Damali Ayo comes off as a woman who doesn’t pull punches. A self-proclaimed feminist as well as a conceptual and performance artist, the focus of Ayo’s work is on race relations. Throughout Ayo’s lecture, she discussed how her upbringing has influenced her ideology, saying that she has been a feminist for as long as she can remember.
Damali Ayo comes off as a woman who doesn’t pull punches.
A self-proclaimed feminist as well as a conceptual and performance artist, the focus of Ayo’s work is on race relations.
Throughout Ayo’s lecture, she discussed how her upbringing has influenced her ideology, saying that she has been a feminist for as long as she can remember.
The lecture, the first in the “Feminist Perspectives and Pop Culture” series sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center and Bitch magazine, was met with a packed reception Tuesday night in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom.
Ayo’s various work over the years has been seemingly eclectic and responsive to current social climates-during the lecture, she related stories of her working the streets as a panhandler asking for “white people’s reparation for slavery.”
Ayo’s latest project, called the National Day of Panhandling for Reparation, invites people across the country to replicate her in her work, “Living Flag,” a street performance piece.
The intention for the project is to encourage dialogue among the races, as well as to own up the responsibility and the baggage that comes with being white in America, she said.
Ayo said she went all over Portland offering to panhandle so that homeless people could take a 15-minute break.
“Because legally in Oregon, if you work for four hours you can have a 15-minute break,” Ayo said. “That didn’t really work out so well.”
A nude, black and white photo of Ayo was also on display at the event.
Ayo said her work as both a feminist and a conceptual artist has taken a toll on her physically and mentally.
Because she suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, Ayo said, she could not continue to walk down the path that many of her personal heroes had walked–all of whom sacrificed in some way for their respective crafts.
However, Ayo acknowledged that she wants to live her life as a human being first, and as an artist second. Ayo also said she has chosen to pursue her own life, passing the artistic torch on to others rather than to claim it as her own.
Ayo’s decision to show hateful e-mails she received from people who have seen her works left many in the audience hushed. One of the e-mails had several lines of expletives, including a line about Ayo “cat scrumping.”
“I’ve been called racist by both blacks and whites, but one thing I’m certainly not,” Ayo said, “is cat scrumping! What does that mean?”