De Bwa Man Dem

The other night I was at Propaganda Space in Belmont for a talk on pan and a discussion of stickfighting. There, I met and photographed Kings. King David. Benjamin. Congo Barra. They remind me that I need to own my greatness without apology, without fear. I am a beautiful dangerous thing. Ferocity is self-love. See me so. I take the lesson seriously, practicing and getting back to where I need to be. I repeat it to myself like a lavway.

In stickfighting, there are truisms that reflect an ethos of indomitability.

No bois man no fraid no demon!
No bois man no fraid no stickman!

No bois man no fraid,
no bois man no fraid no demon!

Yuh does hear dem singin it loud. Yuh does hear de chantuelle lead off wid it, and den de chorus does come een. And if yuh dey–present and self-aware–yuh go feel yuh pores raise. Indeed. Beautiful dangerous things know when they’re being looked at. They know. Looking at them you come to know, as well, that they are not afraid of you. They indulge you, balancing aggression and threats of aggression with mercy, dancing as they transform the rage of histories into grace, beauty into danger. Beautiful dangerous things.

If yuh pay attention, they go teach you–remind yuh–that sometimes only offense can respond to offense. When they clash in the gayelle, it does be clear that a parry is just a masquerade. And if yuh paying attention, yuh could feel things happening inside and around yuh. So it go. And then there are the times I had a chance to shoot. King fighters at seeming rest, or showing what is (in the gayelle) just too quick. The deftness of touch that splits the skin and not the skull. Scars. Formerly broken things. Things unconquerable.

So see me so. Know that I come armed with spirits–deeper than bone deep. So begins the series. Bwa.

King David

…who had to have the drums slowed. He is extremely quick. His exclamation, “Bwa!” is Orisa perfect in its pitch.


…who danced to his own lamenting kalinda that seemed to prophesy his demise. Methodical, menacing, kind.

Congo Barra

…who has never been beaten. Ever.


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