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Gender, authenticity, and diasporic identities in Adebayo's Moj of the Antarctic and Iizukas 36 views.

As feminist scholarship has well established, gender does not exist independently; instead, it is a category that comes into being through its multiple intersections with ethnicity, nation, sexuality, and other identities. For this reason, it is particularly important to examine diasporic women's negotiations of identity, and the multiple categories and oppressions under which they live. Mojisola Adebayos 2006 play Moj of the Antarctic: An African Odyssey and Naomi Iizukas 2002 play 36 Views both make significant contributions to the drama of women in the diaspora, but neither has been given the scholarly attention one might expect. Moreover, despite their different national and cultural focuses, these plays bear a number of striking similarities. They use similar theatrical techniques to explore diasporic women's experiences and the vast variety of ways that women in the diaspora use diverse literary and artistic traditions to renegotiate their identities.

As part of this negotiation, both plays portray women who subversively and self-reflexively reimagine women of the past, and both plays consistently emphasize the inauthenticity of these imagined pasts. Furthermore, the plays suggest that engaging with women of the past can be a catalyst for diasporic women to reexamine their own identities and desires in ways that challenge the intersection of oppressions that Black British and Asian American women face. Thus, this inauthenticity does not diminish the relevance of these women of the past to modern diasporic identities. To the contrary, it is precisely by foregrounding the inauthenticity of the women of the past that these plays reveal the complexities of the intersections of gender, diaspora, and sexuality. Drawing on Nira Yuval-Davis's work on diaspora and the politics of belonging and Katie King s work on the co-constitution of past and present, I argue that both plays exemplify the political potential of inauthentic reimaginings of women of the past. These plays reimagine women of the distant past in ways that undermine the desire for authenticity and direct access to history; in doing so, they offer a reconceptualization of the relationship between past and present that draws attention to, rather than erases, diasporic women's multiple identifications.

Diasporic Identity as Textual Odyssey

Moj of the Antarctic: An African Odyssey is a one-woman show in which the actor-playwright plays a character called Moj, named after the author herself. The play was first performed to strong reviews in November 2006 at the Lyric Hammersmith in London, directed by Sheron Wrey, and was later performed at the Oval House Theatre and Queer Up North, as well as on a British Council tour of Southern Africa, all with Adebayo as the solo performer. Moj begins the play as a slave in the antebellum American South, and then proceeds to take a series of journeys to various corners of the Atlantic Ocean in search of her freedom and, arguably, her identity. The lone performer also plays the roles of the characters Moj interacts with, as well as a griot character called The Ancient, who begins, ends, and comments on the play. Using multimedia and engaging audience participation, the play shows the experiences and resonances of its various shifting characters, all the while weaving into the dialogue quotes from Herman Melville, Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Ernest Shackleton, John Milton, and many others. (1)

Moj's narrative begins while she is working as a slave; she is tasked mostly with housekeeping, a position she obtained because she is also the daughter of the slave owner. Moj develops a loving but forbidden sexual relationship with another slave, a woman named May. May was illegally taught to read by a previous owner, and as their relationship develops, she teaches Moj to read and to love literature, thus spurring in Moj both intellectual and sexual awakenings. Moj proceeds to quote and occasionally mock the words of famous authors in her father's library and also to write erotic and romantic poems to May, interacting with literary traditions in ways that are often playful or even subversive. When Moj's father (and legal owner) discovers their dual transgression--sexuality and literacy--he blinds and eventually kills May to stop their relationship and to prevent May from reading again, sparing his daughter an equal physical punishment but not the psychological trauma of guilt, loss, and terror. These beginning scenes, both in their plot and in their extensive use of literary and historical quotations, set up key thematic concerns of the play: the way that textuality can make space for sexuality, the potential of claiming the Western tradition as one's own but also the treacherous nature of this process (as expressed here both by quotations from the Western literary canon and the effects of Moj's literacy), and the multiplicity of diasporic identities that Moj encompasses, seen in the way that Moj identifies with--and loves--another slave but is separated from her by the privilege borne of Moj's connection to Western power.

After this incident, Moj decides that she must run away, thus beginning a series of journeys through different continents and different identities. Throughout these journeys, the play closely intertwines change in location--the key characteristic of diaspora and odyssey both--with the instability of gender. For example, the next section of Moj's journey is patterned after the real historical events in the life of Ellen Craft, a light-skinned escaped slave who posed as a white man and rode a train north with her husband, who posed as her servant. Adebayo transforms this historical event to make it part of Moj's story, using Craft's performance as a white man to construct a "genderqueer" history of a woman in the African diaspora; the author has stated that her retelling of Ellen Craft's story is "queering black history" and that Ellen Craft's act of "transgressing the boundaries of gender" makes it possible to view her as a "genderqueer" ancestor. (2)

Deirdre Osborne has argued that Adebayo's play is a good example of how Black British drama shares a quality that, according to Lisa M. Anderson, characterizes contemporary plays by African American women and especially African American lesbians: the construction of "'imagined histories' to fill in the gaps in the histories of black women, particularly black lesbians, gay men, and other black 'queers,' whose histories have been left out." (3) The play thus enacts a connection between Ellen Craft and today's queer women of the African diaspora, and it is the self-consciously fashioned transformation of this character--the foregrounded inauthenticity of Moj's story, with its onstage changes of character and its collage of quotations and experiences--that imbues this connection with such potential. The character is not simply revealing history, but creating history.

The play's plot departs from the story of Ellen Craft when the character of Moj, dressed as a white man, proceeds to Boston, where she meets abolitionists who are angry that her multiracial and comparatively privileged experience makes her unable to speak for all enslaved people; they want to hear lurid stories of how she was tortured, and she cannot oblige, because her identity is more layered and multiple than they assume. Soon, however, a slave catcher arrives in Boston to try to capture Moj, and she must then flee to England; freedom is a multilayered journey in this play, not merely one cathartic act of escape.

The play continues its odyssey through different locations and identities as Moj then goes to England, where she meets someone who appears to be a Scottish man but is actually a woman of African descent. This new friend has found happiness posing as a man to join the crews of British ships as they venture out on exciting journeys. She urges Moj to try the same, and soon Moj is again living as a man, doing her best to tolerate the racism of her crew on her way to the Antarctic (the only other option, after all, was to join the crew of a slave ship). For entertainment, the ship's crew puts on blackface performances, adding to the sheer variety of ways that the play explores the performativity of race and gender and connecting the instability of identity with travel through space, a key issue for diasporic identities.

Given the extent of the play's explorations of identity, it is worth further exploring its portrayal of performativity and the connection between performance of identity and diaspora and journey. The notion of journey or motion is clearly the focus of this play, and of course a history of motion and journey is a key aspect of diasporic identities. More specifically, the motif of navigation is used throughout the play as a parallel to Moj's struggle to travel among different identities and different sets of cultural expectations. In other words, each journey requires a shift in how Moj performs her identity in order to navigate in a new setting. Judith Butlers sense of identity as a performance is particularly useful here. In Butlers framework, the performance of gender or other identities occurs through iteration of acts that shape bodies and persons in various forms of conformity or resistance to hegemonic ideology. (4) In simple terms, gender (and identity) is not necessarily something one is or something one has; identity is something one does, through countless cultural-material interactions with the world.

