DECOLONIZING with Cristina Pitter
In dissecting the recent work “decolonizing my vagina”, a one-woman show performed at JACK as part of The Exponential Festival this past January, I found that it would not let itself be dissected. Instead it chose to chase, to haunt me, to worry and wake me. It often sat with me and reminded me of the old adages, the ones I’d hoped to forget. It’s a funny thing to see a piece that is so close that it seemed to live with you all along.
A short description: Cristina Pitter invites us into an incense-soaked den with a table, a white table cloth, an aluminum tub of dirt with weeds therein, and a laundry line to hang the weeds from. We watch her engage in the communal ritual that is ridding herself of hate and allowing herself to be loved. Starr Busby’s heaven-honey songs remind me of skinned knees on Sundays, Brooklyn sunshine, and that certain way black girls have of sighing. Pitter has smartly assembled a team of goddesses for such personal/universal exploration. nicHi douglas choreographs Afro-Caribbean based movement to augment the lyricism of the text and Jordana De La Cruz’s direction highlights these small ceremonies without allowing them to become solemn, so that we the audience remain present in the room. The effect is that of a powerful witch overcome by the ravages and oppression of her ancestry. Pitter dances in dirt, places poems in our hands, and tells stories oh god such stories! White men and women, married or not, all of them called by name in an attempt to exorcise these very names from her body.
I have heard these kinds of stories before in close quarters, among friends. I have also lived these stories. So I know both the impossibility and necessity of such a Decolonizing. The best way, I think, for someone to understand is to hear them coming from the real voices of women of color. I encourage you to listen to what started out as interview with Cristina Pitter and turned into a night long conversation that left me feeling a bit less decolonized myself. Or if anything else, listen to hear her laugh. It really is the best.