All the threatened and delicious things joining one another
May 3–June 25, 2017
New York, NY 10002
The New Museum’s Department of Education and Public Engagement presents the exhibition and residency RAGGA NYC: All the threatened and delicious things joining one another. RAGGA NYC, a platform founded by Christopher Udemezue, connects a growing community of more than 20 queer Caribbean artists and allies working across a wide range of disciplines—including visual art, fashion, and poetry—to explore how race, sexuality, gender, heritage, and history inform their work and their lives. RAGGA fosters a network and an extended family that make space for solidarity, celebration, and expression, with deep commitments to education and grassroots organizing. The title of the exhibition and residency quotes Édouard Glissant’s description of a world in which beings can come together under a veil of opacity and preserve difference in a new model of relation.
The exhibition will include sculptures from Renée Stout’s “Roots and Charms” series, which nod to the hand-painted signs advertising elixirs and healing on the storefronts of root medicine shops. Drawing on a practice that treats physical health as deeply connected to economic and psychological well-being, the series explores the spiritual and commercial dimensions of these signs’ calls for protection, relief, and recovery. Sculptures in Tau Lewis’s “foraged, ain’t free” series reference historical busts, and some include casts of the artist’s own face or the faces of her friends. Many works in the series, however, refuse overt representation, instead presenting cacti as oblique stand-ins for a figure. Works in Paul Anthony Smith’s “Grey Area” series layer grainy silkscreened images of male acquaintances—whom Smith encountered while back in his hometown in Jamaica for his uncle’s funeral—alongside images of the street and burial grounds, suggesting a complex relationship to an island he left as a child. Grey Area, the works’ title, describes a liminal state between two mutually exclusive categories, where well-known distinctions become troubled and from which something new might emerge.
Christopher Udemezue’s photographs return to the legend of Queen Nanny, the 18th century Obeah woman who escaped slavery with her brothers and became leader of the Jamaican Maroons, and to the vodou ceremony at Bois Caïman, led by mambo Cécile Fatiman, which sparked the Haitian Revolution, the only successful national slave rebellion in history. The photographs reflect a distinctly queer, matriarchal lineage and inheritance. Beneath the floor of the exhibition, partially visible through a trap door, Carolyn Lazard and Bleue Liverpool present Chaos-monde, five totems arranged as an astrological map tracing cosmological positions on two seminal dates in Caribbean history: January 1, 1804, the day independence was declared in Haiti, and October 27, 1979, the day St. Vincent gained independence. The work’s title derives from Glissant, who writes, “I call Chaos-monde the current shock of so many cultures that flare up, repel themselves, disappear, still subsist, fall asleep or transform, slowly or at breakneck speed: these bursts... we cannot predict.”
Poetry forms a foundation for the residency. Shanekia McIntosh presents a new poem in the exhibition recounting her grandmother’s hair-braiding and tales of Queen Nanny, weaving together their stories. Joey De Jesus’s handwritten poems form rich cosmologies through words and shape. Jahmal B. Golden’s printed poem “Memoir” testifies to spiritual and personal transformations, and is flanked on the right and left by photographs of vibrantly colored hands performing rituals tied to self-excavation. Maya Monès’s poem and audio piece “Ciencias Sociales” (Social Sciences) explores Afro-Latinx identity through a recovery of unspoken family history, a process of working to become closer to her roots.
At its core, RAGGA is committed to fostering conversations between queer Caribbean artists and allies. These often start with interviews that Udemezue conducts with RAGGA members about how their backgrounds have affected their work and lives, and continue during small dinner parties RAGGA hosts every few months. A new series of interviews will be released throughout the residency. RAGGA will also host a private dinner focused on wellness and roots, organized by urban herbalist Antonia Estela Pérez Rojas and artists and chefs DeVonn Francis and Guelmo Rosa. Making space for queer Caribbean nightlife is a vibrant part of RAGGA’s mission, and a closing party marks the residency’s end. In addition, the Fifth Floor Resource Center will include publications and manuals from writers, herbalists, activists, and DJs involved with RAGGA, providing a wider view of work produced by members of this rapidly growing, loose collective.
The exhibition is curated by Sara O’Keeffe, Assistant Curator.
Demystifying Our Stories: Resistance and Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Traditions
Saturday, June 3, 12:30pm
New Museum Theater
Tracing the work of an intergenerational group of activists who practice Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions, this talk by Rose Sackey-Milligan will consider the close ties between these traditions and resistance movements—from the Haitian Revolution to contemporary struggles for justice and empowerment.
The talk will be followed by an intimate workshop with Sackey-Milligan. To apply for the workshop, please email season  newmuseum.org describing your interest in Afro-Caribbean spirituality and activism.
Thursday, June 22, 7pm
Marking the closing week of RAGGA NYC’s residency and exhibition, this evening event will feature performance, poetry, and music from a group of artists in the RAGGA community.