Adebayos play particularly focuses on the ways that performance of identity may be consciously crafted by those in the African diaspora. The author, in talking about this play, has commented that she is "very interested in the way black people use performance and performance skills in their everyday lives" for the purpose of survival, and indeed the play connects shifts in space and time with changes in the appearance and interactions with others that Moj must perform. (5) Frequently, we see that it is only her skillful creativity with transforming identities that keeps her alive. Moreover, Adebayo has commented that

   what I was really interested in was how throughout the history of
   colonialism and slavery that kind of playing with performing who
   you are has always been there--sometimes out of necessity. Slavery
   necessitates performance, you know. I'm always interested in how we
   display ourselves and how we choose to imitate the Other, whether
   it be for an escape strategy like Ellen Craft, or just to pass, or
   to mock. I wouldn't like to put that kind of work within a Western
   framework of drag. I'm not particularly interested in drag anymore.
   I'm much more interested in how we all are. I think black people
   are always dragging. I think were queerer than queer and I don't
   think it's anything to do with sex. (6)


While there is, as Adebayo implies, a rich interpretive tradition exploring drag in Western contexts, this comment suggests a more intersectional approach, and one that subverts any expectation that she conceives of drag as primarily an expression of Western lesbian identity construction. In this statement, there appears to be a call for fuller exploration of the ways that those in the African diaspora produce complex identity formations as part of daily life; possibly Adebayo is suggesting that being in the African diaspora involves drag not so much as imitation of another identity but as a complex play of identities in motion, interwoven cultural references, multiple audiences, and creative expression.

The fact that the play is a one-woman show, with the same performer playing all parts of various ethnicities and genders, also foregrounds the performativity of identity, as do specific elements of the performance. For example, in the comedic scene in which Moj dresses as a white man to escape the South, she begins by saying "How to make a white man," and then looks for a recipe in a recipe book (which is actually Moby Dick). (7) She then shows her transformation to a white man onstage, binding parts of her body or appearing to roll other body parts flat with a rolling pin, and even asking an audience member to fashion a penis for her out of clay. By coupling the trope of the journey and voyage with this emphasis on the performativity of identity, Adebayo's play suggests that diasporic identity is always identity in motion, always a performance of the shifting relationships between the global and the local. This view of identity also relates to the play's extensive use of quotations; its subversive intertextual reckonings of the Western canon suggests that this identity in motion is also navigation among complex layers of textuality and embodiment.

These navigations reach a culmination as Moj arrives at the Antarctic, a place of wonder and fascination for Moj, and a site of spiritual and moral growth. The scene includes projections of the Antarctic landscape on an enormous screen, as well as portraits of Adebayo in various poses and costumes, including whiteface, taken on site in Antarctica for this production by photographer Del LaGrace Volcano. The monologue in this section of the play weaves together environmental themes such as global warming with the histories of colonial, racial, and sexual oppressions. Deirdre Osborne has noted that this journey to the unknown is an ironic reversal of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and Adebayo has responded that it is here where Moj confronts her grief and self-hatred; Adebayo further explains that the scenes in the Antarctic are an autobiographical exploration of her own experiences negotiating her own identities. (8) This confrontation with grief and self-hatred is the climax of the play, and the rawness of emotion and psychological complexity of the character's thoughts are also likely to encourage the audience to consider the possibility that this content is autobiographical. Indeed, I would argue that the play presses the audience to embrace certain contradictions of interpretation. The audience is invited to imagine the many possible similarities between the character and the author; the character's name and the personal nature of the journey encourage this process. At the same time, the interspersal of past and present, and of historical and fictional events, as well as the use of multiple characters played by one actor, subvert the urge to apprehend the drama as a confessional or as pure autobiography. Just as the play foregrounds the inauthenticity of history, it reveals much about the author and yet resists the audiences potential desire to feel that they have unmediated access to the author's life. The audience is thus put in the position of having to navigate and reconstruct their own view of the identity and experiences of the playwright-performer-character in ways that are constantly being reconfigured; this is yet another way that the play explores the motion and intertextuality of identities.

At the Antarctic, despite the losses Moj is coping with, Moj chooses to also use this journey into "whiteness" as a way to transform and reconfigure codes of meaning. For example, these are Moj's thoughts on a black mountain in Antarctica (in the form of poetry, as much of the play is):

   To gaze
   At the African giantess
   Rising out of the ice
   She might be my mother lost
   She is
   Like Cleopatra
   In the cat's cream
   Her hip dipped
   Her buttock protruding
   From her cool bath. (9)


She later states,

   Past Africa we sailed
   Weeks ago
   But there me they did not know
   Oibo Oibo 2 bob 2 bob Queen Victoriaaaah!!!
   There I was a foreigner,
   Foreign more so than in my master's house
   Or in a London street,
   Yet in this wilderness
   I feel so very close
   to home....
   And under all this white
   Antarctica is a broken rock as Black as my great-grandfather. (10)


Here, Moj reveals the arbitrariness of imagining the whiteness of the spare, beautiful continent of the Antarctic; the Antarctic, like Moj on the British ship of exploration, is in whiteface. These quotations illustrate the way that Moj ascribes a kind of racial and sexual performativity to the land, an identification with the land that allows Moj to better understand herself and her own connection to the planet she journeys across.

In addition to helping Moj negotiate her identities, the Antarctic also serves in the play as a symbol for the connections between environmental exploitation and the histories of slavery and colonialism. Just as Moj's body is marked by her experiences of abuse, the land of the world is marked by the exploitation of Western imperialism. For example, Adebayo has noted that Antarctic exploration was very much part of a broader imperial project that sought to conquer and obtain lands and resources and that "the discourse of Polar exploration is layered with the language of white supremacy." (11) Moreover, the play also suggests that climate change and other environmental disasters, the costs of the enrichment of the powerful, are most harmful to the poor and nonwhite, "the former slaves and the colonized, from Niger to New Orleans." (12) The character of Moj quotes Marx, for instance, to argue that "Nature faces subjection / To man and machinery I ... I Clearing whole continents / For cultivation / Conjured out of the ground / Are whole populations!" (13) The play also mentions environmental-colonial connections that are occurring in the twenty-first century, further foregrounding the inauthenticity of the play's travel to the past. For instance, Moj explains the disappearance of James Island, a perfect symbol of the connection between slavery and colonialism and environmental destruction. James Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site where millions of African slaves were held before being shipped to slaveowning Western countries, and it is likely that the island will no longer exist in a matter of years due to rising sea levels and the melting of the polar ice caps. Like colonialism and slavery, climate change in this play is portrayed as not only a destruction of bodies but also an erasure of history and identity.

Given that Antarctica is depicted here as both a nineteenth-century explorer's destination (with all of the problematic connotations European "exploration" has), and as a place of current deterioration due to environmental destruction, what then does it mean for Moj to be "of" the Antarctic, as the title of the play suggests? The play's comparisons among Antarctica's destruction, environmental destruction in Africa, slavery, and colonialism emphasize that forced displacement and environmental destruction are both spiritual and material separations of human beings from the connections to land and history that make them who they are. Thus, the title suggests that Moj's identity is not only formed by displacements and explorations but is also an enactment of the identification of displaced/erased peoples and cultures with an increasingly threatened land. (14)

These interconnections among nature, gender, sexuality, and race are shown throughout the play. For example, following Moj's experience in Antarctica, the griot character closes the play with a monologue that articulates an identity that is both rooted and global, mentioning the history of slavery, modern-day starvation, sweatshops, the depletion of the ozone layer, the disappearance of land in Africa due to environmental causes, and a host of other issues. By ending this way, the play suggests that diasporic identities are global identities, not only in the sense of having multiple locations, homelands, and affinities, but also in the sense of having one's identity and well-being fully entangled with the health of the planet, since the effects of environmental destruction are much greater for the marginalized or displaced.

