Falling Ancestor

A seed by: Mosa McNeilly
Project: Calling our Ancestors Home
I see my work as part of a canon of Black women artists, scholars, and activists, concerned with social justice, cultural reclamation, and freedom. In my interdisciplinary research, I bring encaustic, assemblage, and installation into conversation with clown, movement, and voice. Reflective of a creative practice that merges with ceremonial practice, my work brings about an integration of the material with the ethereal. In my Middle Passage memory work, I reimagine the poetics of memorialization. Grounded in the reparative labour of gathering and assembling, my work contemplates fragmentation while gesturing toward wholeness. Employing hybrid Yoruba, Adinkra, and Vodou iconographies, I perform activations of my current installation work, Bones | Meditations on Middle Passage Memory, and invite Black community members to participate, exploring what I call a collective, embodied, mourning praxis. As an arts educator, I have developed a pedagogy that seeks to foster African cultural literacy, cultivate Black agency, and nurture Black self-love. As an initiated sacred leader, I curate spaces for Black healing, participate in ceremony, and mentor Black youth. As an editor, I work with authors of the African diaspora, engaging their work through a decolonial, feminist lens.


Visual Arts, Theatre, Interdisciplinary Arts, Dance, Arts for Social Change, Film/Video, Literature
This is an original seed

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I had a dream that my dad stood before me, emaciated, like a corpse. He stumbled softly toward me. I heard him exhale deeply as he fell into my arms. I caught him and held him close. It was not a nightmare. It was not horrifying, but it was vivid, so vivid still in my memory/imagination. It was tender and quiet.

So, in this performance, I attempted to recreate this moment, this gesture, from the dream. I call this seed “falling ancestor.” I depict my dad’s mom, my Grandma Lillah, falling and I, as the performer reach to catch her. I am compelled to steep in contemplation of the meaning, of the significance of the actions of falling, reaching, and catching as it relates to my ancestor’s compelling moment. I wonder if this dream has remained so vivid because there is an intergenerational call echoing through time within it.


I’m old enough to be my grandma’s mom. What is her experience of me reaching back through time to touch her, now as her elder? Does she evolve in the spirit realm, or remain eternally young as the day she died?

Diane’s proposal: I’m also interested in how you catch your ancestor’s compelling moment…so honing in on a moment when your ancestor may have needed to be caught and held.

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