Co-produced by the MAI (Montréal, Arts Interculturels)
Their poetry collection providing the text for this dynamic performance, Kama La Mackerel’s ZOM-FAM is an evocative transgender coming of age tale. “Zom-Fam” is a Mauritian Kreol term meaning “man-woman.” It is an identity La Mackerel gradually discovers as a blossoming truth.
Opening with just the faintest hint of light separating them from the dark void of the stage, La Mackeral recites an impassioned yet restrained call to goddesses and female warriors. This sensual relationship to a mythos of femme sovereignty establishes an expansive, cosmic appreciation of feminine empowerment.
The story begins with the moment of their birth on the island of Mauritius. With a rhythmic, hypnotic voice they lead us through vivid memories of early childhood, the family home built around them, their schooling and eventually revelation of trans identity to their parents.
Designer Nalo Soyini Bruce has crafted a collection of varied textural elements that serve as a minimalist set. La Mackerel forges an intimate, familiar relationship to these objects: cinderblocks filled with polished stones spread out in meaningful patterns, textured drapes that billow gently in their breath, a pile of sand spread and shifted under purposeful hands.
La Mackerel also traverses the large playing area several times in slow, methodical progressions. All the while, that warm, enveloping voice draws you in. Jon Cleveland’s lighting seems to respond to their gentle cadence, subtly shifting and blending soft pools of illumination. Overall, it is a very ASMR sort of experience.
The island’s colonial legacy figures prominently. La Mackerel also conjures a world where parents and children feel the need to establish clear and defined roles within society. There is a sense, too, of each individual as a living extension of an ancestral past.
In one of my favourite passages, La Mackerel concocts a whimsical, elaborate life for an imagined trans person, another Zom-Fam that her mother knew of when she was a little girl. Part idealized fantasy, part speculation, this is a lovely bit of wistful invention.
This multi-disciplinary presentation is a fluid, resonant blend of language and movement. It feels slow-brewed and meditative, as if the text has existed in some ever-adapting form for centuries. The overall atmosphere is mellow, ritualistic and inviting. Beyond the lyrical intensity of the work, it is informative and La Mackerel’s presence is vibrant and healing.