The closing scene also illustrates the significance of the play's portrayal of time. This closing monologue, as many other scenes do, seamlessly interweaves the events of different time periods as if they are concurrent concerns. The projected images of different times and places and the collage of quotations of different authors from different locations and time periods serve to do the same. By turning the stage into a site where multiple time periods and geographical locations converge, the stage itself is made to imitate diasporic identities. Moreover, by weaving together past and present events as if they were in proximity, the play foregrounds the inauthenticity of its imagined history. Inauthenticity may be necessary due to the gaps in written histories, but this inauthenticity also opens up possibilities for reimaginings of the past that allow diasporic women to negotiate identities that embrace the multilayered complexity of diaspora. The character of Moj is a collage of historical and imaginary people and journeys who hybridizes different time periods and different identities (performing as male and female, black and white, as well as speaking through the words of numerous authors), and also hybridizes history with imagination. It is precisely this collage identity that enables Moj to understand and resist the intersections among slavery, global inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, and environmental destruction. Furthermore, this collage identity enables the play to construct a relationship between past and present that reveals the concerns and complexities of diasporic women's identities and their connections to literary and political histories.

Through these various techniques, the play asks the audience to actively consider and critique the ideologies that would simplify these relations of identities and histories; these ways of demanding active audience engagement resonate with Brecht, of course, but also with Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, for which Adebayo has served as a facilitator. I would further argue that among the ideological assumptions that the play pushes the audience to question is the status quo perception that environmental issues are separate from issues of racism, colonialism, or the degradation of women's bodies. The play profoundly undermines the notion that engaging with (or helping to destroy) the planet is a race-neutral or gender-neutral act. It shows the value in border crossings: journeys across oceans, the intermingling of past and present and of history and fiction, revealing that the separation of various exploitations (sexual, colonial, and environmental) is very much like the separation of identity or time periods into fixed categories: these separations, in this play, are shown to be destructive ideological constructions.

It is reasonable to inquire, however, whether the facts that Moj's travels are quite clearly an amalgamation of many narratives and quotations, and that the play highlights the ways that history is a performance of the past rather than a record of it, diminish what we get out of watching Moj's journeys. In other words, does foregrounding the inauthenticity of an imagined history minimize the political potential of this history? I would argue that this is not the case; instead, this self-reflexive narrative about a deep and meaningful connection with a woman of the past offers a critique of the fantasy that history may be touched directly. More importantly, the play celebrates the possibilities of reimagining the past--even collaborating, in a sense, with women of the past--to create new formations of identity and new ways of attending to the intersections of gender, diaspora, history, and desire. (15) In this way Moj of the Antarctic is reminiscent of the work of feminist theorist Katie King, who coined the term "pastpresents" to suggest the way that telling stories about--and reenacting--the past actually involves the co-constitution of past and present, thus making each "encounter" with the past a dynamic process of remaking the categories that we name as "past" and "present" and putting past and present into mutual dialogue. (16) Adebayo's use of history, real and imagined, and her appropriations of the Western canon suggest a view of past and present that resonates well with King's conceptions, as the play constantly reminds the audience of the imagination necessary to reconstruct the aspects of diasporic women's history that have been erased. For those in the diaspora, engaging with one's past always involves engaging across multiple geographical and cultural spaces and across different identities in different locations. As this play shows, however, the complement may also be true: exploring one's identity in diasporic contexts must entail, in a sense, a sort of time travel. (17)

King also notes that the process by which "pasts" and "presents" construct each other tends to foreground the interplay between identifications and disidentifications. (18) Indeed, Adebayo's one-woman play emphasizes that Moj does indeed take on (and take off) different identities: the female slave, the griot, the explorer, the white man, and the modern performer are all one, and yet they are not all one. Thus, the woman of the past is explicitly constructed to be both "me" and "not-me"--a woman who symbolizes the connection among women of different times and spaces but also embodies the gaps in the histories and narratives of diasporic women. Moreover, Moj's identification with Others is sometimes portrayed as a form of resistance used to reclaim or reconfigure connections that dominant narratives erase--for example, through Moj's relationship with May or her deeply felt link to the Antarctic landscape. As King's theorization of pastpresents would suggest, Adebayo's emphasis on the mutual construction and collaboration of past and present also serves to reveal the flux and fluidity of identification and disidentification processes.

The play's explorations of past and present also, of course, do what many historical plays do: encourage the modern audience to consider the continuity between past and present, and the way that the present continues to be shaped by the past. Adebayo's play differs from most, however, in that the foregrounded inauthenticity--the noticeable gaps--of the past is used to highlight the agencies and historical contingencies that we use to construct a relationship with the past, further resonating with King's theories. In this play, literary canons are fragmented and put together in new form, identity is shown to be multiple and performative, and the boundaries of time and space are blurred as the protagonist embodies both oppression and resistance in the journeys of diasporic women. In all of these ways, the play seeks to offer alternatives to dominant narratives about the past's relationship to the present, and does so by remixing dominant culture, so to speak, in order to create new forms of resistant diasporic women's identities. Moj's travels through an inauthentic past thus invite the audience to consider the ways that the present is entangled in the past--for instance, in the way that displacement of location and marginalization still go hand in hand today, or in the way that society still, in the twenty-first century, claims ownership of bodies by governing their location, their sexuality, or their access to knowledge. But Adebayo's play also asks the audience to embrace the inauthenticity of our imaginings of the past in order to make space for new and politically necessary imaginings to emerge.

Diasporic Identities and Expert Authentication

Similarly to Adebayo's play, Naomi Iizukas 36 Views raises provocative questions about diasporic identities and how these identities may be renegotiated by imagining the past. The play premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2001, and in 2002 played at New York's Public Theater, directed by Mark Wing-Davey. It has since been produced in numerous locations by various large and small theater companies.

In this play, academics, art dealers, and art restorers with various personal and financial stakes negotiate over the value and authenticity of Asian cultural products. These characters are particularly fascinated by a newly discovered Japanese pillow book that appears to be from the Heian period but turns out to be a modern forgery. Amid these negotiations over the authenticity of the past, the play suggests that diasporic Asian American identities are likewise up for negotiation, and that these identities have everything to do with the characters' personal, intellectual, and financial connections to an imagined past. Furthermore, the inauthenticity of this imagined past is used not to undermine these negotiations of identity but instead to reveal the instability and fluidity of categories such as identity and history.

The play begins as Setsuko Hearn, an Asian-American professor of East Asian literature, is introduced by an academic colleague to the high-pricetag world of art collectors, notably Darius Wheeler, an art and antiquities dealer who uses rather shady means to acquire his impressive collection of old Asian art. (19) Setsuko is rather skeptical of Wheeler, even suggesting that he is an Orientalist. (20) Indeed the play suggests the same: Wheeler has no interest in the works of Asian artists working today, since his great love of Asian art is exclusively for works that allow him to feel a connection to the distant--and exoticized--past. Wheeler also hits on Setsuko before he knows anything about her, based on her appearance alone; notably, this scene occurs in Wheeler's home, where a large Kamakura-era painting--owned by Wheeler--of a beautiful Japanese woman in formal pose hovers over them, giving both Setsuko and the audience a clear sense of his aesthetic preferences. This exoticized view of Asian culture and specifically Asian femininity is one that is problematized throughout the play. In this scene, Wheeler's love of authentic art is directly connected to his exoticization of Asian women, suggesting that "authenticity" may be thought of as a type of racial fetishization.

