As part of Sovereign Intimacies:
Zong! unTelling the unTold, unDoing the unDone | Durational Reading with M. NourbeSe Philip
Wednesday, December 9, 2020 | 6 pm CT
Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art | 1, 460 Portage Ave | Winnipeg MB | Canada
On Wednesday, December 9, 2020 Plug In ICA is honoured to host a durational reading by M. NourbeSe Philip as our final event of Sovereign Intimacies and as part of Zong! Global 2020. M. NourbeSe Philip presents the first online global iteration of the annual durational reading of Zong!, her acclaimed book-length poem. The 10-day durational reading commemorates the massacre of some 150 enslaved Africans, which began on November 29, 1781 and continued for the following 10 days. In its eighth year of production, the sequential reading will consist of prerecorded readings/collective performances of the text, interspersed by 3 live simultaneous collective readings. These readings will run from November 30 to December 9, 2020 culminating with this live reading hosted by Plug In ICA presented in partnership with Gallery 1C03, with support from Video Pool Media Arts Centre.
This year’s shared and collective reading grounds itself in the 2015 UN declaration of the International Decade for People of African Descent whose theme is “recognition, justice and development,” and commemorates those who lost their lives on board the Zong. 2020’s reading will take place within the still-present context of the worldwide uprising against anti-Black racism sparked by the lynching of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020. While this act of remembrance resides in the particularity of anti-Black racism, it also embraces the words of Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer that until all are free none is free. With that in mind the Zong! 2020 reading acknowledges and honours the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean—those who first walked this land in love, respect and wisdom and who continue to face the depredations of anti-Indigenous racism. As such Zong! Global 2020 bears witness to the collective grief we bear and witness in the face of the ongoing destruction of the earth, our only home.
Zong! tells the story that cannot be told yet must be told. Equal parts song, moan, shout, oath, ululation, curse, and chant, Zong! excavates the legal text, the only extant, public document related to the massacre. Memory, history, and law collide and metamorphose into the poetics of the fragment. Through the innovative use of fugal and counterpointed repetition, Zong! becomes an anti-narrative lament that stretches the boundaries of the poetic form, haunting the spaces of forgetting and mourning the forgotten.
Zong! has also been presented in three dramatic performances by theatrical directors and excerpts of Zong! have been used in six different visual arts installations by different artists in five countries.
Born in Tobago, M. NOURBESE PHILIP is an unembedded poet, essayist, novelist, playwright and independent scholar who lives in the space-time of the City of Toronto where she practised law for seven years before becoming a poet and writer. Among her published works are the seminal She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks; the speculative prose poem Looking for Livingston: An Odyssey of Silence; the young adult novel, Harriet’s Daughter; the play, Coups and Calypsos, and four collections of essays including her most recent collection, BlanK. Her book-length poem, Zong!, is a conceptually innovative, genre-breaking epic, which explodes the legal archive as it relates to slavery. Among her awards are numerous Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council grants, including the prestigious Chalmers Award (Ontario Arts Council), the Canada Council’s Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award (Outstanding mid-career artist), as well as the Pushcart Prize (USA), the Casa de las Americas Prize (Cuba), the Lawrence Foundation Prize (USA), the Arts Foundation of Toronto Writing and Publishing Award (Toronto), and Dora Award finalist (drama). Her fellowships include Guggenheim, McDowell, and Rockefeller (Bellagio). She is an awardee of both the YWCA Woman of Distinction (Arts) and the Elizabeth Fry Rebels for a Cause awards. She has been Writer-in-Residence at several universities and a guest at writers’ retreats. M. NourbeSe Philip is the 2020 recipient of PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.
Sovereign Intimacies is a group exhibition co-curated by Nasrin Himada and Jennifer Smith, in partnership with Gallery 1C03, with support from Video Pool Media Arts Centre. The exhibition takes place at Plug In ICA from September 26 – December 20, 2020, with extensive programming that consists of online talks, workshops, screenings, and poetry readings. Sovereign Intimacies explores themes of cultural and community exchange between Indigenous artists and artists from the diaspora, more specifically artists who are First Nations, Inuit and Métis collaborating with artists living in what is currently called Canada who came to this land and are not part of the settler/colonial history of the country. The group show consists of pairings of artists, as well as individuals, whose work is based on process and relationship building, and for those whose work is invested in active conceptualization around topics of friendship and intimacy, who are working to build collective vision of a sovereign future.