Black Boy Jungle is a social injustice contemporary work about race. The artistic director designed the performance to give viewers an curated aspect of what an immigrant might have gone through to be a vital part of the United States.
The work addresses the issue of cultural misrepresentation and generalization, acquired through both public schooling and our consumer-driven society. The original premiere had an one day showing on July 18th 2015 at The Town and County Club the Historic home of Theodore Lyman built in 1859. The club later became the only private Women’s club re modeled in 1923 around the historic women’s right to vote movement. The Town and County is located on 22 Woodland Street in Hartford CT.
The performance was seen as part of the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association Arts and Heritage Grant. The work was created during the process of director Arien Wilkerson grandfather's death. The show premiered the day before the funeral.
Black Boy Jungle was restaged by the director in the year 2016 and had a 4 day showing on July 20th 21st, 22nd & 23rd. The Town and County Club presented the company and opened up their doors making the event open to the public for the ticketed price of all TNMOT AZTRO PERFORMANCE ART AND DANCE INSTALLATION LLC works. There was one showing specifically for 80 youth. The youth came from 7 different organizations all over the Connecticut region. The youth saw the work with their facilitators and took part in a talk back lead by the director.
Black Boy Jungle engages the viewers physically, and invites them to think critically about their own identities in terms of ancestry and personal identity. Any presenting or programming establishment would be committed to challenging the audience to seek answers from their immigrant ancestors and to offer libations to society with works of social awareness.
This is work is relevant to any presenting or programming establishment given its exploration of immigration, personhood, trauma, loss, gender, sexuality, and race. The featured music has themes of resistance, pride, strong emotional expression. Audiences across the United States can benefit from exploring these ideas, especially in our age where technology mediates our affect and response to radicalized violence.
The show and the main character are drawn from a classic book by Richard Wright entitled “Black Boy,” with themes and characters derived from the Jamaican film Rockers (1978): race, (im)migration, ancestry, gender, love, desire, urban life. The installation was designed with the aesthetic of a Caribbean Ellis Island. Each Performance is created into the historic melting pot sea port with trunks, baggage, luggage and suitcases stacked in every surrounding corner. The work features eleven altars scapes that co-builds the perimeter of the performance. The eleven altars are filled with earthly elements such as bowls of water, flowers, plants, fruit and candles, representing the material bounty that our land offers. Other atmospheric elements include African textiles, sculptures of deities, Mexican paintings and textiles. Many of these artifacts are of ancestral descent and have been collected and passed down over generations. The surrounding walls are filled with 4, Six foot long paintings created by visual artist Paco WineBox. Each painting depicted the conversations both Paco and the director were having regarding the ideologies behind themselves in the terms of racism. The colorful paintings can change depending on the aspect of the space and conversations after each of the talk backs. Paco Winebox also acts as one of the Immigration Patrollers in the performance.
The installation is a re creation of Ellis Island and has specific seating/entering arrangements that is a part of every performance. In Black Boy Jungle viewers show up with their loved ones, friends, business partners and children. They enter into a holding corridor to then be chosen two by two at random from our immigration patrollers creating the first separation. Once they are chosen they enter through what we call the Process and System installation where they receive an United States immigration service identity card from our “Lady Liberty”. Once they receive their Identity cards “Lady Liberty” then separates the chosen two sending one person left and the other right to be given an assigned seat from our Immigration patrollers.
These identity cards have a new place of origin, new name, a new age, a new gender (male, female, Trans male, Trans female, Two spirit, gender fluid, gender non conforming etc.) and occupation. Each occupation that the audience member receives is completely different, some of the occupations are everyday jobs that people work all over the world meanwhile 25 random audience members are given a specific task to be fulfilled instead of an occupation. The task given are, lighting candles on the altars, helping fold clothes the performers threw all over the stage, re-stacking the trunks and suit cases from the set, leaving a blessing in an offering bowl on the altar, lighting incense and walking around the room, sweeping the floor and “Soul Clapping”. Each task pertains directly to the show and when asked to fulfill the task the audience members all must do exactly so. The audience has to become someone else before watching the performance. They give their identities back at the end of the installation re claiming their own identity
Black Boy Jungle features music from sixties and seventies reggae, dub, and West African influenced musicians such as, Chief Chaker, Freddie McGregor, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Fela Kuti. The music was rearranged, composed and performed by the Ellis Island Band (a live band created specially for this piece) and features original music by songstress Keila Myles. Live music is played during the show by The Ellis Island band which is made up of seven members: Sam King, Travis Golden, Andre Harris, Emily Peterson, Keila Myles, Dwayne Keith and Meg Hourigan who play various instruments like tuba, sousaphone, trumpet, percussion instruments and guitar. The Ellis Island Band plays for the entire Process and System Installation as well as 6 songs in the performance with digital mixtures from Wrex Mason & Arien Wilkerson.
Choreographed, Directed and Produced by Arien Wilkerson
TNMOT AZTRO PERFORMANCE ART AND DANCE INSTALLATION LLC
The Cast: Rosanna Karabetsos, Amy Merli, Kailah King, Henry Olivo, Jakar Hankerson, Randorn (Tiger) Luangpraseuth, Arien Wilkerson.
Original Cast: Rosanna Karabetsos, Kailah King, Devon (Cali) Williams, Jakar Hankerson, Randorn (Tiger) Luangpraseuth, Arien Wilkerson, Rickey J Flagg II.
Originally Written and Narrated by Alycia Jenkins and Arien Wilkerson.
Re Written By, Arien Wilkerson, Alycia Jenkins, Azua Echevarria, Kenneth Reveiz. New Narration by: Azua Echevarria and Arien Wilkerson
Writings and text derived from Richard Wright’s “Black Boy” as well as personal stories from, Arien Wilkerson, Alycia Jenkins, and Azua Echevarria
Edited and revised by: Kenneth Reveiz
Spiritual Altars created by: Azua Echevarria -
The Process System Installation created by: Arien Wilkerson Joe McCarthy, Azua Echevarria and Paco Winebox
Original Paintings Paco Winebox - Peter Adrian (Legal Name)
Lighting: Joe McCarthy, Arien Wilkerson, Azua Echevarria.
Sound Mix: Wrex Mason ( Greg Deavens II)
Photography - Micheal Sisko - 2016
Photography - Justin O' Brien - 2015 - 2016
For more information on how to see this work, and possible programming, Presenting and Co Producing please Click the link here: Contact/Booking