A Place to Nap While Black
Artists niv Acosta and Fannie Sosa share how racial justice and rest intersect in their project Black Power Naps.
Models, clockwise from top: Tourmaline, Mali Acosta, Charlyn Griffith, Ayah Free Hapi, Ebony Donnley. Video still by Lauryn Siegel, Kjerstin Rossie, Tess Altman. Creative direction by niv Acosta and Fannie Sosa. Make up by Gogo Graham. Photo editing by Alyza Enriquez.
As we brace for 2019 and stack up our resolutions, Broadly is focusing on finding motivation for the hard tasks that await us—like getting out of bed. So, throughout January, we're rolling out Getting Out of Bed, a series of stories about all things related to rest and resilience. Read more here.
In Black Power Naps, an ongoing project and exhibition that debuted at Matadero Madrid in 2018 and is on view at Performance Space New York through January 31, 2019, Afro-Latinx artists Fannie Sosa and niv Acosta present a series of interactive installations—or “devices” as the artists put it—designed to promote healing and rest among Black people. The exhibition, pictured below with models lounging amongst the installations, is vast, dreamy, and playful. In designing it, though, the artists were informed by research on the “racial sleep gap” (the finding that Black Americans receive significantly less sleep on average than white Americans), of slaves being controlled via sleep deprivation, and alternative healing methods—all of which they discussed in an interview with Broadly. Below, they also shared the five fundamental tenants that drove their vision of the project and that they’d like for those engaging with the work to understand. With these manifesto-like statements, the artists poetically tie together the myriad concepts underlying the project—reparations, aspirations, structural power dynamics, racial capitalism, ancestry, double consciousness, joy—and show how they all intersect within Black bodies and the lived experience of Black people. —Sarah Burke, editor
1. Black Sleep
Black Sleep requires total divestment from what is largely expected of a Negro*. To successfully sleep, a Negro must unlearn all that drives our inclination to please and appease others. Black Sleep is the full acceptance that you will disappoint simply by saying “NO” and taking a nap instead. For a Negro, the idea of sleep is haunted by deadly fictions—racist stigmas passed on from the days of slavery, when falling asleep during the day was a heavily punished act. Despite what they may tell you, you are not lazy or out of line; you require and deserve sleep for existing. You must sleep for your ancestors who could not in the past, and kin who cannot in the moment. You must sleep for your future. Napping is a long-term investment.
2. Black Dream
The Negro’s dreamscape is wild. For a Negro in abjection, waking life and dreams do not fully announce themselves as separate: The cognitive dissonance and distortion of reality inflicted on us by racist systems is better described as a waking nightmare, making it difficult to tell when we are asleep and when we are awake. And although Black people have made light of what it means to code switch, the task is laborious and similarly surreal. But our dreamscape matters, because it informs our visions of possible futures. Let us make room for the other dreams, the ones that are fertile ground for creating the versions of ourselves that thrive and live long lives. While reckoning with the truth that we are continually, structurally awakened from these dreams, may we also always remember that they are where we download our inherited ancestral knowledge and methodologies.
3. Black Joy
Black joy has never ceased to exist. Joy in the face of structural oppression has been the damndest invention of our diasporic kind. Our joy is also the first under assault in a production-based society that, in the United States, was built on the foundations of slavery and still echoes the inequities of those roots. Try to forget the power relations that such history still imposes on us today. Black joy is remembering, instead, our repressed truths. Black joy is reclaiming and transforming them.
4. Black Pleasure
Black pleasure is divine. Black pleasure is alive. Black pleasure is disruptive. It has no home in the white-cis-heterosexual fiction, so we create room for it using our bodies and our culture. Whether it’s in our voices, in our toys, in our music, in the jiggle of our curves; Black pleasure is vibrational. What are “good vibes,” if not the manifestation of Black pleasure?
5. Black Rest
Black rest is the unique intersection in which circumstances line up to invoke a rare vortex of pleasure, joy, and rejuvenation for a Negro. Some say it’s as big as the cosmos, yet it can be found in the depths of a calmly breathing Black child. Black rest is where so many keys are stored for structures of power—whose doors of opportunity are often shut, and whose windows are only openings for those willing to contort themselves enough. Black rest is what happens when there is no part of us fighting to survive. Black rest is when we thrive.
*We, the authors, use “Negro” at times because the term “Black people” alone does not encompass all of our history and personhood. By writing “Negro”—a word historically used as a slur against us—we reclaim a long legacy of oppression. We feel the resonance of “Negro” deep within our bodies; with it, we make clear that our words are targeted toward our fellow Negroes, who feel it in their bodies, too.
This piece is part of the an issue of Black Power Naps Magazine created as a collaboration between Broadly and Acosta and Sosa in conjunction with Black Power Naps. Read more here, or pick up a print copy of the magazine at Performance Space New York.