“Tribute to Meme came to me through the music of the drums that I grew up listening to in Church. Their melody was a chorus of echoes, and voices from ancient grandmothers that spoke to me about legends turned into poems and poetry transformed into legends.”M.Moreno
Tribute to Meme is the Mayra Morenos first completed series. The body of work spans 16 oil paintings and an assortment of pieces in other mediums. The series is based on the Panamanian poem, A Cumbia Incident.
The poem is set in an era of innovation and pain in Panamanian history, the early 20th century brought with is malaria, United States intervention, and the Canal. A Cumbia Incident balances the beat of bullarenge and the call of cumbia with the patriarchal policies that governed society.
The poem has a varied roster of character, each deserving their own symbolic interpretation, however, the major component found in Mayra’s work are; Meme, the Drummer, and the Lover.
The Drummer is a man with unrequited feelings for Meme, eventually falling into a jealous rage at her indifference and her choices. The Lover is one of the victims of the murder found in the poem, someone whom Meme actively chooses to love. Finally, Meme, the protagonist in Mayra’s Tribute to Meme, a woman who, in the act of taking fate into her own hands, unfortunately, is the victim of a violent murder.
Meme’s control of her life narrative is blatantly ignored by the Drummer as he sees her choice to love another as a justifiable cause for her death. Ending in the double homicide of Meme and her lover, the drummer is left to wander the jungle contemplating his choices. Meme’s life ends as a result of not reciprocating the feelings of a man. In the drummer’s eyes, Meme’s life was his to take for her indifference towards her. The author’s intent to show the drummer’s actions as justified reflected the views of society then and now. Meme’s eternal and ongoing death is present every time a voice calls out, “she deserved it [for being a whore]” or “she went out dressed like that”. Summarized best in the words of the artist, “Meme died hundreds of times while I was growing up. She was and continues to be killed each time we respond with absolute indifference to femicide.”
Growing up in a school system where The Cumbia Incident was required reading planted the seeds to the body of work that would eventually be created by Mayra Moreno. Her other influences for creating Tributo to Meme came from musical influences in her childhood in Darien.
As the artist learned more about the culture and art of the bullarenge, timba, and quilombo she felt the need to show the true misfortune of the situation the poem presents. She soon learned of the Drummer’s importance in the Palenque, due to this, it’s very important to her, not to devalue the figure of the Drummer, despite her own interpretation of him as the villain. In doing this Mayra removes the concept of good and evil from the character and instead presents the societal constructs of the time and the community is represented as the villain. In Tribute to Meme Mayra takes the man vs. man example of conflict found in the poem and converts it to a man vs. society conflict.
Mayra also found a necessity to weave racial issues into her works which brought more of an element of social commentary into her art. Mayra’s art reflects the true nature of stories like Meme’s. Highlighting the prominence of everyday situations of women of colour.
In creating Tributo a Meme Mayra hopes to inspire a future generation to stop accepting situations like Meme’s as collateral damage and to shine a light on the unfortunate prominence of femicide. By revisiting the narrative of the original poem Mayra hopes that through her work Meme can finally rest in peace. Tributo a Meme is a social commentary and pictorial depiction of poetic justice. Moreno’s interpretation of A Cumbia Incident was a driving force that helped her get through her Bachelors of Fine Arts. ©KatherinaMartin https://linktr.ee/katabril
“This is a tribute to a woman who bravely tried to take control of her narrative, and in turn ended up being mutilated by generations who deemed her guilty of her own murder. This is the result of almost three years of relentless pursuit of truth and justice, trying to see beyond the author’s intent. To take the author’s words and paint them from my point of view.”M.Moreno
Incidente de Cumbia
Con queja de indio y grito de chombo,
dentro de la cantina de Pancha Manchá,
trazumando ambiente de timba y kilombo,
se oye que la cumbia resonando está...
Baile que legara la abuela africana
con cadena chata y pelo cuscú;
fuerte y bochinchosa danza interiorana
que bailó cual nadie Juana Calambú.
Pancha Manchá tiene la cumbia caliente,
la de Chepigana y la del Chocó,
y cuando borracha se alegra la gente,
llora el tamborero, llora Chimbombó...
Chimbombó es el negro que Meme embrujara,
Chimbombó es el negro de gran corazón;
le raya una vieja cicatriz la cara;
tiene mala juma y alma de león.
Y el tambor trepida! Y la cumbia alegra!
Meme baila... El negro, como un animal,
llora los desprecios que le hace la negra,
y es que quiere a un gringo la zamba fatal!
Como un clavo dicen que saca otro clavo,
aporrea el cuero que su mano hinchó;
mientras más borracho su golpe es más bravo;
¡juma toca cumbia, dice Chimbombó!...
Vengador, celoso, se alza de un respingo
cuando Meme acaba la cumbia, y se va
-cogida del brazo de su amante gringo-
rumbo al dormitorio de Pancha Manchá.
Del puñal armado los persigue, y ambos
mueren del acero del gran Chimbombó,
y la turbamulta de negros y zambos
siente que, a la Raza, Chimbombó vengó...
Húyese hacia el Cauca el negro bravío
y otra vez la cumbia trepidando está,
pero se dijera que no tiene el brío
de la vieja cumbia de Pancha Manchá...
Es que falta Meme, la ardiente mulata,
y es que falta el negro que al Cauca se huyó;
siempre habrá clientela y siempre habrá plata,
¡pero nunca otro hombre como Chimbombó!