Half the Sky Festival:

Gender and Diaspora: Conflicts and Resolutions

Saturday, April 21, 2-4pm, Panel; 4-6pm, Reception 
A.I.R. Gallery
111 Front Street, Suite 228 (DUMBO)

Presented in association with A.I.R. Gallery as part of the exhibition featuring international women artists, "Celebrating Kindred Spirits and Strange Bed Fellows," and in association with Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory, NYU. 

Kick-off panel discussion featuring New York based folklore and anthropology scholars who work on gender and performance issues in NYC and around the world. Panelists Barbara Browning, Najwa Adra, Puja Sahney, Devorah Shubowitz and Gillian Richards-Greaves discusses Yemeni, Indian, Guyanese and Ashkenazi Jewish issues. Performance artist Maria Yoon presents on her project, Maria the Korean Bride.

Panelists Najwa Adra
Dr. Najwa Adra is a cultural anthropologist with long-term research and consulting experience in Yemen. She has conducted field research in Yemen's Central Highlands on dancing and identity, women's oral poetry, reproductive health, tribal customary law, and the impacts of television, among other topics. In 2000-2003 she piloted the highly successful Literacy through Poetry/Heritage, an adult literacy project in which learners' own oral traditions form the texts from which they learn to read and write. With the help of a grant from the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Dr. Adra is currently writing a book on rural women's oral poetry. Many of her publications are available at: www.najwaadra.net. For Half the Sky Festival, Adra will discuss rural women's oral traditions in Yemen, with a focus on songs. She will describe changes in performance contexts in Yemen over the past 30 years as well as among Yemenis in New York.

Barbara Browning
Barbara Browning is on the faculty of the Performance Studies Department at NYU. Her major interests are Brazil and the African diaspora; dance ethnography; fiction and performance; and race, gender, and post-coloniality. Among her books are Samba: Resistance in Motion (1995) and the forthcoming I'm Trying to Reach You (2012). She is the faculty advisor for Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory, edited at NYU. For Half the Sky Festival, Browning will provide an overview of approaches taken to gender and diaspora by performance studies scholars.

Gillian Richards-Greaves
Gillian Richards-Greaves is a dual Ph.D. candidate in Ethnomusicology and Social-Cultural Anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington. Mrs. Richards-Greaves conducted a multi-sited, transnational and comparative dissertation research project on kweh-kweh performance amongst African Guyanese in New York City (Fall 2005-Fall 2008) and Guyana (Fall 2008-Spring 2010), where she examined the role of religion on performance practices and identity negotiation. Kweh-kweh is an African Guyanese pre-wedding ritual that takes place the night before a wedding ceremony and, through music, dance, storytelling, and other performances, provides advice and commentary on the couple, their family or 'nation' and their impending marriage. While kweh-kweh is a period of jubilation, gendered stereotypes are particularly celebrated, challenged, or dismissed through ritual performances. For example, kweh-kweh songs such as "Pack she back to she ma" (send her back to her mother) and "Me go wash am" (I will wash it) articulate what it means to be a "good" wife in the Guyanese community.

Puja Sahney
Puja Sahney is finishing her doctorate in Folklore from Indiana University. She conducted her dissertation research in Plainsboro, New Jersey, where she examined the way Hindu immigrants from India decorated their houses. For her presentation, she will be focusing on women's religious traditions as they pertain to primary items of Hindu interior decoration such as the domestic shrine referred to as mandir; religious sand-painting called kolam; decorative door hanging, toran; and the Hindu calendar. Her talk will highlight the different ways that Hindu women adapt religious material culture and customs to a new domestic setting when they arrive in the United States. Although architectural differences between India and the United States sometimes make the preservation of a custom difficult, women find creative ways to continue the tradition and ensure that the meaning and importance of these religious items are maintained in their new homes.

Devorah Shubowitz
Devorah Shubowitz is an Anthropology Ph.D. Candidate at Indiana University. Her research explores the gendered politics and performance of women's sacred text study in New York Jewish egalitarian communities. For Half the Sky's kickoff panel, "Gender and Diaspora: Conflicts and Resolutions," Devorah will discuss how lay Jewish women with different feminist identifications interpret sacred texts infused with male dominance.

Maria Yoon
Maria Yoon is a Korean-born artist who lives and works in New York City. She holds a BFA from Cooper Union. Her most recent project Maria The Korean Bride explores the social pressure and conflict for first generation Asian-American women. The project has received significant attention from the Korean and pan-Asian American communities, as well as from institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art. For Half the Sky's opening panel, Maria serves as a special guest artist who will share her personal stories about using her art practice as a way of overcoming challenges presented by societal and cultural gender roles. More information about the project can be found online at www.mariathekoreanbride.com.

Gender and Diaspora: Conflicts and Resolutions is part of Brooklyn Arts Council's Half the Sky Festival: Brooklyn Women in Traditional Performance, an unprecedented series of concerts, performances, workshops and symposia highlighting Brooklyn women performing artists, especially those working in traditional art forms.