Rite of Passage is done in collaboration with composer, Nina C. Young. Rite a participatory performance piece that explores the emotional landscape of my five-year rape trial in a Moroccan court. The performance is contained within an abstract courtroom suffused with a documentary soundscape.
The trial served as my liminal phase; each hearing, a rite of passage. The woman I was died under the weight of the man who raped me. I emerged from the trial into an entirely altered womanhood.
Rape is not considered a violent crime in Morocco, and as such, my case was given no particular privacy. In the open courtroom, multiple cases were heard: hooliganism, property disputes, theft, and rape.
During the trial, I was made to stand before an all-male tribunal in defense of my self. For each of the eight times I appeared in court, I wore a tailored, dark-colored dress to conceal my skin, both physical and emotional. I stood still, like a stone, disassociated from my body. I never gave away emotion. I simply repeated the story on a loop, and argued my case per local, national, and international legal standards.
At a podium before three male Moroccan magistrates and a host of male lawyers, I spoke in French, or at times, with the assistance of an Arabic translator into a microphone. I related the most intimate and violent details of my experience, often having to explain repeatedly the vulgar details that did not translate into Arabic. The microphone was connected to two large speakers in the upper left and right hand corners of the room. These speakers blasted my spoken word to the entire courtroom audience.
Ultimately, I won my case. The perpetrator remains in jail. By winning this case through tenacity and, often, subversive action, I renegotiated the power balance of a rigid, hierarchical, patriarchal space. (Please see “press” to learn more of my case.)
I stage the performance in re-defined spaces or abandoned buildings, in particular those spaces formerly used as municipal buildings or as a peak of hierarchical cultural power. These locations represent the reoccurring themes in my own case of “crumbling patriarchy,” “renegotiation of power,” “deconstruction,” and “rewilding.” These spaces, once symbols of rigid hierarchy are, indeed, renegotiated spaces, often used to display subversive art or to bring light to alternative, non majority narratives.
Over the five years of my trial, I secretly recorded multiple hearings in the Casablanca courtroom. The soundscape is a tightly edited loop of these recordings (in Arabic, French, and English) combined with electronic and symphonic sounds composed by Nina C. Young. The soundscape plays from five to eight speakers situated around the space in order to surround the participants. The composer is present during the performance to provide live audio engineering and multiple-channel sound.
I wear a transparent A-line dress, made of white, raw silk that exposes my skin, both physical and emotional. I stand before “the tribunal” as an archetype of myself during the hearings. I state a monologue in English, French, Spanish, Swedish, and Arabic. I repeat the monologue like a mantra as I move throughout my trial and ultimate rebirth.
Rite of Passage was selected for the Chouftouhonna International Feminist Art Festival. Carthage, Tunisia. 7-10 September 2017.
The inaugural performance of Rite of Passage took place on 8 October 2016 at Federal Hall in NYC.