The Caged Bird Sings

cage as metaphor

I saw this film many years ago and I found it very interesting in all its details. "Haiti" seems to arise from nowhere in the film- other than as a strong "symbol" for black sovereignty and pride (yet caged). Nothing is ever explained- but it is one of those artistic devices in which it stands in easily for the volumes of history and perceptions that can not be said. Josephine, like Hanna Schygulla in Fassbinder's  Mariage of Maria Braun (1979), represents more than a person but stands-in for a large symbol of state and culture.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)
<span class="small">The free bird leaps
on the back of the win
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.</span>

<span class="small">But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.</span>

<span class="small">The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hillfor the caged bird
sings of freedom
</span>
<span class="small">The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.
</span>
<span class="small">But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing
</span>
<span class="small">The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.</span>


A notable essay to footnote from <em>The Scholar and Feminist Online /Published by The Barnard Center for Research</em> on Women,by <strong>Felicia McCarren</strong> "<a href="http://sfonline.barnard.edu/baker/mccarren_01.htm">The Use-Value of 'Josephine Baker</a>'"


But where is the "Cage"? one might ask. Why am i bringing these various disparate things together? There are a variety of cages- some golden, others not, from my viewpoint. 
In the Mid 1980s I presented an analysis as part of my <strong>Cooper Union Thesis</strong> project. At the center of this thesis was (the late) Josephine, not merely her biography, but rather what she seemed to "represent" for large masses (<em>the French, the francophone world</em> (I would find it fascinating to know with some certainty <strong>Frantz Fanon's</strong> reflections on "la Baker"), <em>Americans, black-americans, The Germans, Europeans</em> over-all and so on) My thesis took as it's secondary focus a work of artistry (and sofistry) by the Austrian architect <strong>Adolf Loos </strong>(then with a practice in France and a competitor of the Swiss <em>starchitect</em> le Corbusier) a "<em>House for Josephine Baker</em>" (the location of which I only recently discovered during a work grant  from the <strong>Kulturstiftung des Länder</strong> in Berlin). One of the upcoming <strong>Goddess Projects</strong> will use this Austrian's house as it's point of entry and departure. The cage in the film sequence  above  and its conflation with Haiti is perhaps understood metaphorically when reads between the lines of what consitutes the construction of a cage in <strong>Noam Chomsky</strong>'s lecture on Haiti:

Josephine Baker sings "Haiti"
Noam Chomsky talks about Haiti