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Lyse Ishimwe

first performed on December 6, 2018
BEURSSCHOUWBURG, Brussels, Belgium
performed once in 2018


New York, NY


A little boy who has to care for an egg for a week in exchange for a pair of blinking tits. The audience is implicated in the process—male-identifying people are handed eggs and must carry them in a circle-procession, each revolution a turn around the sun, as I continue the story of the little boy and make a vocal offering to the audience—perhaps a lullaby, in this case a Lebanese folk song about the demise of a water mill: once the mill-owner and head of a vibrant community, the grandfather must now grind sun and shade instead of flour and other sustaining resources.

Thanking each male, I retrieve the eggs and invite them to return to the audience. Then I began a process of smashing and planting the eggs. Eggs are ovaries in English, but testicles in Arabic. My multilingual piece plays with multiple cultural associations, provides room for varied memories to play out for the audience: participants now, their memories move into my silent circle of movement. I form a mud of egg, henna, oil, and rosewater. The mud of Iraq, life giving forces and oil too. I form the mud into a pair of blinking breasts: it’s my land. I sing them a lullaby my mother sang to me when I was small:

Hush little baby, don’t say a word

Mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird

And if that mocking bird don’t sing

Baba’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

And if that diamond ring don’t shine

Mama’s gonna buy you an oil mine

And we’ll make lots and lots of money . . .

I am a first generation Iraqi American, born just after the first gulf war. My memory of my motherland is distorted, a mix of familial associations and propaganda blasts. In any case, the land my parents left over three decades ago no longer exists, having been consciously manipulated though “less than lethal” environmental manipulation tactics. My performance is an attempt to acknowledge the grief of loss, and to temper it with creation.