The idea for On the Eve of Abolition was formulated by members of Papel Machete in 2019 and builds on our past work addressing the carceral state. In 2015, Papel Machete created a cantastoria piece called “If All Lives Matter ‘Cause We’re All Created Equal, Why Are Some Lives More Equal Than Others?” responding to police violence and the prison industrial complex, using a handmade quilt by Brooklyn-based artist Sylvia Herneandez to tell the story. In 2009, Papel Machete presented the shadow puppetry piece, “¿Quién Controla a Aquellos en Control?” (Who Controls Those in Control?) which highlights police brutality in Puerto Rico and their repressive role in a capitalist colonial system.
Papel Machete’s creative work is grounded in intersectional working class politics informed by the radical feminism and anti-colonial works of thinkers like bell hooks and Franz Fanon. We integrate Caribbean performance and music with popular theater and storytelling traditions, to create complete worlds for an immersive aesthetic experience. This is consistent with the teachings of puppeteer and long term collaborator, Deborah Hunt.
We use collective creative processes integrating broad research, political development, rigorous construction, and dynamic performance, to shift the narratives of the hegemony of dominant culture. Our stories weave the Caribbean realismo mágico literary traditions, or what Alejo Carpentier named “lo real maravilloso,” with speculative fiction of Octavia Butler and Ursula Le Guin. Our practice is inspired by Jerzy Grotowski’s Poor Theater and Bread and Puppet Theater’s Cheap Art.
We build all of our masks, puppets and performing objects, engineering each one to explore possibilities of scripting based on movement, a puppet dramaturgy driven by experimentation and action.
More on the On the Eve of Abolition creative process coming soon…