Josephine and the Rainbow Tribe

A sketch of Shadowing Josephine.

taken on my mobile phone by Karen Thompson on 6th Jan 2014

I am at the embryonic stage of this project, although it was fertilized 8 years ago on a trip to New York coinciding with watching a Josephine Baker documentary. I was enthralled at a very basic level by Josephine Bakers spirit, her fairytale aspirations, apparently genuine humility and as a freedom fighter.

I tattooed my neck with a rainbow a few years later, at that time remembering only vaguely the wonderful story of her Rainbow Tribe – I figured the rainbow as a kind of barcode and a pun on identity and sci-fi projections of identifying oneself or having been branded in someway and we can all think how these can be projected onto us unwittingly and, chillingly, to humanity’s shame.

At this time I was researching a concept of mass-identity and palimsestuous readings. I believe that interpreting the present in advance of a projected idea of the future is impossible without looking to the past. If there’s one figure that encapsulates my enquires as an artist, I’ve come to conclude it’s Josephine Baker.

Initially I sought assistance from my ex-ballet and tap teacher Miss Barbara Benson Smith MBE, whose Academy in Scarborough is the locus for work she undertakes within in the local community as well as for the NSPCC. One of Miss Barbara’s protégées, Caron also helped work on the choreography, helping me to look at dancing contemporaneously.

My performance at The Art Party Conference thoroughly encapsulates the initial steps I am taking. It is tentative, nervous, naïve, a little bashful but hopefully celebratory. by performing ‘Shadowing Josephine’ at the Spa, a stones throw away from the Futurist Theatre where The Black and White Minstrels would perform, at its height, to full houses I hoped would challenge the misrepresentation of women and girls and challenge racial stereotyping and social stereotyping and a system that is threatening to operate ostensibly without the arts, or at the least the marginalization of arts and humanities within the national curriculum

The live performance premiered at The Art Party Conference at Scarborough Spa on 23rd November 2013

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