hibernating, gestating, marinating

Sipping Freedom lay fallow this winter season, following a rich phase of development in the fall of 2017, and following my culmination from Sacred Leadership Training (Sacred Women International, Jan. 2018). I had the great privilege to work with a team of dynamic and brilliant collaborators. I have had some time to digest the material we generated together, and to rest and restore after an intensive period of spiritual training.  As the seasons shift, I feel compelled to step out into the sunlight, and into this next phase of development of Sipping Freedom.

This work often feels like it is unfolding of its own volition. My experience in Diane Roberts’s Arrivals Legacy work (Nov. 2016), confirmed for me that in choosing to work with Middle Passage memory in this work, I can potentially become/create a portal for Ancestral voices to come through and have their say, if I can make of myself, and of the work, a living vessel receptive enough. So, in service of my deep desire to create a site with this work in which my fellow diasporic African folks can honour, memorialize, and mourn our Middle Passage Ancestors, I do my best to listen, to follow, and to obey what I read as their call, and to craft a spirit-led process.

I did a 5-day intensive, one-on-one with Diane Roberts (Oct. 2017), which moved the work in many profound ways – we explored character motivation and evolution, crafted transitions between scenes, mapped out symbols on the floor, and pieced together the characters’ multiple relationships to the objects, artifacts, and fabric on stage. We reflected on the elements governing each character and then improvised movement devised through embodying those elements, and hybrids thereof: Esú – earth/fire, Yemayá – water/earth; the Clown – air/water. We delighted in the discoveries we made projecting digital images of underwater footage onto multiple surfaces on stage, onto my – the actor’s – body, and immersing the entire performance space in a subaquatic environment.

A 1-day one-on-one intensive with Eugene Williams (Nov. 2017) was very fruitful following the work with Diane. We kneaded out Yemayá’s scene, bringing her to life, incorporating fluid movement, transforming the ocean drum into a calabash, symbolically pouring water from it out across the world, birthing the ocean from the bowl of her pelvis. We developed Esú’s movement with three foundational principles from Eugene’s Anancy technique – the low centre, the cool, and syncopation. We dialogued about whose story this play is, where the climax is, what’s the ironic twist, and what’s the protagonist’s catharsis.

Working with students in Maz Ghaderi’s Digital Mapping workshop (Nov. 2017) offered me the opportunity to try out some ideas about projecting digital images onto different surfaces and interacting with the projections – the underwater footage emerging from the ocean drum, the face of the Ancestor on a large piece of fabric falling into my arms, the grave stones lighting up, one by one, as I touch them.

Working with Honor Ford-Smith (Nov. 2017), we teased out the back stories of characters in the play, their secrets, their motivations, and their relationships, in efforts to carve a real life story out of the abstract and surreal symbolism and metaphor.

With Charmaine Lurch, we thought through ideas about the art installation (Oct. 2017), the sister exhibition to the performance, about the overarching experience I hope to evoke in the viewer, about what I need in a venue, and about seeking a location significant to the subject matter. With Ilana Divantman, we designed a beautiful poster (Oct.-Nov. 2017), ready to go, when I mount the second workshop production in June 2018.

Stay tuned…

sipping freedom: R&D phase 2

Launching into Phase 2 of research and development, I embark on mounting a second workshop production of SIPPING FREEDOM. This consists of moving the performance forward, from its initial incarnation as an auto-ethnographic study, toward crafting a more honed work of art. This phase also includes developing a second iteration of Path of Bones, a sister exhibition to the performance, integrating new elements of digital projections, light, and sound to the encaustic mixed media, found object, installation. Stay tuned for details about the performance exhibition in June, 2018.

I am pleased to be working with a dynamic team of collaborators:

Diane Roberts – directorial consultant

Eugene Williams – dramaturg

Honor Ford-Smith – dramaturg

Charmaine Lurch – visual arts consultant

Ilana Divantman – publicity designer

Vero Diaz – documentary photographer

Alvis Choi – documentary videographer

This phase of creation and development is generously supported by the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) Multi- and Inter-Arts grant, and the OAC Recommender Grant for Theatre Creators. I would like to thank b current performing arts for the recommendation.


Photos by Alvis Choi, Vero Diaz, and Anique J. Jordan, 2014-2015, and Mosa McNeilly, 2013-2015.

Mixed media encaustic assemblage and installation artworks by Mosa McNeilly, 1995-2015.

a performance art installation in two acts

SIPPING FREEDOM is a solo work drawing from Mosa McNeilly’s current body of arts-based research—a portfolio entitled Sipping Freedom: Riffing on Black Radical Imagination, Middle Passage Memory, and the Sacred. Moving through African diasporic art forms and aesthetic modes, this transdisciplinary work integrates visual art, installation, performance, and ritual.

Thinking through Toni Morrison’s “rememory,” engaging M. Jacqui Alexander’s “Sacred,” drawing on Saidiya Hartman’s “return,” and reflecting on NourbeSe Philip’s “fragmentation,” McNeilly explores themes of haunting, communion, loss and indecipherability. In this project she shapes a hybrid methodology grounded in praxes of freedom.


Photos by Alvis Choi, Vero Diaz, and Anique J. Jordan, 2014-2015, and Mosa McNeilly, 2013-2015.

Mixed media encaustic assemblage and installation artworks by Mosa McNeilly, 1995-2015.