Bois d’Ébène was performed by Fondering Darling in August 2017, in the context of the series La Place Publique, and also functions as an installation in the Thick Skin to Femme Armour body of work.

Bois d’Ébène was one of the derogatory terms used in french to refer to Slaves, literally meaning “ebony wood.”  

first grieve
plunge into the silences
claw your fingers at history
unbury the dead
dig into the earth for 
bones bodies scars 

In Bois d’Ébène, I engage with Québec’s history by delving into its systemic silences. There were more than 4000 Slaves in Québec, both Indigenous and Black, a fact holds little to no imprint in the contemporary popular imaginary, a speck of history deliberately erased from collective memory. 

Canada and Québec were built on the broken backs of people of colour: Slaves, indentured labour, migrant workers, temporary foreign workers. At the crux of colonial expansion and the building of the modern western nation prevails the disposability of bodies of colour, as was seen through the genocide of Indigenous peoples, as was seen through Slavery,  as was seen through the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923, as is presently seen through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. 

Bois d’Ébène is a performative reckoning with history. The performance takes place in the middle of a street, on Rue Ottawa, which is closed for the evening for La Place Publique, a series curated by Fonderie Darling to reclaim public spaces to exert artistic and political practices. The performance takes place within an installation made of textile cut-outs in the shape of the map of Québec and arranged like the outline of the Québec flag; and brown paper cutouts in the shape of the fleur-de-lys. The fleur-de-lys is not only the symbol of Québec nationalism and the Québec province, but it is also a symbol that was branded on the bodies of Slaves as a form of punishment. 

excavate these lands 
find the blood sweat bones teeth salt
buried unclaimed ancestries
they ask us to grieve. to grieve.
to set them free. to set them free. 
to set them free. to set them free. 
to set them free. to set them free.

The performance is a deep act of mourning. It is an attempt to speak to the Bois d’Ébène, to grieve ancestral loss, and to conjure the voices of all the Slaves who were never wept for, who were never offered tombs or memorials, the ones whom nobody remembers. In doing this work of mourning, I hope to offer peace to the ghosts of the ancestors, to set them free of their colonial hauntings, and to allow them to claim a dignified space within a decolonial vision of Québec. 

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