10,000 جلدة ضد الشمس. مينا [ 10,000 LASHES AGAINST THE SUN • MINA]
MAHLÕT • S A N S O S A
24th of September, 2015, during the annual Islamic Pilgrimage of Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, more than an estimated (and disputed) 2,000 people were crushed to death en route to the Jamaraat Bridge, in neighboring Mina, where the “Stoning of the Devil” ritual would take place. This occurrence marked the deadliest Hajj catastrophe in history. Of the many global grievances that followed, it was the immediate public blame by Saudi officials of pilgrims from “African countries” for the “cause of these deaths” that struck me.
In this performance I carry the weight of a 7 feet (2.135 meter) handmade cross inscribed with the word A F R I C A in bold red letters. The symbolism of me, the embodied essence of 10,000 selves, both living and non, enacting my own rendition of “the stoning of the devil” only here, instead of throwing rocks on a bridge, I throw red heels in the streets of Dar es Salaam, for the sake of, and my allegiance to, AfroFemininity.
The cross represents both the literal and figurative burdens that we each have to bear.
32 of the victims of the Hajj stampede were from Tanzania. (What is not made visible through image or video documentation are the many individuals that helped conceal myself and my audience with large fabrics from public view. Respect by way of discretion is kin to safety in an Islamic nation.)
Together under a Swahili sun, we moved as one.
Much of my practice is rooted, not in the spectacular, but in the presence and actuality of being. My mother, being a devout Muslim woman of both culture and faith, also endured the tribulations of a Hajj not fully realized, having lost someone dear in the occurrences of 2015. Being of both Tanzanian and Saudi heritage, her existence is what guided my motivations for the weight of this performance.
Through the use of stylized and symbolic aesthetic, I aimed to create a visual ode to Black, African, Diasporic Womanhood, on my terms. The red pump and its interconnectedness to femininity: the head covering, not of a hijab, but of a ski mask, synonymous with ideas relating to anonymity, and a metaphor of the hijacking of individualism within AfroSelfhoods… my bare legs: my body, our bodies as, OURS, to do with as we please, walking through these lives as many. And also, as one.