This questioning, or even subversion, of the notion of authenticity is also demonstrated by the play's formal experimentations. The actor who plays Setsuko Hearn, an Asian American scholar of East Asian literature, also plays the Heian woman who wrote the pillow book that the characters "discover," although of course the audience later discovers that this Heian woman is a product of modern imaginations. Notably, Setsuko becomes this Heian woman onstage, changing her costume and hair in front of the audience, and this process--and its reverse--are seen repeatedly throughout the play, thus foregrounding the in authenticity of the Heian woman long before the characters or audience know that she is a figure concocted by forgers.

This critique of traditional notions of authenticity continues throughout the play, most notably at the key moment in which it appears that the pillow book, a new Heian artifact of great importance, has been discovered. Both art dealers and academics are thrown into a near frenzy of excitement with the discovery of this rare pillow book, a collection of personal poems and recollections written by a woman of the Heian period of Japanese history. (21) Setsuko, the art dealer/smuggler Darius Wheeler, and Setsuko's Asian Studies Department colleague Owen Matthiassen are all very excited to find out more about the book and to consider what it might mean for them. It is an important find, both historically and financially, and so each has a variety of complex stakes in the book. The pillow book itself is full of evocative writing and visually gorgeous elements, displayed through projections on a screen to the theater audience. The book also speaks poetically about love, nature, court politics, and sex, suggesting a sensuality as well as a melancholy, all of which make the book a superb example of Heian women's literature and also an excellent example of how such literature resonates with people's lives today; this resonance is particularly strong for the play's characters as they themselves negotiate personal politics, sexual relationships, and coping with old losses. Wheeler imagines that great things will befall him because of this discovery, and seems to have at least some appreciation for its historical and artistic significance, though of course fame and money are his higher pursuits. Setsuko, however, has a more deeply personal connection to the pillow book, not only because of its importance to her academic field but also because Setsuko uses this pillow book to explore her own layers of identity. Because Setsuko's actor also plays the Heian woman, it is Setsuko's voice that reads the poetry out loud to the audience; this foregrounded inauthenticity invites the audience to imagine the Heian woman composing the lines and to simultaneously imagine Setsuko reading the pillow book and identifying with the writer, and contemplate what these words mean to Setsuko in relation to her own losses, struggles, and desires. All of the characters, however, feel that their proximity to this pillow book has the potential to be a transformative experience.

The fact that the pillow book is a forgery is, of course, a key way that the play subverts notions of authenticity. The pillow book was written by John Bell, a failed novelist working as Darius Wheelers much-put-upon assistant. John wrote the poems for his own pleasure in the style of a Heian woman. But when Wheeler finds John's poems, he assumes that they are translations of an authentic period work. In an impulsive moment, and despite his earlier protests to another character about the value of authenticity, John suddenly finds value in the inauthentic; he tells his boss that they are a transcription of a newly found book and makes up an incredibly detailed and elaborate provenance on the spot. Thus the pillow book from old, the words that made characters feel as if they had direct and intimate access to the inner soul and desires of a Heian woman, was written by a non-Asian man of the twenty-first century. While on the surface this deception may seem to be a typically orientalist appropriation of identity, John's status as a sympathetic and marginalized character complicates easy judgments, as does the fact that another character, Claire, also becomes an author of this forged book.

After deceiving Wheeler, John is worried and guilty and wants to back out of the lie, but Claire Tsong, Johns friend and Wheelers expert art restorer, convinces him not to. She crafts a gorgeous book of calligraphy using the words that John wrote, and thus both John and Claire are the creators of a work of art that is deeply moving to the characters, despite not being "authentic," i.e., despite the other characters' inability to affix the pillow book to one time, place, or person. The entire pillow book incident ends up quite embarrassing for Wheeler, who pays a large sum of money for it, but Claire is actually quite satisfied by this result. Near the end of the play it is revealed that long ago Wheeler dishonestly convinced Claire to sell her family's valuable art collection to him for a pittance, when Claire was a young and naive art student. He later hires her as his art restorer with no sense that she might be a threat to him. To Claire, then, the deception is a form of justice.

Deception, however, also runs through the play's depiction of personal relationships. Claire and John deceive the others, but the play suggests a parallel between this deception and Darius's earlier dishonesty toward Claire. Indeed, Darius is later revealed to have engaged in numerous dishonest and illegal practices in the acquisition of his collection. Furthermore, characters are constantly considering the ways that others are not quite what they appear: Setsuko embarks on a brief personal relationship with Wheeler that cannot overcome her doubts about his sincerity, and another character, Elizabeth Newman-Orr, pretends to want to do business with Wheeler even though she is actually a reporter investigating him. Thus, in this play, neither art nor people can be reliably authenticated, at least not in time for the information to be useful.

The character of Claire is particularly important to the play's explorations of authenticity. Claire overtly questions the value of traditional notions of authenticity as she converses with John about the nature of art and art restoration. She particularly questions the importance of the authenticity of art, speculating as to whether defacing the art she restores might make it more beautiful and thus more valuable. In another conversation, Elizabeth asks Claire if an art object is real, and Claire answers, "I guess it all depends on how you define real." When asked to elaborate, Claire says, "It's old. It's painted by the guy it's supposed to be painted by. I guess that makes it real." (22) This skepticism toward authenticity resonates well with Claire's job as an art restorer. In her daily work, she adds her own lines and marks to artifacts in order to make old works of art appear as though they were not damaged by time, drawing and painting into artifacts a series of falsehoods that imagine what the artworks might have looked like long ago. John Bell, however, is quite disturbed and even scared by Claire's radical dismissal of the importance of authenticity--for instance, when she contemplates spray-painting on a valuable artwork, or when she provocatively suggests that John simply romanticizes art and that artistic value is largely a sham. In another example, although it is not clear how sincere Claire is being, she tells John, "Strip it all away, and all you have is money jazzed up to make you think it's something more than money--which it's not. That it has some kind of deep, spiritual aura because it's art'--which it doesn't." (23) Through John and Claire's interactions, the play questions the art world's fixation on authenticity. Claire's own superb artistry in crafting the pillow book, however, suggests a more complex view of art and beauty, even as its worth is decoupled from traditional notions of authenticity. Furthermore, the play frequently uses non-diegetic scenes that invite the audience to linger on the beauty of the images from the pillow book that Claire created, which are projected on a screen for the audience to see; here too the play suggests that art does indeed have power beyond its financial worth, but that this power does not derive from authenticity and may even be seen as the product of creative inauthenticity.

The minor plotline involving the reclusive artist Utagawa also has deep relevance to the play's exploration of authenticity and identity. Setsuko and Wheeler originally meet at a show for Utagawa, whose art Wheeler, of course, does not enjoy; contemporary works cannot hold his interest, again suggesting the way that, according to Said, the exoticized Other is viewed as being of the past. (24) Later, it is revealed to the audience that this reclusive artist who keeps failing to show up at his own shows is actually the art restorer Claire Tsong, an American woman with a Chinese surname who takes on the persona of a mysterious Japanese man in order to sell her art, quite possibly because Utagawas identity is more appealing to art collectors. In Iizukas play, there are multiple layers of authenticity and identity that overlap in complicated ways with the marketplace, and therefore, as Wheeler's Orientalism reminds us, with the Western gaze.

What is particularly interesting about the play's portrayal of inauthenticity, however, is that inauthenticity is, in some of these cases, shown to have positive effects. In particular, the pillow book is not simply a fraud. It is also an exquisite work of art. In fact, when its actual provenance becomes known, its notoriety and artistic quality enables the pillow book to find an audience as a highly valued contemporary work of art. The fact that the pillow book is not what it seems--the fact that its time and place of origin are not fixed, transparent, or as expected--is thus not a loss or lack but something with great transformative or creative potential. (25) By taking on the voice of a Heian woman, failed writer John and seemingly obscure artist Claire find both a creative triumph and an audience. Furthermore, this fraud is portrayed as a kind of poetic justice against Wheeler and a redemption for Claire for what happened years ago.

