Kama La Mackerel (they//them) is multi-disciplinary artist, writer, educator and cultural mediator, from Mauritius, who now lives in 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, digital, poetic and performative work, and 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 a form of resistance to the status quo, their work articulates an anticolonial praxis through cultural production. 

You can get in touch with them at kama@lamackerel.net

Panel 1

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.

It is in inter-media practice, and across multi-year, archival and community-engaged research that I develop the core of my practice. My practice emerges from personal stories, family histories, auto-ethnography, grassroots collective knowledge, archival research, community-based research and critical theory. My work is process-oriented, guided first and foremost by the research process and the research material: I delve into the stories and narratives, the ones that are readily accessible just as much as the ones which are footnotes in the margins of history. As I start articulating the research material in a theoretical and aesthetic framework, I let the research material shape itself into the cultural forms and artefacts it wants to become, be it visual, textual, textile or performative. I thus never set out with a finished product or a completed piece of work in mind— it is from the process, from the ‘in-between’ space that my work emerges.

critical texts:

Bhabha, Homi, The Location of Culture, Routledge (1994, 2006)

Derrida, Jacques, Specters of Marx: The State of Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, Routledge (1994, 2006)

Gordon, Avery, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, University of Minnesota Press (1997, 2008)

Philip, M. NourbeSe, She Tries Her Tongue: her silence softly breaks, Ragweed (1989, 1996)

Panel 4

BIO

Kama La Mackerel (they//them) is a Mauritian multi-disciplinary artist, writer, educator and cultural mediator 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 Bachelor 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 a Masters degree 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) and SPEAK B(L)ACK: a Black History Month Spoken Word Show (2016-19). In 2016, for International Women’s Day, Kama was honoured by the CBC/Radio Canada as one of the 9 artists whose work is making a difference in 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 that ran between 2013-16. Kama has been an artist mentor with the AMY Project (Artists Mentoring Youth) in Toronto in 2017-18, and was also the Artistic Director of the AMY Project’s Performance Poetry Program for Trans Women and Femmes (2017). 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, 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 are developing their new interdisciplinary solo, ZOM-FAM.

Kama has presented their 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 AccèsAsi. 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), and La Mutinerie (Paris).

Kama’s work has been published both online and in print, including pieces in the Lambda Literary Award Winning anthology Glitter & Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy (2015) and We Mark Your Memory: writings from descendants of indenture (2018).

Kama was born in Mauritius, in mixed-race Kréol (Afro-Mauritian) and 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), 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.