Metonymy’s latest release, ZOM-FAM, by multi-disciplinary artist, educator, and literary translator Kama La Mackerel, launched earlier this month. If you were lucky enough to attend one of the local outdoor launches here in Montreal, we’re so happy you could make it. If you were one of hundreds who preordered the book beginning six months ago, just as the whole world was changing forever, we’re so grateful. And if you’ve been sitting around wishing you could hear the author describe this magical collection of decolonial lyric poetry in their own words — here’s your chance. Check out this sweet video or read on.
‘ZOM-FAM searches for languages of love amidst the legacy of colonial silences’
How would you describe ZOM-FAM to those unfamiliar with your work?
ZOM-FAM is a collection of long-form lyric poems that chronicles the coming-of-age of a gender-creative child growing up in the 80s and 90s on the plantations of Mauritius. Through these eight poems, the narrative voice searches for languages of love amidst the legacy of colonial silences that surrounds them and their family in order to find the words to birth their queer femme self into being.
Reviewers and endorsers have often used the word “reclamation” when describing your work. What does this mean to you?
I see reclamation as a form of re-writing oneself into being, as creating a counter-narrative for the past, the present and the future. Reclamation to me means birthing one’s narrative anew and offering that as a legacy that can be passed on to other generations.
Tell us about the origins of this project.
This project first started as a series separate of spoken word pieces that I had written between 2013 and 2016. Each of these pieces dealt with the legacies of colonization with regards to migration, race, gender and queerness.
In 2016 I realized that there was a deeper storyline about Mauritius and my childhood on the plantation island. This was when I started to develop the narrative arc of ZOM-FAM as a whole, and not a series of separate pieces.
Between 2016 and 2019, I developed the manuscript for the stage first. From this stage manuscript came the poetry manuscript as it now exists on the page in the form of a book.
Colonialism and notions of race and gender are inextricably connected. Can you speak to how you construct writing about such interlinked themes?
I decided to explore all these themes, these “-isms” through the first-person narrative. Being the first person in my family to have finished high school and to have gone to university, I had learnt about colonial history and gender theory as discourse.
In university, I was taken aback by how these discourses were far removed from the lived experiences and narratives of my family. So with ZOM-FAM, I wanted to delve into the personal, to map the political history of the island onto the intimacy of the family home. Ultimately, my family experienced colonial violence (and resistance) in everydayness. In many ways, I see ZOM-FAM (and all my artistic projects) as the space where the personal meets the political.
Mythology is interwoven in this work. Can you share how mythology, folklore and intergenerational storytelling have inspired your work?
The traditions of magic realism from postcolonial writers of the global south were very much influential in my creative practice— the novels of Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez, for example, remain some of my favourite pieces of fiction even now. Audre Lorde’s development of biomythography as an act of rewriting of the self through history, mythology and biography was also very influential in my practice.
As somebody who came from a history of colonization where the past is fragmented and the present is imbued with silences and taboos, writing the spiritual outside of colonial frameworks of time, space and narrative seemed the only way for me to write the self, to write the histories of my family while honouring the multiple truths that lie at the core of them.
You’re an interdisciplinary, multimedia artist. Can you tell us how you decided to explore this art form, and the relationship between the form and your other artistic expressions?
Although I am an interdisciplinary artist, poetry has always been my first love. I always integrate an element of writing within all of my multimedia projects.
With ZOM-FAM, the theatrical piece, I was particularly concerned with what poetry in motion would feel and look like in the body and across space. When it came to turning the manuscript into a book, I wanted to explore how the body of the text could also perform on the page. I wanted this collection of poetry to embody all my practices on the page: for it to be at once storytelling, performative, visual and tactile. I wanted the poetry to leap beyond the literary confines of the page.