These negotiations over authenticity are particularly important, however, in the way that they resonate with the play's treatment of the "authenticity" of diasporic identities. Specifically, the play subverts the expectation that identities and locations can--or should be--transparent and fixed. On a basic level, the play includes frequent discussion about whether the characters' beloved works are authentic--in other words, whether the artifacts can be affixed to the times and places they are thought to represent. Fixity of time and space is, in other words, key to notions of authenticity. By their nature, however, diasporic experiences subvert efforts to affix identities to particular geographical spaces. Moreover, the play explores diasporic Asian identities in ways that put not only space but also time in flux, with Asian and Western cultures and past and present in constant reconfiguration in relation to each other, particularly through the characters' relationships with the forged pillow book. Indeed, the pillow book's artistic power suggests that hybrid creations that create a productive interplay of different cultural traditions and time periods--an apt metaphor for diasporic identities--are far preferable to traditional notions of the authentic.

The play also suggests that diasporic identities subvert notions of authenticity through its troubling of the very notion of "Asian" identity, and particularly the stability of such an identity. Just as artifacts often prove to be more than what they seem, cultural identity is also shown to be less than perfectly clear to the naked eye. For example, Utagawa, the Japanese man, is revealed to be a Chinese-American woman. Furthermore, Setsuko, raised by a Japanese mother and white father, was originally adopted by them from a Chinese orphanage, though everyone has always assumed that she is of Japanese-European descent. As Sean Metzger has noted, "Hearn's cultural access to Japan results from a syncretism of religious imperialism and ambiguous desire. In demonstrating the complexities of cultural collisions, the play resists reifying divisions of East and West as well as the assumed subjects that such meetings might produce." (26) Moreover, Setsuko's heritage suggests that while others may assume that her cultural identity is readable through her name and perhaps her appearance, this assumption of transparency is shown to be deeply problematic. Setsuko's blurring of Japanese and Chinese identities resonates with Claire's use of the Utagawa persona; the notion of "Asian" identity is shown to be a complex product of histories, the Western gaze, market forces, and crafted performances of identity. Diasporic identities are anything but fixed in time and space and transparent to the dominant gaze. Much like Adebayo's play, 36 Views suggests that the relationship between a person's appearance and their ethnic and gender identity is radically unstable, fluctuating greatly depending on context and on the needs and creative identity strategies of the individuals involved. (27)

Indeed, the notion of authenticity, in addition to its problematic associations with fixity of time and place, implies an authoritative, knowing gaze that can affix a time and place to objects, and metaphorically, affix artists (and other people) to objects, times, and places as well. Simply put, a desire for authenticity requires an authenticator's gaze; since a multiplicity of gazes would not necessarily produce the same results in fixing objects (or people) to particular times and places, the authenticator's gaze is necessarily monolithic. The play's title and events, of course, suggest that even thirty-six views are not enough to embrace the multiplicities and complexities of life, and especially of representation, whether of a mountain or a work of art or a personal interaction (the play, notably, has thirty-six scenes). In an interview, Iizuka speaks of Katsushika Hosukai's famed Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (created 1826-33), the series of color woodblock prints that helped to inspire the play, explaining that "the fact that Hokusais project was to examine and depict the mountain from many different perspectives really spoke to me. There was something intrinsic in that effort, suggesting it is impossible to see something clearly and completely head on." (28) In the plot of this play, the perils of striving for authenticity are associated with monolithic, partial views of history and cultures that imagine their knowledge is totalizing; the authenticator's gaze presumes the right and ability to have full access to art, history, and the human relations that produce them. In other words, the authenticator's gaze assumes that looking, representing, and authenticating are transparent processes and that the authenticators gaze ought to be taken as a universal truth. Striving for authenticity is therefore an attempt to erase multiplicity in favor of a monolithic expert assessment that professes to stabilize the flux and motility of space, time, and identity.

It will be useful here to draw further on Sean Metzger's scholarship on the complexities of identity in Iizuka's drama. Metzger argues that the use of one actor to play multiple characters of different times, as well as the use of multimedia and the borrowing of elements from Kabuki theater, "challenge the notion of an individuated, coherent subject. Iizuka's plays frequently deploy images from other media, yet these do not serve as indices of verifiable events but instead as observation points, frames that yield alternatives to linear progressive temporalities." These frames, Metzger says, also provide a way for the subject to emerge through these new conceptualizations of the relationship between past and present. (29) Metzger terms this understanding of temporality's relationship to identity as a "temporal folding," a borrowing from Deleuze via Olivia Khoo's Deleuzean analyses of gender and Chinese diaspora. Metzger adds that "this time warp, in which historical frames collide with one another and the concerns of the present fold into earlier periods ... and vice versa, characterizes Iizuka's theater," (30) and that the play's multi-media and spectacle-filled "theatricality continually alters the point of view and creates an aesthetic of folding time, or time warps, on stage. This aesthetic constructs a relationality between past and present, between the United States and Japan, between the valuing of ostensibly authentic cultural artifacts and purportedly fake ones." (31)

This analysis invites several comparisons with Moj of the Antarctic. Clearly, there are numerous formal similarities: both plays have characters who transform into other characters onstage, and both include multimedia scenes that offer meditations and evocative but ambiguous imagery combined with highly poetic voiceovers about the nature of love, sex, gender, politics, and art. As Metzger notes, it is largely through such formal experimentations that Iizuka creates time warps that allow subjects to emerge in alternate ways, and his comments on Iizuka in this case apply well to Adebayo's play also. Furthermore, both plays use these elements to emphasize the performativity of identities that cross boundaries of culture, nation, gender, and time period. This performativity is placed in direct contrast to notions of authenticity, the fixity of identities, or the stabilities of textualities--the volatility of textual traditions is shown in both Moj's appropriations of quotations from the Western literary canon and Claire and John's crafting of the pillow book out of impressions of the Japanese literary tradition. Indeed, this volatility of textuality, which shows literary traditions as subject to subversive reenactments, is yet another way in which foregrounding the inauthenticity of the imagined past allows characters such as Moj and Claire to engage in renegotiations of identity and its connection to various imagined and other histories.

Additionally, Metzger's analysis might also shed light on Adebayo's play when he observes that Iizuka "challengefs] the notion of an individuated, coherent subject ... [and that the play's] layering of texts--of actual chronicles of events and fictions of what could have been--shape what might otherwise appear as incomplete characters. Subjects emerge in a relation of figures through one another, through actions in the present associated with those in the past." (32) Adebayo's play, using similar formal experimentations, likewise depicts the subject of Moj of the Antarctic as emerging from such processes. This similarity also reveals the ways that Iizuka, like Adebayo, suggests an understanding resonant with Kings understanding of pastpresents, especially in the play's suggestion that encounters with the past reveal the way that we use conceptions of the past to construct the present and vice versa.

As does Adebayo, Iizuka makes the inauthenticity of the imagined past a central point. In one telling scene in 36 Views, various characters all read lines from the pillow book, most of whom do not yet know it is a forgery. The scene invites the audience to linger on the beauty of the words, and to contemplate the depth of personal meaning these lines have to the characters, particularly as the lines chosen resonate with various crises or passions in the modern characters' lives. The inauthenticity of the pillow book arguably does not make these connections to the imagined past less meaningful, but rather reveals that history is not always touched directly but instead constructed through fraught processes full of personal stakes. Adebayo's play, through its collage of history and texts, shows a history that is imagined, crafted by necessity from fragments and fictions, one that is not accessed through traditional (hegemonic) means but built through a series of renegotiations of the relationship between past and present.

