LADIES OF THE ROCK
ESTHER BAKER-TARPAGA / HEIDI WIREN BARTLETT / RAQUEL MONROE
“Ladies of the Rock” is a four-hour interdisciplinary performance interrogating historically fraught relationships between black and white women in America. Through time and labor we worked, danced, and reflected on our connections to each other, to our family’s lineages, to nature, to ritual, rhythmic movement, to dirt, to flowers, sexuality, and healing.
We were invited to the Lynden Sculpture Garden to respond to the installation, “Eliza’s Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities” by Folayemi Wilson. Wilson imagined Eliza as an enslaved woman with the ability to time travel. Her cabinet holds treasures she collects throughout the ages, including the Emancipation Proclamation, boxing gloves, oyster shells, a dead woodpecker, and a Princess Leia figurine.
Our performance began with a procession from our home on site, down wooden stairs, on rock paths, through the garden to Eliza’s Cabinet. Visitors watched as we walked in time to songs by Aretha Franklin, India Arie, and other R&B artists. Our arms flow and bodies sway until we part ways. Heidi enters her canoe adorned with flowers. Her red dress drapes the canoe as she enters her funeral pyre. As a rodeo ghost she floats in the lagoon. Esther finds her home throughout the garden. Intrigued by her flowing red slip gown and crown, guests follow her and she gives them ribbons to tie on trees to remember loved ones. Raquel continues to the Cabinet. Her floor length purple tutu billows around her as she reads tarot cards to guests on the Cabinet’s floor. One guest quietly joins Raquel singing “Soul Sanctuary” by Prince. The three women unite as Esther invokes the ancestors by dancing Senegalese Sabar and Heidi pays homage to the Cabinet by rendering its shadow in dirt.
We revel in the dirt. We dance together. We take care of one another, and the audience bears witness.
How do we honor the land on which we stand as we time travel?
We listen to the birds and the crickets.