“Love is about practice; it’s about learning to do it well on a daily basis,” said La Mackerel during her keynote performance lecture. Photo by Sandra Hercegova.
Kama La Mackerel’s keynote showcased her personal journey through space and narratives
Kama La Mackerel, a multidisciplinary artist, arts facilitator, educator and community worker, was born in Mauritius, an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean. She left her homeland when she was just 18, in part because, “I was queer, and I wanted to live a queer life—something that, apparently, I could only do abroad, beyond the boundaries of the ocean that surrounded my home,” La Mackerel said.
In honour of Concordia’s first Winter Pride Week, La Mackerel presented a keynote performance lecture on March 2, titled ”There is Enough Space for our Narratives in the World.” La Mackerel performed an intimate form of spoken-word poetry and song chanting to share her life journey. She crossed oceans and continents, running away from herself and her past while searching for love and acceptance. She has many theories about why she left Mauritius. However, she insisted, “just for today, we will say that I left my parents’ house and I left the home-island because I went searching for love.”
Her quest began with a full scholarship to the University of Poona in India to study literature and philosophy. After finishing her undergrad in India, La Mackerel moved to Peterborough, Ont., with a full scholarship to complete her master’s thesis at Trent University. Three years later, she moved to Montreal and began working with the queer community.
“The queer community taught me a lot of things. It taught me a lot about sex, a lot about consent, desire or not being desired,” she said. La Mackerel co-founded Qouleur, an annual arts festival and healing space by and for Montreal-based trans artists of colour. She is also the founder and hostess of GENDER B(L)ENDER, the city’s only monthly queer open mic.
In the summer of 2017, La Mackerel launched Our Bodies, Our Stories, an arts and performance mentorship program for queer and trans youth of colour aged 16 to 24. “It’s been really meaningful for me to work with youth, and I am learning and I am being so inspired,” La Mackerel said. The program focuses on discussions through storytelling: “We come across the questions of silence, lying and the question of truth and the multiple ways in which we have been told that our truths and voices are not valid,” she said.
La Mackerel emphasized the importance of educating and empowering youth. “I am always talking about what we will be building for the next generation.” The mentorship program allows her to look back at her teenage years. “This is me speaking back to 15-year-old me and saying, ‘You didn’t have it, but the next generation will.’”
If La Mackerel’s transnational journey taught her anything, it’s that the world is more open than it seems. “There’s a lot of relationships to be built. There’s a lot of new kinship to reinvent,” she said. “Maybe there isn’t enough space for my narratives in my home, but I know now that there is enough space for my narratives in the world.”