A Year in Building a Tool: A response by Aaliyah Christina

A response to Onye Ozuzu’s Project Tool

performed Feb 1-8, 2018 at the Garland Gallery at the Chicago Cultural Center

Directed by Onye Ozuzu

Performed by Keisha Bennett, Keyierra Collins, Jessie Marasa, Onye Ozuzu & Anna Martine Whitehead

Sound by Damon Locks

Quotes by Onye Ozuzu from “Self. Tool. Impact.”

image by William Frederking


We went to a place. A place built by hands. We experienced a place built by the hands of women. The yellow, brown, and tan of their palms covered with callouses. All of the wooden surfaces rubbed with sandpaper. The sandpaper wielded like the extension of the hands that smooth shea butter into dense, hard-boiled skin. To hold a tool in your hand… and feel it forging right beneath you and around you… each stroke and carve brings you closer to formation, but what if your physical self could become your tool?… the body builds the place. A body builds the foundation on which you stand. The body beneath your feet rolls under each step you take and you’re walking above ground on a soft, perfectly uneven frame. But then your feet glide across the hand sanded floors with less precision and more abandon, but they always return home.

We danced in that place. A place already danced by the bodies with the exact hands that built the place. Words covered the walls vocalising what their winding spines could not. Words like, “I time travel,” but the lines in the unspoken stanzas did not always coalesce to cater to the cohesive nature of the rhythmic grinding their tools. It set you aside to tell you why we went to experience this building. The words pronounced the reasons the women built this place and continued building.

“I time travel…”

“…to speak to my ancestors”

But coalesce as the bodies of black, yellow, tan and brown sisters spiral around the other. Their arms link and legs tangle — not in a knot like that of matted hair locked by the endless tresses of kinky coils. Speaking of, their own locks formed against each other and wrapped and folded and hoovered and clung. But perhaps their spines winded with the aesthetic of kinky locs, but they never lock for they’re evermoving.

“To apply my tool.”

“… and carry on”

image by Aaliyah Christina

Feet become evermoving. As the chants travel through the walls and off of the worksaws and broken, but unbroken hardwood to the mouths of full and vigorous humans. We went to a place built by the tools from their sandpaper hands and their shellac-smoothing mouths and their hammering feet and their hacksawing words with their chiseling arms. These women carry on in their team of tools gathered together on the sprung wood of their floors.

“As do I…”

Numbers came from their mouths in sporadic precision. One two three…silent beat x2…six…silent beat x4…eleven twelve thirteen fourteen…if only to record the process and note the attention — the time — it takes to build something from the ground up. The rocking of these feminine bodies in the round, through the walls, fusing with each other and breaking away from each other. We viewing the building process. We scavenged the floors to see them. We held up walls to to see them. The place these women built propositioned us. They presented us with an ultimatum to interact for full visibility or hold still for the process to unfold around us.


Aaliyah Christina writes fiction and performs & creates movement art in Chicago, IL. She graduated with a BA in dance from the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago in 2016. She founded and created Catalyst Movmnt (2017), a curating collective designed to highlight emerging movement artists of color.