Entanglements: 007 - Ayana Evans & Tsedaye Makonnen
Tsedaye Makonnen is a multidisciplinary artist who exhibits internationally. Her main focus is on the African Diaspora's response to forced migration. Primarily through sculpture and performance, her studio and research-based practice weaves together her identity as a daughter of Ethiopian immigrants and a Black American woman.
Ayana Evans is a NYC based artist who received her MFA in painting from Temple University and her BA in Visual Arts from Brown University. Her work attempts to pursue the origins of how her conscious body is perceived as it operates in artistic and social sphere. Her desires to examine the process of art-experiencing and its hierarchal notions of 'meaning' and 'value', particularly within a profoundly prejudicial way of seeing race, gender, sexuality and class.
This past summer the two spent four weeks together on Martha’s Vineyard during their Savage-Lewis Residency to create, collaborate and eat lots and lots of lobster. The synergetic nature of the residency coupled with their six year friendship made for a freeing experience that allowed the pair to be at the same place at the same time to make new work and discuss new ideas.
“Although we do not live in the same state my collaborator, Tsedaye Makonnen, and I have formed a true sisterhood with Black femme empowerment and abstract performance art as our link.” Evans shared in her residency application, “we work together often and we talk about our individual practices almost daily.”
Clip of phone call between Evans and Makonnen describing their experiences on Martha’s Vineyard during their residency to friend and fellow artist Marceline Mandeng.
“I am tired of fighting with curators. Fighting for pennies, or fighting for the smallest bit of respect."
- AYANA EVANS
“The first shoot at Reliable Grocery Store was impromptu performances that we filmed and/or photographed. And the second shoot was posed performative photos. The manager, Jenn who is the owners daughter invited us back to shoot at 8 am. The store opens at 9. So we had an hour that was just us and the workers. That was fun. She was really sweet offered to turn on extra lights for us and everything. I don’t think she told the workers we were coming, they looked surprised when we undressed but she let us open meat to use as a prop and everything! She was really great.”
Clip of phone conversation between Evans and Makonnen dissecting a comment they received on a photograph taken of the ladies, which they later decided not to include in the Art On the Vine exhibition.
This encounter re-affirmed their joint desire for their image and practice to be represented authentically through the camera lens. Evans and Makonnen almost exclusively created, shot, recorded, and directed the installation videos and photographs included in their exhibition.
“Florcy [Morriset] came to visit us for a day also and her images were very freeing. We could perform for the camera without worrying about running into place for a tripod and camera timer. When you only have seconds to get in place the images are different, it’s harder to capture an aggressive pose of candid movement. And both of us are rather aggressive performers! It felt great to have Tsedaye take my pictures!!! We could tell each other how to shift to make the pose better and it always just felt organic. Never forced. And I loved taking pictures of Tsedaye!! She's like a sister to me and I know her work well...I have watched her work change and shift over the past 5 years and like we said we have worked together over the years...so I knew what pose fit with the progression of the work and what didn't. It was like all of our past work and interactions were coming full circle for our projects for AOTV.”
- AYANA EVANS
During their residency, Evans and Makonnen stayed at the historic Shearer Cottage, which was once the only lodging house available for African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard.
Clip of a phone conversation between Evans and Makonnen discussing the photographs they took of each other and make “post-production” decisions on which images will be exhibited.
“Ayana and I set up our Afro-print fabric that we both brought back from Ghana with us and sewed together during the Vineyard residency. We hung the fabric from the lifeguards chair and took some performative videos and then photoshoots. That’s when we realized how liberating it was to have Florcy [Morriset] behind the camera, which she volunteered to help us with, and we just did our thing while she took video and photo. At one point I think even a Polar Bear got behind the camera. This was a beautiful day, the Polar Bears got to wear my Ethiopian kaba (cape) and take royal/regal pics plus our group shots were fun too. It ended up being a memorable day that wasn’t planned, just good company.”
- TSEDAYE MAKONNEN
Snippet of Video Hangout with Wanda Raimundi Ortiz.
Throughout their residency Evans and Makonnen fostered meaningful relationships with women on and off the island including Wanda Raimundi Ortiz, Caroline Hunter, Lee Jackson Van Allen, Emily Thomas, Florcy Morriset, Renee Nolan, Jessica Stafford Davis, Marcelline Mandeng, Jen from Reliable Market in Oak Bluffs, the women who work at Our Market in Oak Bluffs, the Inkwell Polar Bears, Dominique Duroseau, Elizabeth Lamb, and Leili Huzaibah who have supported and celebrated their creative practice!
This Is What Black Women Do For Each Other
Ayana Evans, Tsedaye Makonnen and Florcy Morriset