Originally from Portland, Oregon, Nikesha Breeze lives and works in the high desert of Taos, New Mexico, on the unceded land of the Taos Pueblo People. Nikesha is an African American descendant of the Mende people of Sierra Leone and…
A Mutiny of Morning: Reclaiming the Black Body from Heart of Darkness
Nikesha Breeze has taken pages from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, taken his words, and forced them to leave his colonized mind. She has made the words her own in poetic form. She illuminates the invisible Black voices inside, a radical, surgical, and unapologetic Black appropriation, at the same time as a careful birthing and spiritual road map. The resulting poems are sizzling purifications, violent restorations of integrity, pain, wound, bewilderment, rage, and, sometimes, luminous generosity.
The violent, scathing white supremacy of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is traversed page by page and word by word in this brilliant prayer/poem—a work of reclamation, redemption, rescue, and repossession. — Wende Marshall, co-editor Insurrectionary Uprisings: A Reader in Revolutionary Nonviolence and Decolonization
The violent, scathing white supremacy of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is traversed page by page and word by word in this brilliant prayer/poem—a work of reclamation, redemption, rescue, and repossession. Mutiny of Morning centers the beauty and resilience of blackness under the weight of white wor(l)ds representing centuries of brutal expropriation and dispossession. Breeze’s method is a generative model for reading Eurocentrism against itself. — Wende Marshall, ethnographer of the decolonization movement in Hawaii, a living wage activist, and a leader/organizer with Stadium Stompers, co-editor Insurrectionary Uprisings: A Reader in Revolutionary Nonviolence and Decolonization
I suffered through Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in college, not able to articulate what was wrong. I am so grateful to Nikesha Breeze for undoing the violent dehumanization by lifting out words that help us see the light. This brilliant work will comfort and uplift you. — Mindy Thompson Fullilove, MD, Author of Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It; Professor of urban policy and health at The New School
Transdisciplinary in its genre-bending brilliance, Nikesha Breeze’s A Mutiny of Morning: Reclaiming the Black Body from Heart of Darkness, which began as a 2020 art installation, is sure to disturb the literati’s comfort with Conrad’s ironic racism. It pushes the sense of those of us who were on the same side of the barricades as Chinua Achebe in his 1977 decolonizing deconstruction of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. With Nikesha Breeze’s installation now becoming a deconstruction-cum-poetic-reclamation of the Black body from the white narrative gaze, Breeze has made art for the Black body’s sake. Her poetics flips the script of the shrewd irony of Conrad’s racism by making its ‘object,’ the Black body, into what they actually were/are, viz., Black lives that matter/ed.—Lou Turner, co-editor, Frantz Fanon’s Psychotherapeutic Approaches to Clinical Work: Practicing Internationally with Marginalized Communities
The voices and perspectives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in their diversity are often missing in most historical narratives that emerge from the viewpoint of the oppressor. A Mutiny of Morning reframes and humanizes those who were systemically, forcibly dehumanized and silenced. Nikesha Breeze brings the very important context and the necessity for dismantling structural racism, racialized capitalism, and persistent legacies of slavery and colonialism. —Tinashe Goronga, medical doctor and public health leader in Zimbabwe; coordinator of EqualHealth’s Global Campaign Against Racism affiliated with the international Social Medicine Consortium
‘blinding sunshine’ a ‘warning’, ‘black bones against a tree’ a ‘kind
of offer’, the ‘stillness of land’ its ‘greatness’… Nikesha Breeze
painstakingly and painfully gleans exquisite images from a racist
classic. Breeze teaches us to unread and hear ‘the ancestors’. A
Mutiny of Morning is a crushing collection that affirms the ‘old earth
keeps rolling’ while not shying from telling truths of ‘the brute
force’ of ‘European efficiency.’ — Salimah Valiani, poet and author of 29 leads to love and Cradles.
This is a work of Reclamation. The author, Nikesha Breeze, has slowly, page by page, reclaimed the text of the book Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. This racist turn-of-the-19th-century book was pivotal in the continued dehumanization of Black people and in particular of African people, as it painted an image of bestiality on the Congo people and the continent. It is laced with racist imagery and language. The author has reappropriated the book, page by page, making “BlackOut” poetry for each page, isolating methodically the words to create new poems of power and black voice within the text —stealing the language and reappropriating the power.
Within an interdisciplinary practice of painting, sculpture, installation, filmmaking, and performance art, Nikesha Breeze’s work investigates the interrelational and resilience of the black and queer body in relationship to power, vulnerability, the sacred, and the ancestral. Her work is deeply ritual and process-based, often employing her entire physical body in the action of her work. Originally from Portland, Oregon Nikesha Breeze lives and works in the high desert of New Mexico, she is an American born African Diaspora descendant of the Mende People of Sierra Leone, and Assyrian American Immigrants from Iran.
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