The imagined Heian woman has great meaning for Setsuko in particular, and the woman's inauthenticity cannot invalidate this connection, particularly when viewed in light of the play's broader critique of notions of authenticity. In a different vein, Claire, by expressing herself through this imaginary Heian woman, finally, at the end of the play, finds artistic success for her original works in her own name; although her situation differs from Setsuko's, both of the Asian American women in the play are changed by their relationships with an imaginary Asian woman of the distant past. The Heian woman's inauthenticity certainly complicates these relationships, but does not nullify them. Similarly, Moj's character is self-consciously crafted as an amalgam of various threads from history and literature, but this does not diminish the play's portrayal of deep spiritual-political connections between past and present. (33) In both plays, therefore, the foregrounded inauthenticity of the woman of the distant past allows women of the present to engage with the past--and with their own identities--in creative and transformative ways. Indeed, as the next section reveals, these plays suggest that deep involvement with inauthentic imaginings of the past serves a vital role in navigating the shifts and fissures of identification that characterize diasporic womens experiences.

Gender, Sexuality, and the Diasporic Politics of Belonging and Desire

Clearly, there are several important similarities between these plays by Adebayo and Iizuka, particularly the attention to the performativity of identity, and the consideration of how exploring one's heritage by looking at the past reveals the complexities of diasporic identities. Indeed, these similarities are highly interdependent--the two plays connect the problematics of identity performance and diaspora with the complexity of layered relationships with the past. More specifically, I would argue, just as identity is a fraught and fluctuating performance, one's relationship with the past is likewise a performance, done in specific historical-political settings, lying at the crux of politics, identity, and desire.

Nira Yuval-Davis' work on the "politics of belonging" will be useful here. Yuval-Davis argues that "belonging is always a dynamic process, not a reified fixity," and that these processes involve a complex layering of identifications with varied and shifting locations, communities, and value systems. (34) According to Yuval-Davis, the boundaries between "me" and "not-me" are "shifting ... contested ... [and not] symmetrical." (35) Characters in both plays find a woman of the past who is of a different nation and yet not entirely of a different homeland, and who is of the past and yet so keenly of the present. This other woman, then, is at once both "me" and "not-me." Setsuko's connection to older forms of Japanese literature--and her strong personal reaction to the supposed pillow book--is not a simple interest in her heritage but a complex negotiation of various layers of belonging. Claire's connection to the pillow book, given her intimate knowledge of traditional Asian art and her fraught personal, financial, and artistic relationship with it, is even more so. Similarly, Moj reshapes the layers of the politics of belonging by claiming slave-era United States, Britain, Africa, and Antarctica not only as sites of journey but as places of heritage or deep spiritual and political connection. In this way, both plays show how women of various diasporas may reconstruct their connection to women of the past in highly imaginative ways that subvert dominant narratives about race, nation, and women's history.

Significantly, another aspect of these politics of belonging is found in the portrayal of women's sexuality. In both plays, the woman of the past writes erotic poetry that stirs audiences and other characters precisely because of the visceral sensuality and the apparent modernity of the verse. The woman of the Heian period at several points in the play speaks this poetry, often accompanied by a shakuhachi flute:

   No rain tonight, no moon, the air is perfectly still
   Not even the faintest breeze stirs the leaves.
   In the pool in the garden below, carp swim beneath the surface--
   Flashes of white in the murky green
   Their bellies slick and wet--
   The tickle of waterweed
   The soft wet moss--
   The curve of your neck, your fingertips
   The rustle of silk undone--
   Your mouth, your tongue
   Your lips, the taste of your lips, salt, wet
   The warmth of your breath against my skin
   And I am seized with sudden longing. (36)


That it is the actor playing Setsuko who reads these lines invites the audience to interpret this poem in terms of both how the author would have felt composing these words and how the modern Setsuko would feel as she reads these words of the (supposedly) distant past. The combination here of details that evoke a particular time and place with images that could be from any time and indeed seem quite in the moment suggests a dynamic interplay of past and present, memory and layers of meaning. The sexuality of Asian women has been erased or exploited in the commodification of womens images and voices among the artifact collectors in this play, but in this moving, albeit "fake," poetry, the characters--and the audience--have the choice between seeing an appealingly exotic woman of the past or an expression of desire and sex that has travelled far and accrued new meaning with each iteration. That the pillow book appears to be a "newly discovered" artifact suggests that it is filling in the gaps of history, and providing a voice for a woman whose sensuality and intellect was long silenced; in the end, however, it is the long-silenced voices of John and Claire that are heard through this pillow book, after their artistic potential has been ignored by those who have power in the art world. Claire's same-sex relationship with Elizabeth may also suggest that her sensual poetry is resisting an erasure of her desire spurred on by the intersection of oppressions based on race, gender, and sexuality; indeed, the pillow book reveals that the Heian woman engaged in affairs with both men and women, filling in other gaps that history often ignores. Additionally, Setsuko's desire is shown in the scenes in which she reads the poems as the Heian woman, since she is reading these words as she also is embarking on a new sexual relationship. Thus, in this play, the sexual desire of Asian and Asian American women is shown to be central to the ways that women of today interact with words and images from an imagined past and in how they might consider the ways that women of the past are both "me" and "not-me," in Yuval-Davis's terms. Eroticism and sexual agency are thus crucial ways for these women to reshape the politics of belonging by renegotiating their relationship to the past.

Similarly, Adebayo constructs a narrative that speaks to the gaps in history by exploring the sexuality of imagined women of previous time periods. As mentioned above, the author has remarked that she changes the story of Ellen Craft to a lesbian love story in order to write the parts of history that were never recorded in the first place; Moj's sexuality and her blurring of gender boundaries, as well as the play's often ironic use of quotations from Western canonical texts, serve to "Africanis[e] the European literary voice" as well as to "queer black history." (37) Arguably, part of this process is to reclaim or reappropriate women's sexuality and its relationship to the language of desire. Moj's poem to May includes these lines:

   steal a look
   Through the master's telescope
   And survey the blue black night
   Of your skin:
   A shimmering crystal sphere
   Made visible
   By my desire.
   I gaze in awe
   And join the cotton dots to trace
   The graceful shape of you
   Celestial,
   You are what myths are made of....
   Your smile is a constellation
   Of scintillating stars
   In which I read my destiny
   And hope one day
   To draw a map,
   To find a way,
   To navigate
   This gutted ship
   Of "ancestral oak," (38)
   To your
   Volcanic shore. (39)


This excerpt is also representative of the way that Adebayo portrays individual desire as a complex amalgam of scientific, mythic or spiritual, canonical literary, political, and racialized discourses. If history is written on these characters' bodies, their embodied desires and sexuality have the potential to rewrite these histories, just as the character forges a new life, and just as the author crafts a new story from the fragments and imaginings of many other narratives. Adebayo and the character of Moj thus rearticulate the boundaries of ancestry and cultural belonging in order to reconstruct a history of women in their diasporic journeys that attends to sexual agency and resists the intersecting oppressions of sexuality, gender, and race. In both plays, therefore, the portrayal and reclamation of women's sexuality resonate with the broader exploration of intersectional identities and how these identities shape--and are shaped by--how women imagine their relationship with the past.

Identity, Authenticity, and Agency

Despite these plays' many similarities, there are significant differences as well. In addition to the differences in setting and in form (a one-woman show as opposed to a play with multiple actors), the plays particularly differ in the conclusions of their plotlines. Moj's engagement with inauthentic women of the past leads to a positive personal transformation toward self-love and an understanding of global connectivities. Setsuko's engagement with an inauthentic woman leads to an awakening as well, but in the end, she loses her career and reputation. This difference is especially interesting because of what it reveals about the relationship among art, agency, and authenticity.

