I won‘t dance, don‘t ask me

The island club, Limassol
20.10.23 - 18.11.23

Mixed media on waxed envelopes 

The last interview, oil on canvas, 23x18cm

I know that music leads the way to romance
So if I hold you in my arms, I won’t dance
And that’s why I won’t dance, why should I?
I won’t dance, how could I?
I won’t dance, merci beaucoup
I won’t dance, Fred Astaire, 1935

In the framework of Limassol Art Walks 2023, The Island Club presents I won’t dance, don’t ask me, a solo exhibition by Annabelle Agbo Godeau.

Through a constellation of paintings on waxed paper envelopes, the exhibition negotiates the notion of “racial ambiguity” and its correlation with gender, focusing on the concept of “passing” and connected racist trope of the “tragic mulatta”: a female character of ambiguous racial background who “passes as white”, developing a conflicted sense of identity and eventually meeting an unfortunate, or even tragic, fate.

The classification of people and populations of mixed ethnic and racial backgrounds has evolved differently around the world, often in connection with the institution of slavery. The southern US states, Caribbean islands and several Latin American countries developed distinct terminologies for referring to people with mixed ethnic and racial backgrounds, and some of these terms were exported to Europe, often with pejorative connotations. Such classifications have also been codified in literature and film through various fictional tropes, most prominently that of the “tragic mulatta”. Tracing back to 19th-century American literature and making a key appearance in books such as Nella Larsen’s Passing (1924), the trope is most famously employed in film in John M. Stahl’s Imitation of Life (1934) and its subsequent remake by Douglas Sirk (1959).

Imitation of Life comprises Annabelle Agbo Godeau’s primary reference in the new series of paintings presented in I won’t dance, don’t ask me—a patchwork of images and text which, rather than aspiring towards a clear understanding of what it means to be “in-between”, seek out a multitude of ways of dealing with the quest of defining oneself.