BLACK* artists on the move The Gro(o)ve February 2021
A month gone already! Let’s start this edition with food for our souls from the incredible Sonia Sanchez, widely considered to be the leading voice in the Black Revolution.
You cannot read too many Sonia poems : https://poets.org/poem/14-haiku
Born in Birmingham Alabama in 1937, this is one way of summarizing her achievements : ‘Creating a protective matriarchal persona, she has through versification, plays, and children's books inscribed the humanity of black people.’
The Haiku For Me Is
Silence. crystals. cornbread
and greens laughter. brocades.
The sea. Beethoven. Coltrane.
Spring and winter. blue rivers.
Dreadlocks. blues. a waterfall.
Empty mountains. bamboo. bodegas.
Ancient generals. dreams. lamps.
Sarah Vaughn. Her voice exploding
in the universe, returning to earth
in prayer. Plum blossoms.
Silk and steel. Cante jondo
Wine. hills. flesh. perfume.
A breath inhaled and held. Silence.
INTERVIEW WITH SHEBA SOUL ENSEMBLE
BAOTM : You are a Black performance company specializing in retelling ancient Afrikan myths– how did that come about?
SSE : Judith Davis and Akulah Agbami, founder members of Sheba Soul Ensemble, wanted to align ourselves more closely with Afrikan theatrical tradition. We couldn’t really see anyone else across the Black theater landscape doing that – so we thought, let’s vopen ourselves up and see where it takes us.
BAOTM : And where has it taken you?
We got our acts together in 2017. Since then we have produced 7 different theater shows, including 2 pieces for children aged 5-9. All of them are deeply connected to Afrika. Our first show Lovesplay relates the tender, yet heart-wrenching story of Makeda, Queen of Sheba. Then we followed that with Mkeka, Straw Mat, which weaves together two playful tales for children, reminding them of how important it is to value family and friends. We have toured the first two shows widely across the UK.
Then Cleo Lake directed Red Waters which also toured the UK. This is a piece about the ancient plight of refugees and the bloodied waters around Afrika. Then we moved on to Warnings, which thinks about how war has always affected women. We were fortunate to take that show to Washington DC about a year ago – which was an incredible experience.
In conversation with Gus Casely-Hayford, director of the Smithsonian where we performed
BAOTM : Quite a lot of variety there.
SSE : Yes. We also organized FLY! Festival of Black Women’s Theatre – the first ever – in June 2019, hosting it essentially at Arnolfini and welcoming artists from the US, the Caribbean and various pockets of the UK. It represented a huge amount of work but was well worth it. We hope to host a follow up festival in stage settings once we are back in live settings.
BAOTM: Have you been able to switch to any online formats?
SSE : Yes we have. We have delivered a number of Black women’s film festival events from May 2020 onwards – we have several amazing film screenings scheduled for International Women’s Month.
We’re also touring three shows currently – if you can use the word ‘tour’ for online shows. A new children’s show Zebra, elephant and lion, a new production Daughters of Woe, daughters of wonder, and a piece commissioned by Wassail Theatre which is dropping into the Norwich Fringe and other online venues. It’s called Are you are that we are awake?
It’s an interesting piece looking at the parallels between colonialism and COVID and includes performers in Zambia and Uganda. So rich in lots of ways.
BAOTM: Sounds like you are keeping very busy...
SSE : February and March look great. We love to perform and connect with audiences all over the country and beyond. What we love is providing a thinking space for audiences to work out what is happening for them, be that in terms of how they manage conflict, COVID or confusion.
BAOTM : And then? What’s the next chapter?
SSE : We’ve launched our sister company Libation Dance so we are really excited about growing that side of ourselves. And we have a major digital project we are currently fundraising for. So lots to keep us busy.
Here is the link for our FLY! Festival series of events in March :
Check out www.shebasoulensemble.com for details on our forthcoming performances in February and March.
FOCUS ON NTOZAKE SHANGE, poet, playwright, creative spirit etching her message on the world....
