Q&A QUARANTINE AND ART: “A Time for Manman Toumo”


Here is the latest Q&A conversation between Marsha Pearce and artist Gwladys Gambie. It is part of the series Q&A Quarantine and Art [also see previous post Q&A Quarantine and Art.] Here are excerpts of the conversation. For full interview and photos of Gwladys Gambie’s work, go to Q&A: “A Time for Manman Toumo.”

Marsha Pearce: Gwladys it was lovely seeing you a few months ago, during the carnival season in Trinidad. It seems like aeons have passed since then. The pandemic has muddled time, days, months. How are you? How are things in Martinique?

Gwladys Gambie: Hi Marsha. It was also a pleasure for me to see you again. I am doing well – confined to my little apartment. Activities are slowly starting back in Martinique. We’ll come out of the lockdown on May 11th.

You’re participating in the 12th edition of the Mercosur Visual Arts Biennial led by head curator Andrea Giunta. The exhibition is themed “Feminine(s): Visualities, Actions and Affections” and it features work by female, non-binary and gender fluid artists.  The event was scheduled to take place in Brazil, but the COVID-19 context now requires a virtual presentation. Please tell me about your work in the biennial, which has striking images of the black female body and Caribbean landscapes. What ideas and concerns are you addressing?

I had to create a series of India ink drawings and collages in situ, but the pandemic situation affected those plans. So, I am showing some sketches of what I planned to do there, and a few collages I did in Guadeloupe in 2018.  I am also exhibiting some drawings I did during this lockdown.

In the collage Poto Mitan (2018), I am addressing the issue of the female condition in the Caribbean space. Poto mitan is the central pillar in the Vodou temple. In the French West Indies, we use the expression as a metaphor to talk about women as the center of the family. Everything is organised around the mother. However, a lot of women reject this concept of Fanm Poto Mitan (Woman as Poto Mitan), because it restricts them – women feel it does not give them the freedom to be whatever they want to be.

In my work, I consider ideas of sexuality, race and gender in a West Indian society, where stereotypes and the consequences of colonialism are still present. I am asking questions that relate to decolonial representations of the black female body – a decolonial feminism. In Anatomy of sensitive (2020), I associate human anatomy with flowers and organic shapes. I create little poetic eco-systems. I often combine the body and landscape because there are interconnections. We can see it in this surreal situation we are living in now. Our absence (our staying at home) is changing the earth. Nature can live without us, but we, fundamentally, need nature to live. I create, using the concept of “creole” to construct my own graphic/visual language. [. . .]

For full interview and photos of artwork, see http://marshapearce.com/qanda/a-time-for-manman-toumo/

See the artist’s page at http://gwladysgambie.blogspot.com/

Also see https://frenchculture.org/art-and-design/9891-interview-rising-artist-gwladys-gambie

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