• Alessandra

nowHere “Maia Nunes”

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

photo by Alessandra Luppino

It’s Saturday afternoon. I cycle pushed by the music coming from my earphones.

My destination is Fumbally, a space which could be anywhere. It has a contemporary identity and hosts cultural and social events. I’ m going to attend a performance I don’t know much about. I like to allow myself to be amazed.

The artist, Maia Nunes, is a young woman from Trinidad who grew up in Dublin; I only listened to two of her poems before during the past Fringe Festival.

I arrive to Fumbally, I lock my byke to a pole, where I meet a taste of Maia’s poetics: a small branch, with some white cloth, few leaves and some flowers.

We all sit down on the floor, waiting for the performance to start. A thin setting, where I meet the same poetics again, with its small branches and a minimalistc loom with a painting that creates entrances and exits, a passage to be crossed.

The performance starts, with Maia’s voice which tunes up “Clementine, Clementine…” and goes on showing a brave and emotional body.

Most of the performance is vocal, there are brief instants of silence, in which you can perceive the strength of the mind hopping about. A sort of creative restlessness which finds space in a possibility in front of an attentive audience.

Maia’s voice is dense, rich of sometimes violent vibrations, as they enter your stomach with authority, crossing you and going out through your conscience. What your are left with is her story.

Maia uses and deploys her body to produce sounds; I can’ t understand each word perfectly, my level of English prevents me to do so. But I don’t miss them. It’s a complete experience to me: I hear ancestral sounds, I recognize archetypes.

She lifts her right hand, open palm towards the audience, motionless but it still captures your attention as if it was full and you need to look and look at it not to lose anything.

Maia’s voice goes on, her body follows her, everybody follow her.

She concludes snapping her fingers and tuning up Clementine, again and again.

When the show ends, she cries.

Before starting the performance, her request was: please, do not clap! But Maia perhaps passed us on her urgency of expression, and we all simply disobey with an anarchic applause.

Interview: Sunday, early afternoon, I meet Maia at Smithfield and together we drive to Dun Laoghaire. I watch her driving and telling her story, I rediscover the passion that I saw in her during her performance. She talks about herself as an Irish-Trinidadian queer woman of colour, the theme of identity is crucial for her and her work. We take a short walk and choose a quiet corner facing the sea, I’ve already been there the day after I met her, what a coincidence. I can hear the sound of the sea throughout the recording, it is a source of inspiration.

A. I knew you as a poet would you consider yourself as one? M. No, I don’t. I usually define myself as a performance artist. I’m still very shy about my poetry, and it’s only recently become part of my performance practice. I don’t usually speak poetry during my performances – I sing it, and I use my voice to help create an atmosphere around the words – I find spoken word very exposing.

A. For your performances you have chosen white for Wish no.1 and orange for Wish no.2, could you explain us the reason? M. When I chose white for Wish no.1, I was emerging from a very turbulent period in my life, reflected by a red and agitated phase in my work. I think I chose white because, after the relentlessness of the red period, it was the colour I most wanted to manifest in my life. I wanted a clean slate, a cleansing, a fresh space that I could move into – this piece emerged as part of my healing process. For Wish no.2 I chose orange, partially because it is my favourite colour, and partially because it entered my healing process naturally and I followed that impulse. Healing is a huge part of my work, not just for myself but for my ancestors and my various communities. This ‘healing intention’ is only something I’ve become conscious of more recently.

A. What do you want to express with your work? M. I recently had a moment of clarity about this, and I think that really what I am trying to do is create a “liberation practice” and in that practice perform a liberated vision of the future. My wish is to create change and transformation and I believe that this process starts with practicing in small ways what liberation looks and feels like. I approach this work by drawing on a long history of DIY freedom practices as performed by oppressed peoples, and applying them to my own experience – expressing and addressing some very central vulnerability in myself. I think vulnerability and emotion are central to my work, and that they are also central to society in terms of the work we have to do towards liberating ourselves. I am glad that you said you heard “ancestral sounds” during my performance because they are certainly present within the piece. My concern when I show my work is not whether people love or hate it, but if it resounds with them, if they really hear and feel it.

A. What do you ask to yourself? M. I think I’m constantly asking myself whether my work is useful. As someone who is driven by social justice concerns art can sometimes feel very self-indulgent. Relative position is also a huge concern of mine. Because the theme of identity is fundamental to my work I am constantly questioning its impact and meaning for every viewer in relation to who they are, who I am, and what I’m expressing.

A. Do you need Wish no.3? M. Yes, I do. I can’t stop this process right now. I think Wish no.3 will incorporate some live organic sounds like water pouring, or paper tearing etc. Most of the organic sounds you heard in Wish no.2 were pre-recorded. I also think movement is important in terms of where the performance piece is going – I’m interested in repeated, ritualistic movement.

A. Like an obsession? M. I am an obsessive person, but this feels more like practice than obsession.



01. Baaba Maal – Baayo 02. Yazmin Lacey – Heaven 03. Moses Sumney – The Cocoon – Eyed Baby 04. Tierra Whack – Sore Loser 05. Dorothy Ashby – Little Sunflower 06. Akua Naru – How Does It Feel? 07. Oumou Sangarè – Denko 08. Erikah Badu – …& On 09. Noname, Adam Ness – Prayer Song 10. Faka – Isifundo Sokuqala

posted by Alessandra

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