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M. Charlene Stevens

first performed on May 11, 2019
Para\\el Performance Space, Brooklyn, NY
performed three times in 2019


Queens, NY


“Junkanooaacome” is a site-specific, interdisciplinary / interactive project consisting of workshops, performances, and other media intended to decolonize and raise awareness of New York City’s historic spaces and monuments still bearing names of slavemasters. Junkanoo is a centuries old ritual and art form based on celebrating freedom. It is a pre-abolition satirical masquerade and decolonization ceremony confronting slavemasters, practiced during Christmas in parts of the Caribbean. Celebrations include parading with ornate costumes including grand hats replicating houseboat mansions, while others entail colorful characters engaging in miming, drumming, and dancing. Its namesake is born from the respect of the eighteenth century Akan warrior, Jon Konny, who defended his native Prince’s Town, or what is known in the present day as Ghana, from the Dutch colonizers for more than twenty years. Junkanoo is a performance of freedom!

I explore the different characters of the Jamaican Junkanoo through a series of performances and workshops. Participants are invited to help revive this tradition. Public workshops will feature a historical overview of each character along with costume building using ready-made materials. Shredded cloth and “junk” will be used to create Junkanoo costumes and props that are meant to be activated during performances while addressing the remnants of slavery displayed throughout New York City’s historical landmarks.

The carnival processions held on Labor Day in Brooklyn celebrate Caribbean traditions once a year. Though there is a large Afro-Jamaican population in Brooklyn, the Labor Day parades do not typically include the specific characters featured in the traditional Jamaican style Junkanoo, which are more confrontational, and not only a theatrical presentation. I aim to celebrate decolonization by making this Jamaican Junkanoo relevant during other times of the year through a series of street performances and interventions. I research the customs of the past and re-invent ways to address today’s political climate.

I plan to eventually form a complete Junkanoo troupe of over ten characters. As participants help make a new costume for the troupe I hope to integrate their own histories of the past as they incorporate their labor and their materials into the costumes. Each participant and their repurposed items bear their own histories, and these will become united with others’ to create new futures.