Paulette Richards presents "Object Performance in the Black Atlantic" in conversation w/ Colette Searls

Paulette Richards presents "Object Performance in the Black Atlantic" in conversation w/ Colette Searls

This event has already happened.

Saturday, December 2nd 2023
7:00 pm
Red Emma's
Given that slaveholders prohibited the creation of African-style performing objects, is there a traceable connection between traditional African puppets, masks, and performing objects and contemporary African American puppetry?

This study approaches the question by looking at the whole performance complex surrounding African performing objects and examines the material culture of object performance.

OBJECT PERFORMANCE IN THE BLACK ATLANTIC argues that since human beings can attribute private, personal meanings to objects obtained for personal use such as dolls, vessels, and quilts, the lines of material culture continuity between African and African American object performance run through objects that performed in ritual rather than theatrical capacity. Split into three parts, this book starts by outlining the spaces where the African American object performance complex persisted through the period of slavery. Part Two traces how African Americans began to reclaim object performance in the era of Jim Crow segregation and Part Three details how increased educational and economic opportunities along with new media technologies enabled African Americans to use performing objects as a powerful mode of resistance to the objectification of Black bodies.

This is an essential study for any students of puppetry and material performance, and particularly those concerned with African American performance and performance in North America more broadly.

Dr. Paulette Richards was a 2013/2014 Fulbright Scholar in Senegal. In 2018 she co-curated the LIVING OBJECTS: AFRICAN AMERICAN PUPPETRY exhibit at the University of Connecticut’s Ballard Institute and Museum with Dr. John Bell. Her book, OBJECT PERFORMANCE IN THE BLACK ATLANTIC is available from Routledge.

Colette Searls is author of A GALAXY OF THINGS: THE POWER OF PUPPETS AND MASKS IN STAR WARS AND BEYOND. She is Assoc. Professor of Theatre and head of performance at the University of Maryland–Baltimore County (UMBC), where she has directed award-winning object theatre performances.

RSVP on withfriendsSee all upcoming events

Location and hours

3128 Greenmount Avenue
Baltimore, MD

Tuesday-Saturday 9AM-9PM
Sunday 10AM-4PM

Get in touch


Phone: (410) 601-3072

If you'd like to propose an event, please fill out this form. If you have questions, email us at

Follow us






Get our newsletter