I was writer in residence at the Afrikan Caribbean centre in Huddersfield at a time when writers’ residencies generally lasted a year!!! One of the events I pulled out of the bag was a poetry festival featuring Black poets. Ntozake was poet Number 3, after Lemn Sissay, Jean Binta Breeze and before Merle Collins. She showed up 90 minutes before her performance in a gigantic hat. No, she staggered in 90 minutes before her performance considerably the worse for drink. That threw me then. But I have seen the pattern over and over again in regard to Black artists (though not exclusively, of course). Sensitive souls who are so afflicted by the racism, hostility and negative traits of human nature generally, who are pierced so deeply by it all, emotionally decimated because of it all, that they need to cling to something to get by.
She delivered a reading, which introduced me to her amazing play/choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Signed several books (I’ve got one) and then I took her to a ‘typical Yorkshire pub’ where she opted for ‘mild’ over ‘bitter ‘consolidated by several whiskies. Then a couple of doors down the unlit streets that she illuminated with wit and unimpaired clarity, to her hotel, and she was gone.
Except she wasn’t. She is one of those people who continue to reside in me. Who inspires me. Who nourishes me and pushes me to achieve more... Where there is a woman there is magic. If there is a moon falling from her mouth, she is a woman who knows her magic, who can share or not share her powers. A woman with a moon falling from her mouth, roses between her legs and tiaras of Spanish moss, this woman is a consort of the spirits” from her novel Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo
That seems like a great place to start. Women and magic. Seems like all of us ladies need to be casting our spells, laying our intentions and throwing our
weight into getting the world back on track...
But there is more. For Colored Girls is a feast of a play, introducing through poetic monologues, life stories of tragedy and collective empowerment of seven Black women. I won’t spoil their power by trivialising them with summary, but suffice to say, these are not stories about sipping tea and knitting. As these next few quotations illustrate :
one thing I don’t need
is any more apologies
i got sorry greetin me at my front door
you can keep yrs
i don’t know what to do wit em
they don’t open doors
or bring the sun back
they don’t make me happy
or get a mornin paper
didn’t nobody stop usin my tears to wash cars
cuz a sorry For Colored Girls
Or even :
sing a black girl's song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you
but sing her rhythms
carin/ struggle/ hard times
sing her song of life
she's been dead so long
closed in silence so long
she doesn't know the sound
of her own voice
her infinite beauty
she's half-notes scattered
without rhythm/ no tune
sing her sighs
sing the song of her possibilities
sing a righteous gospel
let her be born
let her be born
& handled warmly. For Colored Girls
So evocative and moving…
Like Ntozake Shange’s own life. Her accommodating her life to bipolar disorder, navigating her addictions and still remaining supremely creative. Even when she had had multiple stokes and lost her ability to hold a pen, or even later, when battling new technology to not standardize her grammar or add capitals when these had been deliberately discarded, her creativity soared.
Magic. Women. And stirring words that don’t do any of us any harm :
Through my tears
I found god in myself
and I loved her fiercely.
What’s going on
Do get in touch with us so we can publicize your event to our community of switched-on artists :
Check out Friends of St Pauls Library Open Mic and activity programme.
Check out Sheba Soul Ensemble one minute film competition :
A landscape a far cry from Botswana…but still the sense of loneliness pervades. Let’s flip it!
This month’s poetry competition extended from last month come on you poets! - open to everyone who defines themselves as BLACK* - is on the theme of ‘Loving’. Maximum 30 lines. Entry £4 per poem or 3 poems for £10 with a cheque/Postal order made payable to BLACK* artists on the move, 20 Trinity St, Taunton TA1 3JG by 25 February 2021. No name should be visible on the poems – but include a sheet with your name/poetry titles/contact details. Winner receives £50, and 2 runners up, receive poetry book prizes. Give it a whirl – the odds are better than the premium bonds! Winning poems appear in March newsletter.
