A choreography made for the camera, the first video work by Trinidad & Tobago-USA-based artist and performer Fana Fraser incarnates the forces of the Yoruba Orishas, Oya and Oshun in her journey to “beaching.” The West African Yoruba belief system was introduced in the Caribbean through the transatlantic slave trade during the Middle Passage and survived in contemporary forms of mysticisms and spiritual practices that centralise and preserve the femme presence. As in her previous works, Fraser honors Black women’s bodies and the ways in which the African-Caribbean connection is kept alive.
Filling the gaps of displacements and dispossession through generations of the Black African enslaved descendants involves engaging with forms of power, disempowerment, and empowerment. Those who “successfully beached” are part of the historical narrative that Fraser endorses in this video work where spirituality plays an essential realm in the diaspora journey of defining past and present identities. Inspired by the breathing and the multispecies lessons of American writer Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s book Undrowned (2020) and the Caribbean queer practice denunciations of Pedagogies of Crossing (2005) by M. Jacqui Alexander, Fraser mimics the journey of the leatherback sea turtle in her work. The largest of the sea turtles, as big as a human body and one of the oldest amphibious still alive, in its popular seasonal hatching on Trinidad and Tobago’s beaches its figure embodies the multispecies alliance. Laying the eggs and covering them underneath the sand, the sea turtles create a second womb, close to the sea, for the newborns to find their way back into the Ocean. Nursing and nurturing in the cross of ecosystems are part of Fraser’s claims in favor of reproductive rights and the rights of Caribbean LGBTIQA+ communities who continue to endure homophobia every day. The lightness of air rapidly transiting throughout ecosystems introduces the complex meaning of beaching: reaching to shores from the sea. The air above the water powers human breath, and carries on the singing of the birds, while underwater engines the tides, the waves, and the bubbles. Fraser narrates the path of beaching through body movements that open up—emerging and submerging—and vivid breaths, yarns, screams, and various flesh noises that transform all bodies into instruments. Stemming from Bengali and yogi traditions, the intensity of the soundtrack conforms to a multidimensional performance made for the camera. Imaging a choreography of coexistence of multiple bodies: waters, land, turtles, and humans alongside the camera grows into the musicality and sonority that resonates across and beyond.
María Montero Sierra