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The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 20-JAN 21

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DEC 20-JAN 21 Issue
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Go Forth

GO FORTH is a translation into performance of Going Forth By Day, a canon of nearly 4,000-year-old Egyptian funerary texts. The work examines how we make space in our lives for the presence of the absent.

My father died in Burundi. Everyone brought their own version of him to the funeral. At the burial ceremony, as part of a ritualized grieving process, I was struck by the continuum of processing and performing death, and the intimacy between Black people and death around the world. GO FORTH proposes burial not as erasure but as offering restitution, performing rites, and creating space for the absent, the imagined, and the longed for.

Cast

The deceased (REN) (Justin Hicks)

Priest / Guide / the deceased (KA) (William Nadylam)
Osiris / Guide / the deceased (SHEUT) (David Thomson)

The deceased follows the path laid by Osiris to eternal life. He becomes Osiris and takes his name. Mirroring, shadowing, copying. They are all the deceased. They are all the priest. They are all Osiris.

GO FORTH premiered at Performance Space 122’s COIL Festival in New York City and then traveled to the Genocide Memorial Amphitheater in Kigali, Rwanda; Cairo International Festival for Contemporary & Experimental Theatre in Egypt; Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans; Stanford University; and Wesleyan University’s Center for The Arts.

The work is a repossession of “canon” and resituating of this canon within our own histories as Black people. A remixing that points to revolutionary thought and labor that flooded between Black people internationally in the mid-20th century, producing movements of solidarity between formerly enslaved and colonized peoples worldwide. A moment where the looking inward and outward at imperialism and death mobilized powerful alliances from Harlem, Atlanta, and New Orleans, to Cuba, Ethiopia, Senegal, Vietnam, Haiti, and Rwanda. The work traces an intricate web of cross-continental relations shaping post-colonial understandings of self, nation, and the forces of what cannot be seen.

The deceased travels in a solar bark across the sky and is reborn each morning with the sun. He sings into a clay pot. Like Orpheus, his song raises the sun. Photo: Maria Hassabi
The deceased travels in a solar bark across the sky and is reborn each morning with the sun. He sings into a clay pot. Like Orpheus, his song raises the sun. Photo: Maria Hassabi

O Mahaf, as you are endowed with life, awaken Iquen for me, for see I have come.
Who are you who comes?
I am a magician.
Are you complete?
I am complete.
Are you equipped?
I am equipped.
Have you healed the limbs?
I have healed the limbs.
What are those limbs, magician?
They are the arm and the leg.
Take care! Do you say that you would cross to the east side of the sky? If you cross, what will you do?
I will prepare cakes for you when going downstream and bread when going upstream. O Mahaf, as you are endowed with life, awaken Iquen for me, for see, I have come.
Do you know the road on which you must go, magician?
I know the road on which I must go.
Which is the road on which you must go?
I shall go to the Field of Reeds.
 Photo: Maria Hassabi
O Mahaf, as you are endowed with life, awaken Iquen for me, for see I have come.
Who are you who comes?
I am a magician.
Are you complete?
I am complete.
Are you equipped?
I am equipped.
Have you healed the limbs?
I have healed the limbs.
What are those limbs, magician?
They are the arm and the leg.
Take care! Do you say that you would cross to the east side of the sky? If you cross, what will you do?
I will prepare cakes for you when going downstream and bread when going upstream. O Mahaf, as you are endowed with life, awaken Iquen for me, for see, I have come.
Do you know the road on which you must go, magician?
I know the road on which I must go.
Which is the road on which you must go?
I shall go to the Field of Reeds.
 Photo: Maria Hassabi

Rays of light register on a golden door. Two figures appear. The Guides. They are mourners. They are a memory, an incantation, and a hieroglyph. They are Nephthys and Isis, the sisters who re-membered Osiris when their brother’s body was dismembered and strewn across the Nile. A song refracted, transmuted, and reconstituted over codes of mourning from Cairo to Queens, from Mecca to Memphis, from Kingston to Kigali. Photo: Maria Hassabi
Rays of light register on a golden door. Two figures appear. The Guides. They are mourners. They are a memory, an incantation, and a hieroglyph. They are Nephthys and Isis, the sisters who re-membered Osiris when their brother’s body was dismembered and strewn across the Nile. A song refracted, transmuted, and reconstituted over codes of mourning from Cairo to Queens, from Mecca to Memphis, from Kingston to Kigali. Photo: Maria Hassabi

The earth shall return to the primordial water, to the surging flood, as in its original state. Photo: Maria Hassabi
The earth shall return to the primordial water, to the surging flood, as in its original state. Photo: Maria Hassabi

Contributor

Kaneza Schaal

is a New York City-based artist who works in theater, opera, and film.

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The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 20-JAN 21

All Issues