Diasporic women's experiences are largely characterized by motion, fragmentation, hybridity, and being in a constant state of transformation or becoming. It is in this context that we might interrogate the notion of authenticity, and particularly the way that authenticity is often viewed as an a priori category, thus erasing its constructed nature, i.e., the process of authentication. In 36 Views, the portrayal of the art marketplace serves to challenge the a priori view of authenticity. The marketplace desires authenticity, and even fetishizes it; this authenticity not only fixes an object to a particular time and place but also enables the object to represent, or speak for, an entire culture and time period. The need for professional authenticators, however, calls attention to the uncertainty of authenticity, the way that authenticity is a group belief built up through certain rituals of verification more than it is an a priori category.

In this light, the Heian woman is worth further consideration as a character in her own right. Though played by the actor playing Setsuko, the Heian woman has an existence of her own, in a sense, and this existence affects the other characters in profound ways. The authentication of the pillow book is also an authentication of her--her identity and her location in time and space--but it is notable that it is before she is authenticated that she has such a profound impact on most of the characters, as shown in the play by the characters' readings of and responses to lines from the pillow book. In other words, when unauthenticated, the woman of the past is not fixed in meaning; she is in a constant state of becoming. She has agency, and as characters such as Setsuko engage with her words, they construct a relationship across time in which the two women have a kind of kinship or mutuality; at this point, the Heian woman is much more than an object of study. Much like a diasporic woman, she is a woman whose voice has travelled across the world, constantly transforming in meaning, not yet subsumed into any one location entirely.

The process of authentication, however, fixes her meaning, and the Heian woman is now a commodity. It is Setsuko who performs this authentication, at Wheeler's behest, and it is Setsuko who loses much once it is shown that the Heian woman is not in fact going to fill in the expected gaps of Japanese women's history. It is here that Iizuka's play makes a particularly interesting parallel. Setsuko's act of authentication ends up being very self-destructive, especially with regard to her career, and she even notes later that there were clear signs of forgery that she should have seen, references in the pillow book too modern to be of the Heian period. This act of self-destruction parallels the symbolic self-erasure inherent for Setsuko in acts of authentication. Diasporic women's identities are often multiple and shifting, a layer of networks that do not fit neatly into one culture or into any monolithic way of interpreting the world. In this sense, diasporic women's experiences are a challenge to the very idea of authenticity. If the Heian woman shares a kinship with women of Asian diasporas, which the play suggests she does, then Setsuko's act of authentication takes the hybrid creativity of diasporic women and fixes it to a single time and space, where it is pinned to a Western, masculinist narrative, and where it is readily available for consumption in the marketplace, which imagines it to be a form of direct access to a static past.

Authentication is thus a process of objectification. The authenticating gaze fixes its object (who may be a woman of the past and not simply an art object--it is the Heian woman's authenticity and not just the book's that is in question) to an institutionally recognized narrative about time and culture, whether from the institution of scholarship or the marketplace. Authentication thus assumes that agency exists in the discerning eye of the authenticator; the authenticated item, whether a woman of the past or a work of art, is not ascribed any agency.

It is notable, then, that it is Claire, the non-believer in authenticity, whose agency drives the plot of the play and who ultimately gains from the instability of the Heian woman's identity. She creates a hybrid work of art celebrated as a modern work in dialogue with an imagined, inauthentic past. The play's celebration of hybridity across time and space is also evident in the final visual of the play, for which the stage directions State, "The 36 paintings shift their alignment to form a larger picture, like individual tiles of a larger mosaic. The picture they form is of a woman, a portrait of a lady, an echo of the lady from the top of the play, but different--part ancient, part contemporary, part Japanese woodblock print, part anime." (40) The hybrid formations of identity in this play resist the process of authentication. They challenge the categories of time and place that authenticators take as a priori, and thereby turn the authenticating gaze back on the authenticator, turning cultural difference into a productive tension rather than a commodity.

While Iizuka's play warns against the hegemonic implications of authentication, Adebayo's play explores the combinatorics of hybridity, considering the many possible new formations of identity and creative expression that may form from varied intersections, combinations, and reconfigurations of time and space. That one performer plays multiple characters and that the main character takes on many identities both contribute to this exploration, as do the play's combinations and remixes of fact and fiction, image and sound, and quotations from literary and historical sources. Moj's gaining literacy is a key event at the beginning of the play, and its counterpart is Moj's finding the voice of a speaker/artist/ activist/griot in the Antarctic--a transformation that starts with being able to learn history and ends with being able to speak history.

Although Iizuka's characters are more privileged in their education and in other ways, both they and Moj must grapple with the ways in which constructing a narrative about history can be treacherous for diasporic women. Moj's many sources include authors who refer to Africa and the African diaspora in objectifying ways, for example, and her quotations incorporate the racist blackface performances of British crews to the Antarctic as well. These uses of racist ideology and language serve to demonstrate the contradictions and traumas that can characterize displacement and multiple intersecting oppressions, but the play also appropriates these racist elements and juxtaposes them with words and practices from multiple sites of resistance, whether references to Frances Harper and Frederick Douglass or Moj's own appropriations of various forms of knowledge, history, and science. The use of these many quotations and allusions, fragmented and juxtaposed in collage-like poetic formations, deauthenticates the sources of these quotes--Moj releases these quotations and references from their fixity in time and space, setting them in motion, reconfiguring them constantly so that they are in a state of becoming something else. In a sense, she remakes the Western canon in her own image, instead of being made in the image of the Western canon.

From this perspective, the differences between the two plays may shed additional light on each play's portrayal of the agencies of knowledge work. In Moj of the Antarctic, the desire to know the world is a celebration of inauthenticity, and its counterpart, hybridity. This desire for knowledge parallels the other types of desire analyzed in the section above, suggesting an embodied knowledge that blurs the boundaries between self and other, and the individual and the global, in politically important ways. The desire for knowledge sets boundaries and identities in motion; it is a decentralizing force. The desire for knowledge makes space for the agencies of those whose agency is often denied: women, slaves, the colonized, but also language, the past, and the environment. Knowledge in this play is not an act of authentication but of deauthentication; knowledge is a process of connecting deeply that must come about through acts of the imagination. Desire for knowledge leads Moj to claim agency in constructing her own narrative but also to recognize the way that knowledge is not about mastery over the world (arguably the Western Enlightenment view of knowledge) but a mutual interaction with the world, most notably in the scenes (discussed above) of personal revelation at Antarctica.

In 36 Views, however, the desire to know the world is, for some characters at least, implicated with the desire to authenticate, or to fix knowledge, time, space, and identity. It is thus a centralizing force for these characters, one that narrows. The authenticator's gaze is by definition separate from the world it delineates; knowledge, in this view, entails a separation from the object of study, which allows one to imagine the agency of the institutions granting authentic status and to erase the agencies of Others. Given this fact, it is no surprise that it is scholars in this play who are so often fooled when they should not be, including Owen, whose desire to know is wrapped up in his desire to own, as demonstrated by his foolish purchase of forged prints. Setsuko, too, loses much because of her desire to take on the authenticator's gaze at history, as compared to the personal growth and sense of intimate connection she felt with the Heian woman before the authentication, when the Heian woman was in motion, without fixed time and place. Clearly, the two plays offer characters who experience knowledge, and the desire for knowledge, differently. In particular, these different views of knowledge offer different conceptions of the agencies of the knower and the known. These contrasting views of knowledge in turn shape the characters' experiences as they engage with inauthentic women of the past.

