Black sky speckled with little distant fire burning light years away.
Black surface with a near soundless rocking and rolling,
back and forth,
back and forth.
The Blackness has an eerie quiet; there is no wind, and I know that if I take a step in any direction, I would be lost to the abyss.
This was the recurring dream I had as a child, one of the earliest dreams I remember having. And it was the only thing that I could point to as a reason for my fear of water. This fear and fascination defines my relationship with water. I spent most of my childhood in a panic at the thought of going to any pool – public, private, school, rec.
And yet, I felt at home at the beach, watching the waves rolling in and out. That sound, all liquid and static, the beautiful destruction and rebirth in an endless cycle.
Sometimes going out on that stage feels the same way.
Like attending music camp miles from the Potomac and Chesapeake in Sydney, Maine, on Messalonskee Lake.
Or leaping halfway across the country to the Mississippi River and 10,000-plus lakes.
No anchor. No sail.
And yet, it’s when that first vibration of sound begins, whether it is from my horn, my keytar, my guitar, liquid and static, the beautiful destruction and rebirth in an endless cycle. It is then that I feel like I have found my boat and my inclination is to invite everyone on the journey.
When I was thinking of my next exploration, I knew that I wanted to create something deeply personal that would give the audience a deep dive into my mind, and to celebrate my childhood home and more generally my childhood – a childhood colored with a beautiful tension of being both fascinated with and terrified of water, the vastness, the power – the mysterious, the unknown.
The deep blackness of the abyss.
Senegal is this beautiful country on the west coast of Africa where art and creativity are valued as water, as life. The name SUNUGAL is derived from the Wolof words Sunu meaning Our and Gal, the name of the traditional boat still in use throughout Senegal. So “Sunugal” translates to Our Boat. I journeyed there with my wife Corina to uncover the mystery of my terror, to stare into the abyss that was the Door of No Return on Goree Island. And I found healing in the hot sun of Touba and in the waves of Sali Beach. I returned with the drum that was taken from my ancestors and the sound of the water.
Now my journey is one of painting, using the full spectrum of the color of sound, understanding the many sounds of water from percussive drops dripping against rock or metal to a tinkling of trickling flow, steady and strong, and the build of a roaring wave rising into the air and crashing to earth before receding to build again.
Destruction and Rebirth.
Rhythm and Atmosphere.
Sound and Color.
Anchored but with sail.
And because Black contains all.
See more stories from our multi-media series Art Is…
Production Team: Kate McDonald, Ryan Klabunde, Mike Phillips, Eric Pagel, Terry Gray.
“Writing, sewing, painting, dancing, singing, sculpting, you name it – if it was creative, I did it. It became a way for me to understand myself and define my own identity, my own beauty in a world constructed to eradicate my very existence. Art was a way for me to process difficult things in the world and in my life, and I suppose it still is.” Get to know Lady Midnight, who also uses the power of music to explore experience and identity in an often topsy-turvy world.
“I am Witt Siasoco, a community-based artist working at the intersection of art and civic life. For over 20 years, I have been creating visual art that reflects on community conversation and engagement. What ties all of my artwork together? Art as a tool for engagement and community conversation.” Discover more about Witt’s passion in binding together art and community.