Mauritian-Canadian trans artist unveiled as a finalist for an emerging LGBTQ writers’ award

“I moved to Canada and discovered racism for the first time...that was the first time there were more spaces to explore and express my Queer identity,” says Mauritian-Canadian trans artist Kama La Mackerel. Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed reports.

By Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed

MONTREAL (CityNews) – One award-winning Montreal-based Mauritian-Canadian trans writer and multi-disciplinary artist is changing the narrative through their art.

Kama La Mackerel recently received the Canada Council for the Arts 2021 Joseph S. Stauffer Prize in visual arts and was a 2021 finalist for the writer’s trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize.

Their work is grounded in the exploration of justice, love, healing, hybridity, cosmopolitanism and collective/self-empowerment, moulded through the experience of growing up “zom-fam” which is the Mauritian creole for man-woman or transgender and the intersection of two ethnicities, two religions and three languages.

“I moved to Canada and discovered racism for the first time but then on the other hand that was the first time there were more spaces to explore and express my Queer identity but then those spaces were also racist. It was also very complex as an experience. More than anything for me it was about how to take that experience in stride and how to learn from it and how to grow from it,” explained La Mackerel.

“I would say I faced many of the challenges that any LGBTQ+ teenagers faced where we’re looking for that safe space where we can be ourselves and I think just like everywhere globally we still do not offer that safety to children in particular so that was a major challenge for me growing up.

“I grew up in a very working-class family so as a kid I did not have access to culture. My parents did not take me to the theatre or to get books from the library. For me, that was also considered feminine as a child. So as an adult, me turning towards the arts, towards poetry, turning towards performance was really a way to reclaim that feminine side of me that expresses itself through artistic expression.”

Kama strives to honour their own identity while making an impact on youth who may look to them for inspiration.

“Queerness belongs to whiteness and for a lot of people we have to separate race and the fact of being immigrants from being Queer and what I really wanted to do in my art was to bring both of those together and honour however complex as they are – to honour both those parts of who I was which hopefully allows other people to hopefully see themselves in those stories.”

“What I really hope to do is to create a space for safety, a space for possibility, a space that says, actually, you’re going to be okay. Here’s my journey, this is what I did and I hope that someday you’re going to write your own journey as well.”

Zom-fam is also a 90-minute interdisciplinary solo performance that weaves dance, spoken word and rituals into a retelling of the poetry through the body and voice of the artist. The show was co-produced by MAI (Montréal, Arts Interculturels) in 2020, where it was due to premiere, but was cancelled twice because of the pandemic.

Top Stories

Top Stories