Remembering Bookmann geocites 2004 – Adele Todd – The Hotentot woman


What makes performance? Is it art, theatre, dance or drama?At the HweiLan Artist Residency in Taiwan, Trinidadian-born Adele Todd faced the public as a performer open ridicule and humour, The act of performing, she says, is a release of art through the simple act of confidence and movement. Further she confines that with this work, an element of “novel” couture is a large part of her costume. Red Lantern is a candid homage to the “Hotentot” woman, a black woman whose abnormal posterior enslaved her as a paraded curiosity. The performance had noteworthy results as it mused and entertained the simple man and woman on the street.


The HweiLan Artist Residency in Taiwan

All over Taiwan you can see red lanterns swaying out of doors. They mark festive occasions and are a sort of welcome sign. I was quite taken by them and began to toy with the idea of wearing it as an actual piece and creating a performance. I did several preliminary sketches, but the only solution came from draping the material onto my body. Would it look too commercial? Would I seem like a walking billboard? Would it be absurd? These thoughts ran through my mind. Carnival is a part of my Trinidad culture. I wondered aloud whether it was too much of a costume? I battled with its meaning? What would putting on a lantern do? How would it be received? I found the questions so compelling that I continued to work on the piece.

The day to perform arrived, and so to my task at hand, my kind roommate from Argentina, Christina Schiavi stapled me into the plastic contraption and Ideparted, feeling rotund and whale-like, I descended on my audience and found myself getting into a character a-la- Josephine Baker. Who knew that within its cheeky folds lay a vixen waiting to play such a sexual role?

But there was also whimsy, as people recognized the lantern and could not believe their eyes. There was stifled laughter and then a flirting with the costume, a desire to touch me, particularly my private parts. That brought soft slaps and looks of shock from my face. I found in it as well a deeper, much more serious meaning as I pranced around, I recalled the Hotentot woman and I had many moments of reverence to her memory.

Two Taiwanese girls came up to me later in the evening after the cameras had departed asking me about the meaning of the work, somehow they had heard that I had put on a performance and asked me to do a little dance for them. The Hotentot woman shuddered through me powerfully as I looked back at them declining to adhere to their request, as still in character I shook my pineapple coquetishly thinking it was 2005 but here I was still dancing for the crowd. I came as an opening and opened up far more meaning than I could have foreseen. Adele 2005

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