Artist Statement.

KILO | Iba se 99.

[I wish to communicate with you. | I acknowledge 99]

KILO | Iba se 99. takes inspiration from an excerpt of a report produced by the Women’s Bureau division of the United States Department of Labor titled Negro Women War Workers, published in 1945. The film is also an exploration of the relationship between the US Navy Flag signal Kilo which has the assigned message of “I wish to communicate with you”, the first 12 Black women allowed to work on the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1942, and the Orisha Ochosi.

Within the film an abstract form of a keel laying ceremony is performed by the lead performer. Laying the keel, or laying down is the formal recognition of the start of a ship's construction. It is often marked with a ceremony attended by owners of the ship or the company funding the building of the ship. A Keel laying is the initial placement of the central timber making up the backbone of a vessel, called the keel that prevents the vessel from tipping over. The tradition of a keel-laying ceremony is the ceremonial beginning of construction on a ship before it touches water.

The deconstruction of the binoculars is in reference to the work produced by the Black woman who scored a 99, the highest grade of the 6,000 women who took proficiency exam for work on the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1942. She was assigned to a department on the navy yard where binoculars, telescopes, and range finders were reconditioned for use in World War II. The retrieval of the porro prism within the binoculars is a gesture to the holding of time itself. I see the tools that manipulate sight such as binoculars, which manipulate the range of sight, as a form of time trial within the concept of relativity of simultaneity where the examination of two spatially separated events occur at the same time – is not absolute, but depends on the observer's reference frame. The soldiers who used these tools refurbished by these women were entitled to a form of time travel in the sense that they were able to see figures before the range of their eyes could provide them with an image. I see both the unnamed woman who scored 99 and the deity Ochosi in alignment with each other. Ochosi is known as a skilled tracker and hunter who walks with the Orisha Ogun (god of war) and the owner of iron.

The performance by Ash Tai is experiential as she was positioned to fulfill the task of walking the symbolic keel around the perimeter of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, imprinting the keel, and deconstructing the binoculars. The intent was to create an experience much like the women who worked the Navy Yard experienced in training to do their respective jobs. Learning by doing was imperative in their work process. Tai is a native Brooklynite who was able to learn and present the keel on the perimeter of the yard. The entirety of the imprinting was done in one single take.

KILO | Iba se 99. (TRAILER)

More than one precedent was broken when in 1942 women mechanics were hired at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the first time in 141 years. It was a red-letter day for women when the doors of the navy yard swung open. For Negro women especially it was a triumphant day, for a Negro girl received a grade of 99, the highest rating of any of the 6,000 women who took the civil-service examination for navy-yard jobs. She and another Negro girl who also showed special aptitude for work with precision instruments were assigned to the instrument division, where binoculars, telescopes, and range finders are reconditioned. Of the first 125 women hired at the Brooklyn Navy Yard about 12 were Negro. At a second eastern navy yard, highly qualified Negro girls were among the first women hired in 1942. Since the work is skilled and strenuous, every new employee is required to pass rigid aptitude and physical tests.

-An excerpt from the Women’s Bureau-United States Department of Labor Negro Women War Worker, published in 1945

I. Ori ki. [saluting the head]

99 is awakened and begins to walk with the keel around the perimeter of the yard and salutes the keel | Ochosi at the main gate of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

II. Ya (a) Na [open the way]

99 walks with the keel to the red perimeter wall (Esu) of the navy yard and then presents the keel between the red and green wall (Ogun), She then kneels and begins a form of a laying of the keel which is rooted in elements of a naval ship keel laying ceremony

III. Ire Alafia [blessings of peace]

99 walks to the green perimeter wall of the navy yard and presents herself before a window which allows a view onto the navy yard property. She disassembles one half of a pair of binoculars from 1941 to retrieve the porro prism from inside. She then looks into the prism and locates her past self within the prism, She them presents an offering of wheat pennies from 1942 through the window onto the grounds of the navy yard in honor of the women and their wages secured from their work on the navy yard.

The keel is a representation of The US Navy Flag signal, Kilo, which means “I wish to commutate with you” as well as the morse code equivalent of (dash-dot-dash | _._ ).

The imprint was made on location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on February, 19 2014.

Dimensions: 3.5-in x 3.5-in x 6ft 

Materials: timber wood, black,blue,white,yellow paint, screws + metal aluminum.

"12 NEGRO WOMEN

BROOKLYN NY 1942

             -99"

Director: Tiona Nekkia McClodden 

Editor: Tiona Nekkia McClodden

Director of Photography: Tiona Nekkia McClodden


Featuring Ash Tai as 99

Musical Score by Stasia Mehschel

I imagined black hair salon conversations placed in the shipyard setting. I wanted to hear the sounds of stretching metal, welding, clinking. I also wanted to hear the inner thoughts of these black women, being constantly watched and critiqued by men. Listening to the men calling them "girls" and how that must've felt while they were creating these very important materials for war. Traditionally when black folks are at work we always find a way to make it fun. I thought it would be nice to hear them sing while they were building the ships. -Stasia Mehschel Feb. 2015


Location: Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn,NY 

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