Transfiguration was staged in Atlanta, GA, May 2017 at Colony Square.
Infused with black liberation theology, poetry, spirituals, archival photos, direct action intervention and performance art, “Transfiguration” is an artistic and historical examination of the legacy of slavery, plantation labor and the commodification of black bodies in American history. It seeks to honor, reimagine and recapture the dream space that was stolen for centuries. Naps are a holy place, spiritual practice and a form of resistance for those living in the margins, navigating racism, poverty, violence and discrimination. What could have happened if we were allowed the space to rest? What dreams and innovations could have been produced? How can we capture what was lost? “Transfiguration” is an experimentation and conversation between the artist and her ancestors via sleep.
Reparations LIVE! is an examination of rest as a form of resistance. In this durational performance and art meditation, performance artist and liberation theologian, Tricia Hersey will use her public napping ritual as a subversive act, Her goal in using sleep as resistance is to work with her ancestors to recapture the DREAM SPACE that was stolen centuries ago. Hersey invites the public into this living altar to rest as reconciliation via the radical notion of watching a black woman sleep and perform rituals of spiritual care.
Participants can view or actively engage as co-sleepers, bringing mats and blankets as desired.
Naps provide a visionary space that allows us to heal, create and imagine, so the audience is invited to bring pillows, yoga mats and blankets to rest and resist together. Reparations LIVE! is an experimentation and conversation between the artist and her ancestors via sleep. This is reparations.
JULY – AUGUST
Outdoor tent revivals meet lost Dream Space meet Chicago protest energy in REST, a new immersive performance created by the Free Street Youth Ensemble in collaboration with acclaimed performance artist Tricia Hersey, founder of The Nap Ministry. Both joyful and welcoming, REST uses movement, text, and yes, actual naps, to explore the history of forced labor in the United States, and to invite the audience to reclaim rest as a tool of liberation. Free Street toured REST to five parks across the city as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks initiative.
Hersey collaborated with the Free Street Youth ensemble to co-design REST, and will perform with the company for the opening event.
I am trained as a poet. Poetry is my first love and what has grounded all my work as a social justice servant, teacher and performance artist. It holds me when there is no net. I have taught poetry for 20 years to young people and adults. Its sacred work to be the guide for poetry to be created. As the Nap Bishop, I am also a guide. At our Collective Napping Experiences community members come together to nap in a safe, shared space as they harness the creative power that happens when you nap. I feel humbled and honored to be trusted with curating a nap space for others. I have seen people sleep for 3 hours or just 30 minutes, and as they awaken they are so grateful for the experience. They look different and an energy of imagination and calmness fills the room. It is spirit work to rest. It is spirit work to nap together. The Nap Ministry was created to examine the vision space that is available to us and to resist a society that tells us to grind more. Thank you for exploring this work with me. More poetry coming. More Collective Napping Experiences, retreats and of more daily napping.
I have seen witches working
Poured holy oil on doorknobs
To keep the wanderers
Witches know what’s best
Brown long fingers quietly stirring prayers
Bodies propelled forward
Walk around the entire house 7 times
While speaking in tongues
A gold framed photo shook off wall
From the cries
Spiritual warfare under these feet
Shiny knees no longer a prison
My mouth the battleground
I lay before the altar
Not afraid of my own voice
- The Nap Bishop sleeping. Dreaming with her ancestors. Photo by: Charlie Watts Photography
I believe that naps provide a space for us to invent, imagine and heal. There have been numerous times in my life when a nap allowed me to work things out in my spirit that I was unable to process while awake. We are able to lay down our weary souls and offer our bodies and minds over to a sleep state. During this state, when the veil between the Earthly world and the spiritual world is thin, real healing can happen. I am grateful for this gift.
I am overwhelmed and struck by how much our bodies desperately want us to heal. Our bodies are totally focused on living and thriving. The outside influences of society and our own selves fight this healing with a vengeance. Naps can help us. So many times in my life I have decided to lay down for a quick nap because of a stress that occurred in my daily activities. I resigned myself to this quick cat nap so I could wake up refreshed and with new insight into a problem.
As an artist, I have awakened from a nap with poetry and ideas spilling from my mind. I would keep a notepad next to my bed for moments like this. I never want to forget that naps are spiritual practice that we must practice regularly for its benefits. This is one of the reasons I started The Nap Ministry – to create physical space for us to nap and heal together.
I received the beginning inspiration for this project while reading slave narratives during archival research. I was obsessed with finding out the smallest details of plantation life. What time did they wake up? Where did they sleep? How far were the fields from the sleeping quarters? Did they have lunch breaks? What time would they begin work? When would the work end? (I discovered that most enslaved Africans on cotton plantations worked 20 hours a day) Did they stay in the fields once the sun went down? If so, how did they see the cotton in front of them? How many pounds of cotton did they have to pick each day? Did pregnant women work until their due date? Did the pregnant women give birth in the fields? (I found reports of women giving birth and while the midwife cared for infant, they went back into fields on the same day) How hot would the temperature rise during the summer months? How many died from heat stroke? Did they ever nap?
I discovered my obsession for details was a way for me to connect with my ancestors. I would go to bed dreaming of them. One night while sleeping, I felt like my body was sinking into the bed. I felt like I was floating. I imagined that if I could connect with them in the spiritual realm, I could rest for all the centuries they couldn’t. I was desperate to provide a form of reparations for them. I will never forgot the DREAM SPACE that was stolen. The Nap Ministry is for remembrance.
Rest via napping is vital for every human being, and as I have developed this project I am learning how sleep deprived our entire nation truly is. We are depressed, sick, anxious and disconnected, yet we continue to freely give our bodies and minds over to the grind of capitalism. We have tied our entire worth as human beings into how much we can produce financially. We are killing ourselves by openly being bamboozled by a society that tells us napping is lazy and unproductive. I want you to RESIST. I want you to free yourself. I want you to nap. I want you to dream. There is healing waiting for you. There is a vision space waiting for you to enter into via rest. This is holy work. Join me there.
How will you resist? Share your stories of how resting has helped you heal.