Maia Nunes is an Irish-Trinidadian interdisciplinary artist based in Dublin. Her work has been presented at the recent exhibition, The Queeratorial at Pallas Projects, Basic Space, Black Jam, and Lavender Renaissance. Maia is one of the founding members of Origins Eile, a community organisation dedicated to creating space that honours QTIBPOC folx, and a host of sxster podcast, Éalú.
Beth: You are an interdisciplinary artist in the truest sense of that term; your work encapsulates performance, music, poetry, textiles, podcasts, facilitating workshops. Have you always had varied interests?
Maia: I’ve always had varied interests and creative impulses so it was hard for me to choose one path. After school I had to make a decision between studying vocals, English and History, or art at NCAD (where I ended up). I always thought I had to pick and choose between them but after college I began trying to figure out if music, art and social justice are three separate spheres of work or if there’s a natural relationship between them that will allow for them to be interwoven in my practice.
Beth: It’s unsurprising to me that you were considering studying English and History, because literature and history are both very present in your work.
Maia: I think narrative definitely is... and history. I think I’m more interested in oral histories, folklore, mythology, and also song as a form of cultural preservation. I’m really interested in how these oral and more informal forms of storytelling have been used to recount and preserve histories of the Afro diaspora and Irish history through generations. Song is a really interesting art-form because it not only communicates a thought or a story, but it also can communicate the emotion behind that story. I think that’s what I’m really interested in when it comes to music - this emotive element that is embodied and vibrational and works with your subconscious and emotional landscape as well as your cognitive life.
Beth: You captured that really well in your piece ‘Ways To Love Me’, which was in The Queeratorial. You had written all of these beautiful songs that were inspired by your own personal experience. And the music you had written helped me understand what you were trying to communicate even more than the lyrics.
Maia: That piece was a really intentional mix of very personal experience but also ancestral legacy. It deals with the legacy of colonialism in intimate relationships and that includes not only romantic relationships but also familial relationships. It deals with how we learn to love and how colonisation has impacted how we learn to be intimate with ourselves and also other people. So I think that piece was a coming together of this poetic intention but also dealing with a very real history of colonialism in the Caribbean and also in Ireland. I was looking at things like fetishisation, exotification, the saviour complex, and working them into the piece as things that are historical, but are also contemporary issues.
Beth: And do those topics also feed into your new piece for Dublin Fringe - Incantation?
Maia: Yes, in terms of looking at intergenerational trauma and how different behavioural patterns are inherited. It also deals with themes of ancestry, telling the stories of different generations of women in my family. I think part of the intention behind the piece is to pay homage to those ancestors and recognise how they have shaped me, but also somehow to liberate myself from them. I think there’s definitely a healing intention within my work. There’s something leaning towards liberation, transformation and healing that’s at play within what I’m trying to craft.
Beth: And I suppose you also do that in more tangible ways with your work with Origins Eile and Éalú?
Maia: I don’t know if I necessarily see that work as part of my artistic practice. With regards to Éalú, the podcast provides a platform for the stories and experiences of people of colour in Ireland that need to be told and shared. Origins Eile provides space in which we can congregate and be in community with one another. The reality is that I need both projects as much as they need me. I suppose I’m just always wary of labelling this work as artwork because that word somehow positions me as author and the people then as art objects or ‘participants’, and I’m not keen on that divide even if it’s subtle. There’s a weird power dynamic there that I really shy away from. There needs to be a shared authorship and a removal of self, I think, from community work.
Beth: Tell me more about your Fringe show.
Maia: In the piece I work with a long stretch of rope, very intentionally tying knots around it as the piece progresses. So there’s a physical marking out of time mirroring a chant-like recitation that articulates a timeline of stories from my own family down through the generations.
I’m working with a wonderful harpist called Maebh McKenna. The harp helps to keep momentum throughout the piece, Maebh’s sensitive and responsive playing adds extra light and shade to the work. It’s a very meditative, slowly evolving piece. I think there’s something in really sitting with things and allowing the traumas that you’re working through to really have space and time to expand and be held and felt. I think the stillness in the piece also lets people disengage a little bit, and allow the emotional intensity of the work to do its own thing.
Beth: I was reading your artist statement and was really interested with a part where you say that you “seek to progress and also critique the conversation around intersectional queer and mixed-race identities in an Irish context”. Could you speak a bit more about that?
Maia: Everything that I’m trying to do starts from a very personal point and then aims to, within that specificity, address a larger sociopolitical landscape. I think in Ireland we’re seeing so much social change at the moment in terms of diversity just beginning to visibly grow. I think that while this is happening there needs to be critical voices coming through, not only in academia and politics, but also in the creative sphere. I think my work, in both an intentional and also obviously in a very embodied way, deals with issues of race, gender and sexuality. I was reading this book about the history of Calypso music in Trinidad, Music Memory Resistance: Calypso And The Caribbean Literary Imagination, by Sandra Pouchet-Paquet on how that musical tradition has emerged from and remains so deeply rooted in Trinidadian politics.
Pouchet-Paquet wrote about this notion of “Creole space” and that really resonated with me in terms of what I’m trying to personify in my work. I take a very Creole approach in terms of mixing and intermingling varied themes, histories, cultures and media. I pull strands from different places in order to create performance work that is deeply textured and layered with connotation whilst trying to deliver it in the most streamlined way possible. I’m trying to draw on all of the identities and cultural contexts that are mixed in me and articulate them within the work. It’s a delicate balancing act between all of these different aspects and I’m really trying to lean into the nuance and complexity of it - letting it all infuse and shape the work.
Maia’s show, ‘Incantation’, runs in Chocolate Factory on September 21 and 22. Beth’s show with Glitter HOLE, ‘Púcaparty’, will take place in The National Stadium on September 13. To get tickets for both shows, and to check out what else Dublin Fringe Festival has to offer, visit