There is something peculiar about those wild women. I don’t mean wild in the traditional sense of being unkempt and the negatives, connected to that very term. Not at all. When we think of a wild woman, in the naturalness of its essence, the sensory of Universal imagination is front and center. There is something about a wild woman, who shakes up unhealthy rigidity within a society. Challenging and questioning prevalent ideologies of art, attire, aesthetics, and other arenas surrounding culture. Granted they are not sent to destroy any manifestations, which have been aesthetically pleasing to the Universe. Yet, such wild women have this natural gift of coloring the spaces. Performing different Universal patterns, rhythms, and designs, which have never been seen, prior to. For many it may seem odd, but the beauty cannot be denied.
There was one such woman, one of others, who shook up the traditions and status quo. Her performances were so sporadic, and fantastical, that she performed imagination for the center stage. What was unseen, and out of the ordinary, became embraced. It is as if that, through her performances, people were able to experience the inner fantasies of movement, color, style, and design, they were restricted from doing. Perhaps, within a certain positioning of society, going into that level of freedom, performed by Josephine Baker, was considered taboo, or of a lower social standing. Maybe such is one of the reasons why Josephine Baker gained popularity in France, other European nations, and North Africa. In addition to her performance style, and Black American identity, her presence gained acceptance in France and Germany; as a level of freedom became synonymous with her Being. Through wild woman, certain restrictions placed on womanhood, acceptable behaviors, and ways of dance, within a high-class society, were dismantled-even if it was for that period of time. In the movie, Princess Tam Tam, we are presented with such imagery. In the famous dancing scene, the audience is given a glimpse into this.
There is something about Josephine Baker, which brought humanity to her exoticism. It was obvious that she did not shy away from the term. In fact, she embraced it, while using it as a signature trait to her womanhood. The term exotic enriched her performance, as a Black American woman entertainer in early 20th century Europe and the United States. The eccentric and artistic nature of Josephine Baker’s performance and persona brought a wave of unusual design and pattern making to the dance and performing arts. With much regard she shook up the traditional methods in how art was performed. It did not have to fit within a tightly sealed box, of a certain design and criteria. No. This time the performance of art could be wildly performed in front of a European audience. It could be classy, eloquent, tasteful, appealing, and a heightening of the natural sensory.
What makes Josephine Baker a treasure is that she stepped outside of traditional constraints of the Black American woman performer. Through her style, and window, there was a world of aesthetics, which came with Black American female artistry. She did not stay in the confines of fancy, sparkling, ballroom dresses, and the traditional showcase of performance. In Josephine Baker’s world, Black America’s female body was put on display for the world to see. Only this time, she would take ownership into how it was presented, and the artistry associated with it. This is what makes her performance a revolutionary one. Furthermore, it should also be highlighted that the power of her stage performance was based on her ability to give audience members permission in entering into this world. This is what adds magical healing to her performances. Unfamiliarity soon becomes a normalcy in the entertainment world on French and German stages. Outmoded restrictions of the entertainment world are dismantled, and the audiences find comfort in being able to enjoy them in a manner, which liberates them from being seen as guilty or shamed for enjoying them. Alas! European audiences were able to find comfort in admitting that they enjoyed that level of freedom; that world that Josephine Baker had permitted them access to. It was fantastical, and it made this presentation of fantasy, and the unknown, normal.
Lets also keep in mind that while Josephine Baker brought a strong appetite for entertaining fascinations of the foreign, there was also her ability to perform what people already knew. That classical elegance of cabaret and vaudeville delight was also reflected in her concerts and entertainment features. Josephine Baker was a master in showcasing how these two worlds could be put together. Not only were they crafted and pasted, but they were also eloquent transitions between each other. A complex depiction of magical realism, and its ability to illustrate how the two worlds were intertwined with each other. There is a unique allure where European, and a few US audiences, felt safe in bridging forth into this journey. People felt nourished and relieved in entering into this realm. There is great creativity in how Josephine Baker brings a healing remedy to the human body; especially, to the Black American female body. Forget about the objectification and unnatural stereotypes, associated with it. What Josephine Baker was able to do, with such a phenomenon was to bring stories to Black Women’s bodies. Through these stories, a different lens was being crafted. Such life-sustaining tales were reflections of Black American femininity. A person found comfort in grasping into a different reality.
As we continue to ponder, and reflect upon the work of Josephine Baker, we are given the power and ability to imagine other hidden wonders of artistry. She took such innovations, and presented them on full viewing for the center stage. In hindsight, there was a spiritual and emotional cleansing for people to observe her performances. European, and US, audiences were healed inside a different picture of fantasy. Through her world, it was safe to do so. The foreign became familiar. Not only did it become “familiar,” but it transformed into a space of normalcy. Soon, it became welcomed. Finally, it was celebrated. It was a process, not initially accepted. Yet, with enough movement of an authentic making, it was embraced. That’s part of the artistry of revealing those hidden, Universal wonders for the human gaze. It requires a great deal of patience, as people have to take time to adjust. Please take note that not every performer claiming to present them has been ordained or blessed by the Heavens to do so. Be careful and weary of those exploiting Universal design (and the names of those truly selected to delve into it) for profit, ego, and name sake. Recognition of this is greatly needed. For Josephine Baker, wild women were perceived as graceful and elegant, but with a different twist. Making it that more clear, that Universal oddity can be fashionable, healing, sheek, and wild.