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  • Hybrid Navigator
  • Satch Hoyt (bio)

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Float Like a Butterfly, 2008. Baby boxing gloves, steel, audio components, accompanied by a soundscape; 66 x 52 x 30 cm.

Photograph by Trevor Morgan.

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The multifaceted diaspora within which I reside is a complex hybridization of many cultures, narratives, and belief systems—a mash-up remix, version, dub plate.

I was born in London to an Afro-Jamaican father and a white English mother in the late 1950s. It was, to say the least, a lonely terra nova, a traumatic neocolonial, cross-cultural terrain, that I was extremely ill equipped to traverse. My unwed mother was ostracized at my birth by her working-class parents. My sister and I never met our grandparents—at their request. So from the outset my stage was lit in a racist hue. As the other’s other, I struggled with my identity, floating in a void of black, white, Jamaican, and Inglanisms. I never felt English—and never will. No one lives a raceless reality. The body and corporeal schema are in effect from birth. Hypo descent, light skinned, half-caste, mulatto, biracial, mixed race—call us what you will. As a hybrid one learns to navigate the marginal seas of difference, to remain intact while floating between the two poles. The biracial paradigm is always looming on a cryptic horizon. Growing up in West London’s Ladbrook Grove, the Jamaican and Trinidadian communities are where I found solace, listening to the narratives and the stories about back-ah-yard. Those of us born in foreign (the British isles) envied those of us born over so (the Caribbean isles). In effect we were deconstructing race and class, inventing our own imaginary islands. We, the disenfranchised, fragmented, and marginalized youth—the black, brown, and beige vanguard learning the ancient codes, speaking a new patois: racialized shape-shifters, reinventing a new black identity.

In 1483 the Portuguese sailed into the Kongo estuary; creolization was in place before the slave-laden ships left those shores. As Stuart Hall reminds us, “Identity is a narrative of the self; it’s the story we tell about the self in order to know who we are.” As hybrid navigators defining a new space, we were, and still are, negotiating the ever existing space of double-consciousness that W. E. B. Du Bois so eloquently spoke of in The Souls of Black Folk. We possess the ability to see the world simultaneously from a mainstream viewpoint, as Brits, and from a marginalized one, as black Brits.1

Jamaican sound-system culture, blues basement weekend parties, the heated barbershop discourse, liming on the frontline. The United Negro Improvement Association Garveyite Rastafarians, the carnival, the pan-yards, and 1970s US soul and jazz music: these are some of the pertinent signifiers that informed and shaped the new black British culture of which I was part and parcel. Always at the forefront of my nomadic mind was the dream of escaping blighty. Music was my sanctuary: I sang in the church choir, I was playing tenor sax at fourteen; a Trinidadian theatrical agent scouted me. At age sixteen I boarded a plane with three other black Brits—we were bound for Berlin as new members in the cast of the musical Hair. Thus the illustrious beginnings of my professional career as an artist commenced. [End Page 151]

The transition from music to visual arts was made in Paris in the late 1990s; in 2000 I moved to New York City. As a visual artist I am irrevocably engaged in, and committed to, topics concerning identity, politics, popular culture, and social criticism within an African diasporic context. I passionately mine history; the wide sweep of that passionate excavation reaches back to the African continent. My eclectic aesthetic encompasses influences as diverse as Tchokwe, Bauhaus to Baroque, the Japanese Edo period, and the Indian Mughal period. I employ a myriad of contextual supports and materials to conceptually convey my thematic investigations. In Dogma (2009) exhumed fragments of bombed porcelain figurines from World War II have been utilized to investigate masculinity and rape in wartime. The multiplication of popular objects as...