Republica: Temple of Color and Sound

Kristina Kay Robinson

In January 1811, eight years after France was forced by the loss of Haiti, its most profitable colony, to sell Louisiana to the United States, hundreds of people held captive on plantations along the Mississippi River of southeast Louisiana revolted against the planter class. It was not the first uprising against enslavers in the region where the ocean that connects the Old World to the New meets the river that allowed the United States to manifest its colonizing “destiny,” but in the fictitious world that foregrounds artist Kristina Kay Robinson’s installation Temple of Color and Sound, it is the only successful one. After capturing New Orleans, per the artist’s alternative history, the revolutionaries continue east through coastal Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida until reaching the Atlantic, abolishing slavery in the deepest south decades before the American Civil War and severing the United States’ access to the continent’s second largest port. Republica, home to Robinson’s alter ego Maryam de Capita, is the nation-within-a-nation born of the insurrection’s imagined success. As an ambassador of Republica, de Capita travels the installation around the world, engaging devotees in ritual, prayer, and intellectual dialogue about the personal and global implications of white supremacist patriarchal imperialism, from experiences of sexual abuse to political unrest in far-flung countries. The Temple is a space for healing. Pre-COVID-19, visitors gathered before its elaborate layers of candles, fabrics, religious icons, books, and other relics, as De Capita provided entertainment and conversation. Now that a global pandemic has compounded the travel restrictions Republica faces, she must send the temple and her own image in two-dimensional form. This artwork is an ontological reckoning that challenges viewers’ beliefs about the nature of reality. As COVID-19 and international political unrest in response to state-sanctioned violence lay bare the disparities in life chances between the descendants of colonizers and the colonized, The Temple beckons viewers to peer beyond the veil.

Kristina Kay Robinson is a writer, curator, and visual artist born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her written, visual and curatorial practice centers and interrogates the modern and ancient connections between world communities. Robinson’s work both at home and abroad focuses on the impact of globalization, militarism, and surveillance on society and their intersections with contemporary art and pop culture. Her ongoing installation and performance art project, Republica: Temple of Color and Soundhas been presented in exhibition at “Welcome to the Afrofuture” during Miami Art Week, New Museum’s residency program, Ideas City and the New Orleans African American Museum. Both iterations of Republica: Temple of Color and Sound received enthusiastic reviews in Sugarcane Magazine and most recently PIN-UP magazine. Robinson is the co-editor of Mixed Company, a collection of short fiction and visual narratives by women of color. In addition to the anthology, the collective of writers hosted free cultural programming in the city of New Orleans. Notable events included a reading and lecture by Black Arts Movement poet, Sonia Sanchez at Le Musée de F.P.C and the American premiere of the award-winning Eritrean-Italian documentary, Asmarina. Robinson’s other curatorial endeavors include Sudanese artist Khalid Abdel Rahman’s “A Disappearance” hosted in 2017 by the Arts Council of New Orleans.

Lydia Y. Nichols is a native New Orleanian cultural critic and arts administrator. Her work centers the lived experiences of Africans in the Diaspora and prioritizes community accessibility. Lydia’s essays have appeared in Pelican Bomb,Liberator Magazine, Gathering of the Tribes Magazine, and The Killens Review. As co-curator of street art exhibition and Prospect P.3+ site ExhibitBE, Lydia researched and documented the history of the blighted apartment complex in which the work was created to guide the curatorial process, managed community programming and daily operations, and, after the exhibition closed, coordinated the #PaintWhereItAint Tour through which several ExhibitBE artists traveled across the southwest United States to collaborate with artists in other cities on community-centered public art projects. Since, Lydia has created “In/Between Spaces” -a mobile group exhibition series in a 26’U-Haul that explores Black identity in various spheres of modern life and that travels to predominantly Black neighborhoods in New Orleans to engage those who have been alienated from the world of contemporary fine art. Lydia continues to manage production for artist Brandan “Bmike” Odums, including his first solo exhibition “Ephemeral Eternal” at Studio Be and, in collaboration with Welcome Table New Orleans, the Algiers Oral History and Public Art Intensive through which 24 high school youth are creatinga freestanding mural based on interviews they conduct with elders on the evolution of race relations.

Notes for Tomorrow is a traveling exhibition organized and produced by Independent Curators International (ICI) and initiated by Frances Wu Giarratano, Jordan Jones, Becky Nahom, Renaud Proch, and Monica Terrero. The exhibition was made possible with the generous support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, VIA Art Fund and ICI’s Board of Trustees and International Forum.

We are on Treaty 1 Territory. Plug In ICA is located on the territories of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.

Plug In ICA extends our heartfelt gratitude to our generous donors, valued members, and dedicated volunteers. We acknowledge the sustaining support of our Director’s Circle. You all make a difference.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Canada Council, the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council. We could not operate without their continued financial investment and lobbying efforts.

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