WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT FKA TWIGS
By Awa Gueye
May 13, 2019
With an undeniable presence unique amongst the other buildings in its vicinity, the Park Avenue Armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side still manages to feel like a secret. It sits in the center of a neighborhood where every other building looks expensive, and cut’n’paste. Yet the Armory stands out not by shrinking, but by leaving no doubt that it belongs. It’s hard to imagine a place more fitting place to experience FKA Twigs for the first time — as much a powerhouse, as the space she performed in for two nights this past weekend.
Twigs is a singer known for dancing, a dancer known for her costumes, a fashion icon known for her lyrics, and wordsmith known for her theatrical visuals. She is many things, but because labels sometimes help us understand, you can call her avant-garde. Give Tahliah Barnett a blank canvas and she will muster up all the care in her to deliver an unparalleled experience.
The dark industrial open plan of Park Avenue Armory became another universe the moment the curtains dropped and Twigs emerged. A combination of her determination and the Mother’s Day spirit in the air had the crowd drunk on a feeling hard to pin down but familiar from watching footage of the mothers of entertainment who came before. We chase this feeling with old clips of Josephine Baker and Eartha Kitt. We still get to experience it with artists like Grace Jones, Erykah Badu and Solange. A perfectly costumed Twigs in a cage-like set felt like an homage to Josephine Baker yet remixed to fit modernity’s grittiness.
When the world was first introduced to FKA Twigs we met her as a professional dancer who’d already mastered the form. Yet Twigs continued to grow and challenge herself. If you follow Twigs on socials then you’ve heard about her journey of learning to pole-dance. Going above and beyond, she not only mastered a new skill but did so while learning to rediscover her body following a health scare.
“When I wrote ‘Cellophane’ over a year ago, a visual narrative came to me immediately,” she explained on Instagram. “I knew I had to learn how to pole-dance to bring it to life, and so that’s what I did.”
Twigs’ show was human. Like the avant-garde artists and entertainers who predated her, what Barnett does is not effortless. You can tell this by the end-product of her efforts. Her performance on Sunday night proved her to be a legitimate triple threat as singer, dancer and visual artist. Her songs are perfectly constructed from melody to lyrics, but filled with poignancy, as proven by a moment of raw emotion that manifested in sobs last night.
No small feat, FKA Twigs put on a hell of a show. She was undeniably herself in every moment, breath and detail.
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dear friends, I am a very private person as u all know and I have gone back and forth in my mind whether to share that this year I have been recovering from laparoscopic surgery to remove 6 fibroid tumours from my uterus. the tumours were pretty huge, the size of 2 cooking apples 🍎 🍎, 3 kiwis 🥝 🥝 🥝 and a couple of 🍓🍓. a fruit bowl of pain everyday. the nurse said that the weight and size was like being 6 months pregnant. I tried to be brave but it was excruciating at times and to be honest I started to doubt if my body would ever feel the same again. I had surgery in December and I was so scared, despite lots of love from friends and family I felt really alone and my confidence as a woman was knocked. but… today whilst dancing with Kelly at the choreography house I felt like my strong self again for the first time in a while and it was magical. thank you precious body for healing, thank you for reminding me to be kind to myself, you are a wonderful thing, now go create and be other once again <3 I know that a lot of women suffer from fibroid tumours and I just wanted to say after my experience that you are amazing warriors and that you are not alone. you can get through this. and with this I let go of the pain… love always twigs 🌱
See FKA Twigs at AFROPUNK Brooklyn this summer and at AFROPUNK’s Carnival of Consciousness in Atlanta this fall.