Conclusion

Both of these plays show the sexual, political, and personal complexities of how women today relate to women of the past across boundaries of time and space. It is especially important that in both plays, the performance foregrounds the woman of the past--the woman whom the characters use to renegotiate and explore their own identities--as a construction based on modern desires. For instance, Moj of the Antarctic begins and ends with a poetic monologue from a character called "the Ancient" who refers to modern inequalities, environmental destructions, and poverty, weaving her words across time periods to show how history and ideology connect these various problems. Furthermore, the play's alterations to the historical story of Ellen Craft, the retooling of literary quotes from authors, and the fact that all characters are played by the same performer all serve to emphasize the constructedness of history and to resist any audience attempt to imagine that there is a way to directly and transparently access the past.

In 36 Views, the frequent questioning of authenticity serves a similar function. Additionally, the woman of the Heian period's reading of her poems onstage elicits a belief in her as a character, even though the audience knows she is just a persona made up by John and Claire, raising even more questions about the tension between authenticity and inauthenticity and our relationship to the past. In both plays, therefore, the connection to women of the past is one that is clearly, explicitly, a product of a modern reimagining; the idea that one can reach out and touch the past as it truly was is the fantasy of characters like the arrogant art collector Wheeler. As depicted by these plays, the only past we may access is a constructed one, and it is thus necessary to acknowledge the role one plays in history's construction, and indeed to find opportunities in this construction for creativity and resistance.

What may be most interesting about these portrayals of imaginary women of the past is that knowing they are a reimagining--being constantly reminded by the play that these women are merely a reimagining of the past--does not diminish the way that they speak to modern concerns, desires, and negotiations of identity. In summary, each play uses the self-reflexive construction of a relationship between modern society and women of the past to subvert dominant discourses on diaspora, gender, and sexuality. Both plays use strikingly similar theatrical choices to do so, and to explore the layered and complex politics of belonging that nest these identities and desires. Put simply, these plays provocatively ask: In what ways does the past belong to us? And in what ways do we belong to the past?

University of Maryland

Notes

(1) Notably, these quotations are cited in footnotes in the playscript, thus literally making the dominant culture and Western canon a footnote. More importantly, they emphasize the intertextual collage that comprises diasporic identities.

(2) Lynette Goddard, "Mojisola Adebayo in Conversation with Lynette Goddard," in Hidden Gems, ed. Deirdre Osborne (London: Oberon Books, 2008), 144-45.

(3) Lisa M. Anderson, Black Feminism in Contemporary Drama (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 116, quoted in Deirdre Osborne, Mojisola Adebayo, and Valerie Mason-John, '"No Straight Answers': Writing in the Margins, Finding Lost Heroes," New Theatre Quarterly 25 (2009): 6-21 (6).

(4) See Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990).

(5) Goddard, "Mojisola Adebayo," 142.

(6) Osborne et al., "No Straight Answers," 12.

(7) Mojisola Adebayo, Moj of the Antarctic: An African Odyssey, in Osborne, Hidden Gems, 168.

(8) Osborne et al., "No Straight Answers," 12.

(9) Adebayo, Moj of the Antarctic, 184.

(10) Ibid., 184-85.

(11) Mojisola Adebayo, "The Supernatural Embodied Text: Creating Moj of the Antarctic with the Living and the Dead," in Sensualities/Textualities and Technologies: Writings of the Body in 21st-Century Performance, ed. Susan Broadhurst and Josephine Machon (New York: Palgrave, 2009), 96.

(12) Ibid., 98.

(13) Adebayo, Moj of the Antarctic, 156.

(14) Arguably, the play subverts the long tradition of associating women of color with landscapes by portraying Moj's identification with Antarctica, and not with some imagined "native" landscape of Africa, for instance. The Antarctic landscape is not assumed to represent "African-ness" or any other particular continent, thus leaving Moj of the Antarctic the freedom to enact a new configuration of the relationship between land, race, culture, and the body.

(15) Adebayo has called the play a kind of "communion with the dead"; Osborne et al., "No Straight Answers," 10.

(16) Katie King, "Historiography As Reenactment: Metaphors and Literalizations of TV Documentaries," Criticism 46 (2004): 459-75 (459-60).

(17) Cf. Kath Westons Gender in Real Time (New York: Routledge, 2002), which argues that time travel is an apt metaphor for the myriad ways that we use the past to make claims and reinforce assumptions about the present.

(18) King, "Historiography As Reenactment," 471.

(19) Arguably, by the end of the play, Claire Tsong also has a claim to being the main character of the play, particularly as her motivations and choices drive key elements of the plot.

(20) Wheeler's name may also evoke the term "wheeler dealer."

(21) The reference to a pillow book and the descriptions of its content clearly suggest similarities with the most famous pillow book in Japanese history, that of Sei Shonagon, a woman of the Heian period (794-1185) who served in Empress Teishi's court. Her pillow book continues to be renowned for its wit and for the beauty of the writing, as well as for being a treasure trove of information about the daily lives of women in the Heian court. The "pillow book" genre generally includes a collection of different types of writing, mostly short pieces, including observations about life and about the complicated social negotiations of the court, advice, lists of things, poetic descriptions of nature, personal anecdotes, and other commentaries. Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book also offers scholars a more intimate, personal, and direct discussion of life at court than many other sources in this period, and the fictional pillow book of this play appears to do so as well. It is thus understandable why the characters are utterly enthralled at the possibility of a new pillow book from the Heian period, especially one demonstrating high literary and artistic quality and such personal intimacy from the supposed author; such a book's financial worth would be mind-boggling, but its worth for scholars and others who love Japanese art, literature, and history would be immeasurable.

(22) Naomi Iizuka, 36 Views: A Play (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 2003), 21.

(23) Ibid., 35.

(24) While Said's work was, of course, about Western Orientalism toward the Middle East, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979) is a foundational work in the study of cultural difference and thus has contributed much to the study of Otherness in the West more generally

(25) Compare Gloria Anzaldua's portrayal of hybrid identities as sites of transformation and resistance throughout her work; see, for example, Borderlands/La Frontera (San Francisco: Spinsters/ Aunt Lute, 1987).

(26) Sean Metzger, "At the Vanishing Point: Theater and Asian/American Critique," American Quarterly 63 (2011): 277-300 (285).

(27) It is interesting to note that both Iizuka and Adebayo identify their heritage as including multiple ethnic or cultural groups, which could possibly inform these plays' decoupling of appearance and identity.

(28) Naomi Iizuka, interview by Cindy Yoon, "Iizuka's '36 Views,"' Asia Society, http://asiasociety. org/iizukas-36-views.

(29) Metzger, "At the Vanishing Point," 279.

(30) Ibid., 282.

(31) Ibid., 286.

(32) Ibid., 279.

(33) While Iizuka's characters clearly have privilege that Moj does not, both plays portray the negotiations and complexities of diasporic womens oppressions and experiences.

(34) Nira Yuval-Davis, The Politics of Belonging: Intersectional Contestations (London: Sage, 2011), 12.

(35) Ibid., 17.

(36) Iizuka, 36 Views, 45-46.

(37) Goddard, "Mojisola Adebayo," 145.

(38) Adebayo includes a footnote here to indicate that this quotation is from an anti-slavery poem by Percy Shelley.

(39) Adebayo, Moj of the Antarctic, 162-63.

(40) Iizuka, 36 Views, 95.
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Title Annotation:Naomi Iizukas
Author:Moll, Ellen
Publication:Comparative Drama
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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