An Invitation to Return: “Gomela” at Ashé Powerhouse Theater


I first encountered the mesmerizing work of poet Sunni Patterson last year at a Junebug Productions event, Homecoming Project Congo Square—a participatory storytelling performance series based in New Orleans in which Patterson was one of several featured artists—and her seemingly improvised spoken-word performance was like none other I had experienced. Since then I have looked forward to more chances to witness what can only be described as supreme mastery of the written and performed word.

Still, Junebug’s latest production Gomela/to return: Movement of Our Mother Tongue, which was written by Patterson and directed by Stephanie McKee, surpassed my expectations, having an impact that only comes when art is elevated to its highest calling: transforming those who encounter it and (re)directing us on a path toward justice.

Within 55 minutes, Gomela stretches hundreds of years and thousands of miles across ocean and land, connecting generations and unearthing deep cultural roots between Africa, Haiti, and New Orleans. The words of Patterson’s epic poem, spanning the life of the performance, contemporize manifestations and traumas of slavery through interpretations of police violence and the evolution of Jim Crow into mass incarceration; they also declare honor and power for black people with lines like “wild women are not to be tamed, only admired,” and “black boy proud of the black man he has become.”

Read the full article at PELICAN BOMB