BREAKING THE PROMISE OF TROPICAL EMPTINESS: TRANS SUBJECTIVITY IN THE POSTCARD

This series by Montreal-based Mauritian artist, Kama La Mackerel, photographed by South-African writer and scholar, Nedine Moonsamy, redefines the aesthetics of Mauritian postcards by positioning trans subjectivity at the centre of the visual artefact.

This series is composed of 15 photographs printed and mounted on 24″ x 36″ and was first exhibited at articule (Montreal), as part of Mémoires et Portraits, March 22- April 21, 2019

Postcards of places such as Mauritius and other “tropical” destinations adhere to a very particular aesthetics: they are bright and colourful, they feature dreamy landscapes, golden sunsets, turquoise lagoons, mountains and endless stretches of sugar-cane fields that merge into the shades of the ocean. These “tropical havens” need to be sold to the tourist’s eye as a dream of exoticism, a promise of isolation, a return to a space of innocence, emptiness and “authentic” connection with nature, untainted by civilization. According to this colonialist logic, Mauritian subjecthood cannot be featured in these colourful pieces of glossy cardboard that act as ambassadors to the island.

In this series, Kama La Mackerel reclaims this aesthetics by positioning their queer and transgender body in the foreground of stereotypical postcard-like landscapes. From the beaches, to the waterfalls, from the sugarcane fields to the seven colored earth of Chamarel, the artist revisits the sites of Mauritius that are the most popularly portrayed in postcards and tourist brochures. In doing so, the artist centres Mauritian subjecthood in a colonial visual discourse that has always erased (quite literally “photoshopped”) black and brown bodies from its frames. In figuring their own transgender body at the centre of the frame, the artist brings to the fore Mauritian, queer, femme, gender non-conforming subjectivity from the margins of the island, to be positioned at the centre of orientalist visual discourse as a fully realized political subject, breaking the promise of tropical emptiness.