Newhouse Center Faculty Series: Nikki A. Greene
“Sugar makes me cry”: María Magdalena Campos-Pons and the Performance of Bittersweet Histories
In this presentation, Newhouse Center faculty fellow Nikki A. Greene discusses her ongoing research project on black feminist performance art, “Sugar makes me cry”: María Magdalena Campos-Pons and the Performance of Bittersweet Histories.
The performances of the Cuban-born artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons articulate her radical vision of the resiliency of enslaved Africans and their descendants, and the power of black women’s bodies in particular, in ways that seamlessly encompass the worlds of Afro-Cuba and the United States. Focusing on the exhibition Alchemy of the Soul: María Magdalena Campos-Pons at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., in 2016, Greene will discuss how the performance of Remedios (Remedies), along with sculpture, installation, photography, and video, skillfully document the direct bittersweet histories, or historias agridulces, of Cuba and Massachusetts.
The sonic compositions of Campos-Pons’ co-collaborator, Neil Leonard, and selections from the rumba singer Rafael “El Niño” Navarro complement the gallery experience as a journey through Campos-Pons’s native Matanzas, a center of Afro-Cuban culture, to Salem, a key location for the triangular trade of enslaved people and of goods (sugar, rum, and cod fish, for example). The late Afro-Cuban singer Celia Cruz, who proclaimed “¡azúcar!” as a complex affirmation of her own blackness, makes for a productive comparison. Both Campos-Pons and Cruz chronicle—and embody—the narrative of sugar and rum production, of enslaved laborers and suffering, and, ultimately, death, by means of performance and visual and sound aesthetics.
Nikki A. Greene is an assistant professor of art at Wellesley College.
Lauren Cote, email@example.com