INTERVIEW: Stephanie V. McKee and Sunni Patterson discuss “Gomela,” at Ashé Powerhouse Theater

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WHAT: Junebug Productions’ presentation of dance, spoken-word and music as an examination of space and place
WHEN: Jan. 19-22 & Jan. 26-29
WHERE: Ashé Powerhouse Theater (1731 Baronne St.)
MORE INFO: Visit the Facebook event page

“Gomela/to return: Movement of Our Mother Tongue” is an intriguing collaboration developed by poet Sunni Patterson, dancers Kesha McKeyKai KnightJeremy Guyton, and drummer Jawara A. Simon and directed by Stephanie V. McKee. The show runs this weekend and next (Jan. 19-22 and Jan. 22-26) at Ashé Powerhouse Theater. Billed as a a journey through time and space, “Gomela” is another intriguing exploration of the African Diaspora one comes to expect from Junebug Productions.

Pulling from the Bantu word “gomela,” meaning “to go back to/to return,” the show promises a mix of percussive music and storytelling that connects Africa’s past and present traditions that include the use of spoken word, hip-hop and jazz. There are two dual themes at work here: “It illuminates ‘Place Matters’ — gentrification and the ‘Right of Return’ of New Orleanians displaced after Katrina; and Black Lives Matter — the beauty and resilience of black people, past and present,” the release states. The show, it continues:

… is an experience of collective memories passed down from generation to generation, a tapestry woven by a group of multi-disciplinary artists who represent the diversity of African Americans who call New Orleans home. “Gomela” is based on hope, survival, courage and the resilience that exists in the face of oppression. It is about the heartbeat of a people that will never die, the culture and traditions that continue to evolve, grow and survive the test of time.”

The production crew features lighting designer Evan Spigelman, sound designer Muthi Reed, projection designer Jason Foster, costume designer Janese Brooks-Galathe of Aya Designs and recorded music by trumpeter Troy Sawyer and singer Sula Janet Evans of Zion Trinity.

Here McKee and Patterson discuss this collaboration.

There are a lot of great moments in the interview, but Patterson in particular was eloquent when speaking about the duality of trauma and celebration in the show: “There’s still a lot to celebrate, and I don’t think that, that has to get lost while we are remembering trauma, while we are addressing trauma, while we are calling out oppression, while we are calling out injustice … I’m always reminded of Lucille Clifton and her poem (‘Won’t You Come Celebrate with Me’: ‘Every day something has tried to kill me and has failed.’”

Patterson was also kind enough to recite her mesmerizing poem “Black Back.” Check out the video of that in this post.

NOTES: The podcast audio incorrectly states the second weekend runs through Jan. 26; it runs through Jan. 29. Also, McKee and Patterson will discuss the show as well as artistic and creative expression in a Trump presidency on the next episode of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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