Art That Gives Us Choice, Power, and Healing is Always Worth It.
Monét Noelle Marshall is a performer, director, producer, cultural organizer and creative consultant whose work sits at the nexus of equity, creativity and community-based practice. She is the Founding Artistic Director of MOJOAA Performing Arts Company, producing new works by and new opportunities for Black playwrights.
MOJOAA has produced over 20 original plays and experiences over its 5 year history. Their repertoire includes From The Boot of Timberland, a one act about domestic violence, Can I Get A Witness, a courtroom drama and gospel play and Escape to Freedom, an interactive presentation in which the audience is immersed in 1850s life as an enslaved person on what was once a working plantation in Raleigh, North Carolina.
In 2018, Monet received the Mary B. Regan Community Arts Fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council and was awarded the Arts Award from the Independent Weekly for her contributions to the local arts ecosystem. Most importantly, she is Robin and Bryan's daughter, Evelyne, George, Zelma and Bob's granddaughter. She is sister, friend and partner who knows that art aint innocent; to be Black and creative is the same thing and that her grandmothers are artists. You can find more about her work at MonetNoelleMarshall.com.
DS: We’ve been following your work via social media. Tell us about your “Buy It Call It trilogy?
MM: The Buy It Call It Trilogy is a series of performance art experiences that explore and interrogate race, mainstream arts institutions, intersecting identities and the creative power of matrilineage. All of the experiences are interactive and immersive and play with form. I want the people who experience my work to always have choice, and power as witnesses and not just as audience.
DS: Your work seems to be a reflection of what is happening in our America, specifically Black America. How much of what you do is told from personal experience and how much is based on what we see in the media and other people’s stories?
MM: I dont think I can separate what is personal experience and what is others as what happens to Black folks happens to me. It all feels very symbiotic. And I do pull very much from my personal experience. The more of my own truth I tell, the more I realize that my experiences are quite universal. I have had so many different kinds of people tell me that my work resonates with them which lets me know that I am not the only one that feels wildly maladjusted in the world as we know it.
DS: Besides the fact that art imitates life itself, what/who else inspires the work that you do, what is the inspiration behind your art?
MM: I am deeply inspired by Black women and girls. We are so vast and untapped. I could create work for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t be able to say all that I want about and with Black women and girls. I am also inspired by the possibility of other realities. The idea that we can make something exist just by thinking it, creating it and making it so. It’s an invitation into another reality. I think we all deserve something different than the world we are experiencing and art is my way to take us there.
DS: When you were creating the trilogy, how much of it was about creating the process of healing in our communities?
MM: Whoo! The truth is, none of it. Ha! I didn’t even know if anyone would “get it."
I made this work for me. To tell my truth. I was so tired of being angry and misunderstood and silent about it. I created the trilogy for me and released myself from other people’s healing. But I found that many of us are suffering from the same thing; our truth is stuck in our throats. We must let it out to heal.
DS: Why is it important to you to make a conscious effort to display our society as it is?
MM: We are fed versions of our society every day. Many of those versions are manipulated to invisibilize, convince and control. I believe that artists have a responsibility to pull the veil back. To share hard truths. To tell it how it is. That is my desire. I also know I am not a new being and yet many of the things I have to say are old truths that have been ignored or hushed. The people in my blood have so many things to say and it is my job to share what they have taught me.
DS: What do you hope people gain from your art?
MM: I hope that people understand that our truths will save us. That we cannot let our stories die inside of us. That vulnerability is a strength. That as a queer Black woman living and making it in the South, my truth and freedom was hard won and deserves attention. And that we all have a purpose that calls us and it is louder than our fears. I want my art to serve as a reminder that in the midst of oppression and pain and limits and trauma, we still have the power to shape our story.
DS: Where can we find your work, and what is coming up for you?
MM: My next big project is called The Bring Me My Purse project and it is about the economic reality of Black women. I will be interviewing Black women about their relationship to money, who they give it to and who owes them. These interviews along with research and a survey will inform a performance and installation that will premiere in August 2020.
DS: How can we keep up with what you're doing?
MM: You can reach me at MonetNoelleMarshall.com, MOJOAA.org, IG:@madamemonarch