“Nonagon For The Dead Who Are Rising” is a performance text and choreographic script in nine parts, with original improvisational score for solo upright bass by composer Arthur Kell. It is dedicated to the sacred sites at Standing Rock desecrated by the Dakota Access Pipeline. This project was completed during a ritual walk for Thanksgiving Day, along the Jornado del Muerto (Journey of the Dead Man) desert of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro: the genocidal road of the Spanish conquistadors, the site of the explosion of Trinity (the plutonium infusion fission nuclear bomb), and the American Indian Wars against the Apache and other Native Nations.
NONAGON FOR THE DEAD WHO ARE RISING includes a live performance, a video installation, a sound installation, an essay, and a series of photographs that serve as a call to ressurection for the resistance ancestors who found opportunities to oppose injustice, oppression, and repression. The text was a recorded improvisational story in 9 parts, which was performed by Quintan Ana Wikswo with an original live musical score by composer Arthur Kell (www.ArthurKell.com) at Radical Abicus on October 22nd in Santa Fe, NM. The text, sound, video, and photographs appear in the magazine Numero Cinq. This project has been created with funding from Creative Capital, the Theo Westenberger Foundation, Some Serious Business, Radical Abicus, and with the support of a residency at Millay Colony.
I created this ritual in response to the invisibility of resistance workers from our continent’s cultural memory – ancestors’ death, grave, and burial sites that are unmemorialized, obscured, and desecrated – specifically the activists represented by AIM, SCLC, the Black Panthers, Black Lives Matters, the Chiricahua Apaches, Idle No More, and others.
“Nonagon for the Dead who are Rising” is a call to resurrection for all agitators who continue – after death – to challenge and resist the loss of agency in our psyches, minds, and bodies. It is a ritual for the living with the purpose of transformation into beings of resistance, revolution and liberation.
A nonagon is a nine-sided polygon, represented by nine stories, nine locks of hair, and nine stones gathered from colonialist massacre sites. These stones conjure the resting sites of dead resistance activists who fought colonialism and genocide. Each of the stones are attached to me, the performer, through a network of colored woolen weaving yarns, which I use to pull apart the grave stones as I recite each of the nine resurrection texts.
As each stone is pulled away, I cut off 1/9th of my hair – invoking the cultural power of hair. I shaved my head after surviving a hate crime rape and kidnapping. At Indian Schools, Native children’s hair was forcibly shaved. Nazis shaved the bodies of all concentration camp prisoners. Scalping in many Indigenous traditions was a practice of war. Soldiers entering the US Military are required to shave their heads. Yet displaying our hair in its natural form is a key act in every resistance movement.
“Nonagon” forms a polygon of abstract conceptual rituals inhabiting the emotional and tactical landscapes of colonialism, genocide, femicide, identity predation, and our resulting anger, grief and resistance. It demands the memory of our individual experiences of survival and resistance to unite with the necessity of intersectional protection and connection. It creates a communal embodied and disembodied space with the dead who are living, the living who are dead…and the strings that weave us all together.
A nonagon is a nine-sided polygon. NONAGON FOR THE DEAD WHO ARE RISING is dedicated to all our ancestors, relations, and connections, our friends and enemies, our allies and adversaries who present us with opportunities to question and resist the loss of agency in our lives, psyches, minds, and bodies, and evolve and transform into beings of blessing and liberation. May we all find healing and inspiring connections for change even amidst the most challenging people and situations. The first of the dead, who are called up for resurrection in this piece, is Robin Kilson. Dr. Robin Kilson was my professor of African American, Post-Colonialism, and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and held three PhDs from Harvard in civil rights-related studies. A former Black Panther who was gang raped by Black Panther colleagues, she was an outspoken theorist and activist surrounding intersectionality of race and gender. She passed away of MS at an early age. When I met her the first time, she verbally attacked me as anti-feminist for wearing high heels, a miniskirt, and a full face of cosmetics – later she invited me to her office for a bottle of champagne and we made an alliance that continues to this day.
Photographs for NONAGON FOR THE DEAD WHO ARE RISING: “Jornada del Muerto” (c) Quintan Ana Wikswo // November 24, 2016 /// from OUT HERE DEATH IS NO BIG DEAL. This polaroid series created during a ritual walk for Thanksgiving Day, along the Jornado del Muerto (Journey of the Dead Man) desert of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro: the genocidal road of the Spanish conquistadors, the site of the explosion of Trinity (the plutonium infusion fission nuclear bomb), and the American Indian Wars against the Apache and other Native Nations. The bones depicted in these photographs are of the skulls of cows left chained to fence posts. The photographs are made with vintage Polaroid cameras using homemade mica filters from the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro desert. Thanks to the Creative Capital fellowship and the Theo Westenberger Estate.
STATEMENT: This is an excerpt from the performance monologue and improvised text NONAGON FOR THE DEAD WHO ARE RISING, forthcoming in Numero Cinq magazine, March 2017 (http://numerocinqmagazine.com/)
NONAGON FOR THE DEAD WHO ARE RISING
– a polygon with nine sides all opened –
1. THE FIRST TO RISE
I miss my friend Robin.
Robin Kilson. She was a black panther who was raped by the Black Panthers. And I met her when I was fairly young and she taught me a lot about betrayal, and betweenness, and belonging. And she died ten years ago and they say not to look into the face of what is sacred and to close your eyes or to avert your eyes or maybe just cover your eyes because then your eyes are still open and what you’re seeing is something beyond sight.
I think Robin talked so much about deprivation of belonging, and all of the places that she fought to belong in and arrived at only to realize she didn’t belong and she didn’t want to belong and I wonder if she feels that way now that she’s dead.
Does she feel a sense of belonging with the dead.
She’s not my relative. There’s no blood between us but she has felt like an ancestor ever since she passed away. More of an ancestor than my own ancestors, and there’s no reason for me to belong to her but I feel that I belong to her. And somewhere there’s a long thread that hasn’t been broken between the two of us.
Most of what we talked about were broken threads. Most of the time we spent together was holding threads to see if they would reach. She was a sixty year old quadriplegic African American Black Panther and I was a 19 year old lost child in the west and we would take these strings and somehow they tied together and the knots still hold but I know for her there were strings she tried to tie to people she thought were like her, other black panthers, other women, other afro-caribbeans, other people from Boston, other professors, other people in wheelchairs, other people with shaved heads.
I don’t think the strings that we always expect to connect are the ones that hold.
But the one that we tied, has held.
performed on October 22, 2017 at Radical Abicus in Santa Fe
Text, Voice, Performance Script, Choreography: Quintan Ana Wikswo
Music: Arthur Kell
Quintan Ana Wikswo’s performance script for NONAGON FOR THE DEAD WHO ARE RISING (from OUT HERE DEATH IS NO BIG DEAL) is an improvised prose poem in nine parts – with music by Arthur Kell. A spiral of abstract conceptual compositions surrounding colonialism, genocide, and resistance, the Black Panthers, the Black Snake Dakota Access Pipeline, Nazi anthropologists, femicide, protection, connection, intersection, anger, Nambe Pueblo peyote, the dead who are living, the living who are dead, and the strings that weave us all together.
A nonagon is a nine-sided polygon. NONAGON FOR THE DEAD WHO ARE RISING is dedicated to all our ancestors, relations, and connections, our friends and enemies, our allies and adversaries who present us with opportunities to question and resist the loss of agency in our lives, psyches, minds, and bodies, and evolve and transform into beings of blessing and liberation. May we all find healing and inspiring connections for change even amidst the most challenging people and situations.