A woman must come to terms with the circumcision she endured as a child in AfricaIn Tashi’s tribe, the Olinka, young girls undergo circumcision as an initiation into the community. Pulitzer Prize winner Walker illustrates the truism that violence begets violence in this strong-voiced but often strident and polemical novel, a 17-week PW bestseller, which focuses on the practice of female circumcision in African cultures. Read an Excerpt Possessing the Secret of Joy By Alice Walker OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA Copyright © 1992 Alice Walker All rights reserved.
Supported by the members of her performance troupe, Urban Bush Women, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar tells a theater audience her bittersweet story of giving this baby girl up for adoption and reuniting with her many years later. In its bravery, Womb Wars may remind some viewers of Alice Walker's searing novel, Possessing The Secret of Joy, a crusade against the practices of female genital mutilation and infibulation.
In Womb Wars, Zollar calmly but firmly counsels a friend to perform her own natural abortion - using herbs and acupressure - and to spiritualize it with candles, crystals, and chants.
Launched in 1984, Zollar's group Urban Bush Women has become known for its celebration of the survival of African culture throughout the diaspora, manifested in religion and folklore as well as popular and theatrical dance, music, visual arts, and the spoken word. Here in New York City, Urban Bush Women performances are always eagerly anticipated, especially by those who value the company for its vision of women's strength, creative brilliance, compassion, sensuality, and solidarity. Recently, Soto and Osorio presented excerpts from Historias' concluding section in New York.
In the dance, the bodies of women absorb a trauma while their minds have been put to sleep.
The body must also be the site of emotional healing, as the dance suggests in its beautiful conclusion. Like Urban Bush Women, Soto and Osorio make it a priority to work with communities, and their work thrives on public interaction and feedback.
One male high-school student who saw the conclusion of Historias said, "I was totally disgusted when I saw two guys hugging each other, and then I tried to remember the last time my father hugged me. Jawole Zollar notes that artists have been speaking out more about experiences of child abuse, rape, and other traumatic histories that were once cloaked in silence and shame. Eva Yaa Asantewaa, a freelance writer and dance journalist based in New York City, teaches writing meditation and stress management for people with HIV-AIDS, women in shelters, and organizations in the lesbian community, She is the founding director of Spirit Center, holistic education for women. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Tashi manages to avoid this fate at first, but when pressed by tribal leaders, she submits. Womb Wars takes up women's cry against sexual violence, medical butchery, and the denial of women's rights to control our own bodies. This latest installation, Womb Wars, derives its vision from The Empress, a matriarchal symbol of divine spirit in matter, expressed in the fertility and diversity of the natural world.


In this way, she advises, the woman may affirm the spirit's right to leave and her own right to choose to help it do so.
Zollar has worked with many noted figures in the arts - among them, filmmaker Julie Dash (who directed the film Daughters of the Dust as well as the nationally-televised film of Zollar's Praise House) and performance artists Laurie Carlos and Robbie McCauley. In an intriguing section of Zollar's Nyabinghi Dreamtime - a work-in-progress which dips into the non-linear, spiritual consciousness of die Nyabinghi Rastafarian tradition of rural Jamaica - the choreographer suggests the existence of an unknown 13th tribe descended from the Biblical Jacob. This segment addresses the decades-long nightmare of sterilization of the women of Puerto Rico under the U.S. Like astral bodies, these expressionless forms slip away from the flesh-and-blood objects thrashing on the floor.
When they tour, they invite local performers to appear in their works, contributing their own insights and material After performances, they take the time to engage their audience in discussions about what they saw.
Years later, married and living in America as Evelyn Johnson, Tashi’s inner pain emerges.
Her name was Lara and she was unhappy because her husband and her co-wife were really in love; being nice to her was merely a duty panther society imposed on them.
Zollar made the choice to go public with personal experiences because, she says, "the stories I tell are other women's stories, more women than I'd ever imagined.
In Zollar's Tarot readings, The Empress kept coming up reversed, a sign she related to unresolved issues around her abortions. It is a very African approach, Zollar realizes, stressing the nature of abortion as a transition like any other requiring a spiritual process - some rite of passage, of mourning and releasing.
I think I'll go have an abortion!'" But proponents of choice, she feels, fear giving antiabortionists ammunition. Last year, Zollar and her ensemble received a BESSIE (New York Dance and Performance) Award for their entire body of work.
The source of this line, she was once told, is not one of Jacob's sons but, rather, a daughter. Recovering from their surgery, the women seem haunted by the notion that something is very wrong about them. One member of eachs ame-sex pair holds and softly comforts the other, knowing and remembering and guiding the waking body with compassion.
Both she and Merian Soto demonstrate how artists - particularly artists who know and honor the body - can reclaim the ancient, earth-rooted role of healer as the shield of our individual and societal denial begins to crack. They had not even wanted to take her into their marriage as co-wife, since they were already perfectly happy. The African-rooted way of life, so often evoked in this African-American company's work, here again forms the basis for compelling, kaleidoscopic theater integrating the personal and the political, the ancestral and the contemporary.


I think women have thought 'This is something that's happening just to me, and I have to cope with it.' Every woman I know has been through some kind of sexual abuse.
She hopes that other people who support a woman's right to choose will not misunderstand her meaning, her interest in the complexities behind the decision to abort a fetus. Through extensive touring to perform, teach, and offer interactive community engagements, the ensemble has won national and international acclaim.
And the tribe, as Zollar might have dreamed, is a tribe of women - 13 - the number that inspires fear in all but those who honor the Goddess. It is estimated that 38 percent of all women of childbearing age on the island have undergone sterilization, many because of pressure and intimidation, lack of adequate information, or lack of access to birth control options. The policy, initiated in the 1930s, is widely regarded as the consequence of an attitude that blames poor women of color for the economic and social problems of their communities.
She and the husband, Baba, would argue, then fight, snarling and biting and whipping at each other's eyes with their tails.
Pretty soon they'd become sick of this and would lie clutched in each other's paws, weeping.I am supposed to make love to her, Baba would say to Lala, his heartchosen mate. Female circumcision is a terrible travesty, but neither it nor Walker's talent is well served by this overwrought novel.
This is the arrangement that came down to me.I know it, dearest, said Lala, through her tears. Everyone knew she was unloved, and no other female panther wanted to share her own husband with her. She took in her smooth, aubergine little snout, her delicate, pointed ears, her sleek, gleaming black fur. And she was well kissed by the sun and well made love to by the moon.For one whole day, Lara was content. When her co-wife asked her fearfully why she was smiling, Lara only opened her mouth wider, in a grin. The poor co-wife ran trembling off and found their husband, Baba, and dragged him back to look at Lara.When Baba saw the smiling, well kissed, well made love to Lara, of course he could hardly wait to get his paws on her! Her mother, Catherine, whose tribal name was Nafa, used to send her to the village shop for matches, which were a penny each.
The story she would tell about the lost penny might go like this: That a giant bird, noticing the shimmer of the coin in the glass of water in which she'd temporarily stored the pennies for safekeeping and for aesthetic enjoyment, had swooped down from the sky, flapped its wings so boldly that the glass of water fell from her hand, and when next she looked, having hidden her face from the creature for fear of its large beak and outspread wings, why—dash!



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