Parade Créole: DIS/PLAY
Research into an Eigenkleid produced for Dr. Ayesha Prout. Installation view at Galerie Sakuku, Göttingen. Exhibition Parade Créole, November 2021-January 2022. The installation’s drawings are an emotional exploration of the contexts of Dr. Prout’s devotion to Trinidad Carnival, her submission to state and immigration authorities in her career development between the Caribbean and the United Kingdom, and her work as a forensic psychologist at the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago.
The work is mounted on a frame from MOKIT, a modular system which guides the research aesthetics of the Parade Créole exhibition.
Detail view. Research into an Eigenkleid produced for Dr. Ayesha Prout.
Anna Muthesius’ Das Eigenkleid der Frau (1903) is a treatise on artistic dress- it decries the role of the corset as well as fashion-trends in womens’ dress in turn-of-the-century Germany. Muthesius proposed that individual women create their own garments, taking their own physical attributes into consideration and compensating for any deficiencies with clever tailoring, hairstyling or accessorising, in order to achieve an ‘ideal form’. Muthesius stresses the importance of an individual understanding of dress-making in this undertaking.
This ‘ideal form’ presented by Muthesius is that of a middle-class white european woman with the liberty to design and make her own clothing and thus have autonomy over how she is seen in public and private space. Arguably, this is the ideal form to which the colonised female aspires, as described in Chapter Two of Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks(fr. 1952, eng. 1967), titled The Woman of Colour and the White Man. This chapter describes the ‘colonised woman’s’ aspirations towards becoming a partner of the white European male. The roots and manifestations of her fantasies are outlined, and have much to do with social mobility in colonised space- having the right to enter and feel not only physically safe but admired and accepted in certain neighbourhoods or at certain events, for example. Where Anna Muthesius would have the subject learn dress-making, the colonial subject which Fanon describes, attends to gain access to metropolitan France to masquerade in this ideal form (the white masks of the book’s title) via academic qualification and selected socialising in Paris’ post-war jazz clubs, salons and cafés.
Interestingly, it can be noted in the two texts that the idea of autonomy, security, and beauty which this ‘ideal form’ represents, and the pursuit of knowledge which unlocks its privileges, are associated with expense and luxury. Muthesius bemoaned the lack of availability of Liberty fabrics in Germany, and Fanon begins his description of the woman of colour who aims to achieve whiteness through romance with a white man with an excerpt from a novel which relays a failed excursion to a wealthy neighbourhood in Fort-de-France.
Following her research on Anna Muthesius’ Das Eigenkleid der Frau and Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks , Felisha Maria Bahadur created a prototype, as well as four Eigenkleid garments which are each accompanied by an individualised installation. One such installation stands before you– it informs an Eigenkleid which has been custom-made for a specific colonised female body- in this case, Dr. Ayesha Prout’s.
These drawings, done on architectural paper, are an emotional exploration of the contexts of Dr. Prout’s devotion to Trinidad Carnival, her submission to state and immigration authorities in her career development between the Caribbean and the United Kingdom, and her work as a forensic psychologist at the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago.
Created in the Sakuku exhibition space in the days leading to the exhibition opening, the drawing was ‘unlocked’ for the artist, perhaps, because of two factors- the safe space created by the gallery and the collective which runs it, as well as the recently acquired information that Dr. Proust would be leaving her job in the Caribbean for a position as head of a clinic for the rehabilitation of violent men in Kent, England. She had reached the centre, from the margin, via her career path, and it seemed more relevant and necessary than before, to undertake an exploration of how she would dress herself, and move about in this new, colonial space.
The work is mounted on a frame from MOKIT, a modular system which guides the research aesthetics of the Parade Créole exhibition in its entirety.
For more information and visuals: @parade.creole on Instagram.
A publication about the exhibition will be launched in the spring of 2022.