Sunday, October 2, 2011

Alixa and Naima - Climbing PoeTree

The Awesome Women of the Day are Alixa and Naima, a performance duo called Climbing PoeTree. Poets, performers, print-makers, dancers, muralists, and designers, the Colombia- and Massachusetts-born, Brooklyn-based team has toured the world, working the intersections of so many artistic disciplines and presentation modalities that they defy categorization.  They describe themselves on the Climbing PoeTree website as "the Heart Beat Soul Sister Artist Warrior duo." Their work confronts difficult issues of social and environmental justice and offers a perspective shift, an incensed yet loving realignment to everything about today's world that could get you down, a thinking/feeling view that will infiltrate the heart and mind of anyone who has even a small chink left open in their emotionally protective armor.

In a review of their 2009 show Hurricane Season, Onome Djere writes:
Climbing Poetree were already touring as a spoken word group, waxing eloquent about the economic greed and racism that fuels the prison industry. Using dance, poetry, tapestry, and storytelling, Alixa and Naima started giving birth to Hurricane Season by connecting the numerous dots of environmental and socio-economic oppression they had observed. One example was the news of mercenaries who were contracted to help patrol New Orleans in the Katrina aftermath - in effect, criminalizing its predominantly black and low-income population. Though Climbing Poetree covered everything from the hurricane to the displacement of Palestinians to the plastic island floating in the Pacific, they managed to avoid information overload and maximize emotional impact with graceful transitions and seamless multimedia layering.

The entire theatrical experience embodied the sacred and tempestuous nature of water: the dimly lit underwater cave-like performance space, the fluid dance movements of the performers, the tidal waves of images, metaphors, poignant quotes and audio collages of survivor stories, ebbing and flowing across a huge screen.

I have only begun to get familiar with their work and am utterly captivated by everything I've seen and heard. Among my favorites so far is this existentialist piece that ponders whether the other elements of nature perhaps experience the same sort of silly angst that we, the human element, put ourselves through over issues of appearance, social role, parenting, mortality. For me, the final line of the poem has already become a touchstone I come back to throughout the day, to regain my center when my mind is spinning out on a trip fueled by worries and fears:

In a historical context, we could call Climbing PoeTree "the wandering minstrels of today," or,  "itinerant philosopher shamans." For me personally, though, I see them as brave, shimmering living goddesses of Heart and Truth. Even in a small box of video on my screen, they take me, wake me, and remake me.