Shapeshifting as a Passage from Ithageneia to Politeiotita

27 December 2023

Sofia Dona Munich, Germany and Athens, Greece

In her book Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals (2020), the writer and activist Alexis Pauline Gumbs discusses the way in which many beings can remain invisible in the sea. Unknown to and uncatalogued by humans, some sea creatures essentially escape being captured.

Speaking of her exhibition (Under)studies in Non-Description (DEO projects, Chios), the artist Dominique White who works on sea legends and shipwrecks as attempts to destroy hydro-hegemony, mentions Gumbs and adds, in turn, that she is interested in the overall rejection of the human as category, meaning that she would stop being marginalised – as she no longer exists.

If we remain undiscovered and thus invisible and thus outside of categorisation, would this help us not to be captured? In which of the city spaces can we remain visible and invisible? Which of our transformations in the city let us be unexplored? What are our own magical practices that enable us to appear and disappear? What are our own passages from ithageneia to politeiotita?

In mythology, folklore and fiction, shapeshifting relates to an ability for bodily transformation by means of innate superhuman force, divine intervention, demonic manipulation or magical acts. Between invisibility and uncategorisability, shapeshifting does its magic.

Among the ten ‘soldiers’ of performing arts who dress and march in stride inspired by the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks in Nea Philadeplia, Athens, in October 2019, the brooms of witches of the collective Kamia Anohi who take care for us not to return to normality, the walk of Chraja and Terpsichori who lead the way at queer liberation march in 2020, the femininities that shout with their eyes covered in front of the Attica Police Headquarters ‘The rapist is you!’, the subtitling undertaken by the collective ΜiQ* as a new in-between-language of constant crossing between the two countries – it is there that our magical act of being citizens together happens.

*This is an edited extract from a piece first published in the Journal of Greek Media and Culture in December 2023, as part of the debate 'Acts of citizenship in present day Greece'.


Gumbs, Alexis Pauline (2020), Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, Chico, CA: AK Press.

Still from the documentary film The Oleanders, directed by Paola Revenioti, 2021.
Still from the documentary film The Oleanders, directed by Paola Revenioti, 2021.

Sofia Dona is an artist and architect based in Munich and Athens. Her artistic practice focuses on site-specific installations, videos and sound works that connect to places and the conditions that have been transforming them through the years.