid of Men has been published as J’ai peur des hommes by Éditions du Remue-Ménage in the Winter 2020, and their translation of Kai Cheng Thom’s novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars will be released in Fall 2021 as Fèms Magnifiques et dangereuses by Éditions XYZ.
Kama has presented their visual and performative work in Montréal at venues such as La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse, articule, MAI (Montréal, Arts Interculturels), Fonderie Darling, Monument National, Studio 303, Studio XX, McGill University, Concordia University, UQAM, l’Union Française, and at festivals such as Off the Page, Sisters in Motion, Festival Phénomena, Festival SOIR, HTMlles, Qouleur and Festival AccèsAsie. In 2017, their piece “The People Tree,” commissioned by Althea Thauberger, was shown at the Montréal Museum of Contemporary Arts (MAC) as part of the exhibit In Search of Expo 67.
Kama has also presented their work nationally at venues such as the Œil de Poisson (Québec), Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa), The Gladstone Hotel (Toronto), Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (Toronto), Onsite Gallery, OCADU (Toronto), The Khyber Centre for the Arts (Halifax), and festivals such as VerseFest International Festival of Poetry (Ottawa), Drop the Mic! (Winnipeg), Naked Heart Queer Literary Festival (Toronto), and Verses Festival of Words (Vancouver).
Kama has presented their work internationally at Cooper Union Gallery (New York), Heels on Wheels (Brooklyn), Burlington City Arts (Burlington), Yale University (New Haven), The Hackney Attick (London), The School for New Dance Performance (Amsterdam), University of Amsterdam (Amsterdam), Humboldt University (Berlin), Schwules Museum (Berlin), Galerie Confluences (Paris), La Mutinerie (Paris), and The Point of Order Gallery, Wits University (Johannesburg).
In September-October 2021, they are presenting a new multimedia installation Queering the Is/land Body comprised of textiles, photography, video and poetry installations at Galerie de l’UQAM for MOMENTA, Biennale de l’image.
Kama was born in Mauritius, in mixed-race Kréol (Afro-Mauritian) and Madras/Malbar (Indo-Mauritian) family, descendant of Slaves and indentured labour on the plantation island. Growing up at the interstice of two ethnicities, two religions (Catholicism and Hinduism) and three languages (Kréol, French and English), having lived in Hindi and Tamil, and being a “zom-fam,” (i.e. man-woman or transgender), Kama occupies multiple hybrid spaces, journeying across bodies, lands, cultures and languages, seeking a place to call home.