Gender, Race and Performance Space: Women’s Activism in Jamaican and South African Theatre.

Under contract with University of Illinois Press. ***Winner of the 2017 National Women’s Studies/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize.

About the Book

Africana/Black people’s experiences are characterized by multiple differences and intersections of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, class and geographic boundaries. These are affected by the legacies of the middle passage, slavery, colonialism, segregation, apartheid and modern spatial trans/figurations such as gentrification and the marginalization of Black communities .

Considering this history and present, how do Africana people use performance to define and redefine themselves, their communities and nations?

My book asserts that theatre is an essential means through which Africana women create feminisms and womanism, and produce knowledge about how Black identity is forged within and across national spaces.

Gender, Race and Performance Space focuses on the work of four groups, projects and organizations. These are, Sistren Theatre Collective and the Letters from the Dead Project in Jamaica, and The Mothertongue Project and Olive Tree Theatre Company in South Africa. I analyze them within nationally-specific contexts of Jamaican and South African theatre as well as the global context of Africana women’s performance-based pedagogies.  Through public and site-specific performances these groups disrupt the problematic ways in which women’s bodies are racially and sexually interpreted as they move within the public sphere. Concurrently, by focusing on marginalized Black communities they transgress the geographic manifestations of gender-based, racial and economic inequalities.

Watch Nicosia Shakes speak about her research, with reference to Sistren Theatre Collective, Jamaica and The Mothertongue Project, South Africa here.
Nicosia Shakes with members of the Hannah Town Cultural Group, creators and performers of “A Slice of Reality”in Hannah Town, Kingston, Jamaica, June 2015. (c) Nicosia Shakes

Other photos from top: Isiko Lam, written and directed by Pamella Nketke, at the Olive Tree Women’s Theatre Festival, 2015| Song for the Beloved, an exhibition and performance from the Letters from the Dead Project (curated by Honor Ford-Smith, Anique J. Jordan, Kara Springer), Kingston, Jamaica 2015 Copyright Nicosia Shakes| Sistren Theatre Collective in rehearsal, circa 1980 Copyright Sistren.