Aquapelagic Assemblages article (2017)

Published in At Sea special issue of Women’s Studies Quarterly Volume 45 Numbers 1–2: Spring/Summer 2017

The high seas are a locus of migrant and refugee crossings, lawlessness, and of environmental destruction. Academics mobilize the motif of “at sea” on a literal or figurative level, submerging in its flow of ever-changing political processes. A place of transformation, in-betweens, and movement, the ocean unites and divides us, shaping us as nations and individuals.


Mar Português: Cais das Colunas in Lisbon, Portugal (May 2012)

a phantom longing haunts the riverside

immersing the senses in water

now Goa, now Lisbon


The Ocean as Mise en Scene

The Ocean as Mise en Scène by May Joseph

Harmattan Theater works with the sea, oceanic currents, and maritime maps. The ocean’s volatility is inherently dramatic, moody, unpredictable, and violent. Its flows and flux impose complex behavioral patterns on coastal social life. Listening to the sea and taking its full dramatic potential as the working miss en scene for dramatic storytelling is a challenging excursion into very local manifestations of waterfront life. To listen to the sea’s tales is also to harken closely to the minutiae of life lived under the shadow of the insurpassable mise en scène, the expanse of the sea itself.


MAR PORTUGUES : Cais das Colunas : Scenography/Architecture/Environment

Notes Towards a Surreal History in Dreamtime

Mar Português is a feverish haunting of Vasco Da Gama’s Ghosts. The performance is an exploration of striated time between fifteenth century maritime history and 21st century postcolonial memories. Staged as a dream sequence of Vasco Da Gama’s hallucinatory visions, as he lay dying in Cochin, India, gripped by tropical fevers – this piece is a conversation between violent colonial pasts and the translation of those encounters in the present.

In a collaboration that investigates what it means to unpack this colonial maritime history, May Joseph and Sofia Varino create a visual and digital landscape in Mar Portugues, to forge a merging of postcolonial sensibilities between Lisbon, Daressalaam, and New York, where the two artists now reside. In collaboration with Câmara Lenta and dancer Diana Bastos Niepce, Harmattan Theater presents a historical haunting in real time at Cais das Colunas in Terreiro do Paço.

Mar Português marks a liminal transition point in Joseph’s theatrical work. It brings to the metropolitan center of Lisbon a conversation about the linking of trade routes, maritime economies and the syncretic transformation of cultures impacted by Portuguese colonial expansion. Joseph prepared the groundwork for Mar Portugues in Lisbon by creating site specific installations at sites of Portuguese arrival in Cochin, India and Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.