I’m happy to announce the addition of some great new resources to the Black Atlantic site relating to Charlotte Hammond‘s exciting new research (Postgraduate Research Student in the Department of Drama and Theatre, Royal Holloway) which examines visual representations of transvestism in the Francophone Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Haiti and their diasporic communities in France.
Charlotte recently participated in the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti 2011 and gave a paper titled Art, genre et dieux: un voyage de recherche a la Ghetto Biennale de Port-au-Prince as part of the ‘gender and culture’ seminar series which took place at the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, in Martinique. An audio recording of the paper – which was presented in French – is now available to listen to on the Black Atlantic Resource and is accompanied by a transcription of the paper in English, a link to the prezi Charlotte simultaneously presented, and some images of the work Charlotte produced during the Ghetto Biennale.
Art, Gender and Gods: a research trip to the Ghetto Biennale of Port-au-Prince
Within existing Caribbean (mostly fictional) representations, homosexual and trans characters tend to appear in supporting peripheral roles, often to affirm and solidify hegemonic gender binaries. Visibility of gender crossing in popular Caribbean culture, most apparent within the parameters of carnival performance, works in much the same way, more often exhibiting and reflecting dominant ideas of gender, than destabilizing and questioning the boundaries themselves.
There is a part of my project which deals with this more popular expression of transvestism, found in Carnival representation, using the work of a British artist, who like myself hails from the North West of England, Leah Gordon, whose 2008 film, Bounda pa Bounda: A Drag Zaka, depicts drag parody performed within a Rara band tradition in Haiti.
With little at stake, due to the ephemeral and sanctioned nature of what can be seen as harmless gender mimicry, the ease with which such temporary crossover is obtained makes the act a particularly intrusive form of impersonation. The man, adopting female dress, carelessly forays into the sphere of the Other (the woman), without any concern for ‘realness’ in order to mock that which he does not successfully emulate in what Helen Gilbert terms a “spectacle of not passing” (2003). As a process of reinscribing and renewing aesthetic standards however, it constitutes an important means of emphasizing prevailing modes of representation….