And finally …. Breathe in for 4, then hold for 4, then out for 4, then pause for 4, then start all over again, imagining you are far from the mist and the cold and the rain and on a sun-drenched beach somewhere – barefoot on the sand…
Have a great month….
BLACK* artists on the move The Gro(o)ve January 2021
We wish you a laughter-filled, health-filled, energizing, uplifting, delightful year. Make every day memorable as an opportunity to love, listen and experience more fully the wonders of life and all (including your) creation.
Interview with Jamal Colin
BAOTM : You are a Black mime artist – how did that come about?
In 2020, I haven’t been able to perform as a mime artist. With our 4 months of lockdown, with our frontiers closed for 6 months in total, there were almost no openings for live performances. Generally between October and December there is a lot of work. But this year, there have only been a few concerts but not any theater performances. So concerts for tourists.
The government have tried to put in place a few initiatives but the artistic sector is really suffering. Hotels aren’t receiving tourists and so with 20 or 30% of our normal level of tourists, artists are deeply affected. Everyone needs other strings to their bow. We were helped a little financially but only during lockdown and not since, even though the consequences are ongoing. And the paperwork is horrendous!
I became a mime artist because I feel really useful to people. I can get my message across. I love doing what I do -even if it’s difficult. It nourishes me spiritually and mentally. I often work with young people and talk about the game stage of our exchange. People then realize the importance of play, opening minds and allowing people to function differently.
As a mime artist, I constantly observe other people, how they interact, and react and then bring this into my shows.
To start off, I just started messing around with mime – I didn’t take it seriously. I worked with people who were HIV+. I was asked to write a text for them. So I spent a lot of time collecting their stories and then I was able to retell their stories through my body as a mime artist. So my starting point was people who are marginalized.
Then I got much deeper into it. I met Laurent Decolt who is a famous French mime artist. He came to run a course in Mauritius. I showed him what I had done. He informed me that I am a ‘mime artist’ who picks up traits. He told me to keep going. He showed me the basic classical movements of mime. So I continued my research and started performing regularly. My character is called ‘The Face’. I realize why this is so significant. A painted mime face is neutral, so it is hard to make out emotions. But eyes give the emotion away and the other parts of the body, it is easy to read the range of emotions, joy, passion, sadness. You can see it in the body language.
BAOTM: Advantages of mime in Mauritius?
Mauritius is a small place. I am the only Mauritian mime artist – so people know me and talk of me. In the major festivals, I stand out and people talk about the mime reality in Mauritius .So the world knows of me. Last week I went to a restaurant with the young people I support – and one of the women in the restaurant recognized me and said she had kept a photo of my performance. She attended a performance a year ago and she is still holding on to the photo – so that tells me that it meant something to her.
BAOTM: Can Zoom capture your performance?
I haven’t tried yet. I haven’t tested the water.
BAOTM: definitely needs to set this up! So tell us about your recent projects.
Working with young people is central to my mission. I didn’t go to university. But I know what I’m doing with youth work. So I try to giver them tools and help them to feel at home in the arts, to feel that they have a valid place. We don’t have any art schools in Mauritius of any kind.
I learnt organically so we have put something meaningful together. Other actors say that its worth 2 years of university study – so we manage to transmit our knowledge and understanding to much younger people. Two youth activities – including an end of year show. A mixture of slam and theater, based on self-esteem. For young people aged 11-16 years. With a musician and a singer, we created the performance together. We draw on the sega, our traditional drum. The performance was brilliantly received – the parents had no idea their kids were so talented. It was a hard project to carry through – but everyone got involved, turned up to rehearsals. It was great to see everyone get involved, particularly those who either had never been involved previously or suddenly realized they had talent. Our job is to encourage them, give a little form to their ideas.
There are lots of kids who live in single parent families or who are beyond the brink of poverty –so they need some financial aid and additional family support. There are lots of different kinds of poverty including intellectual poverty. Here we try to assist young people. I concentrate on artistic enrichment, playing with words; I created a new game a little like snakes and ladders, but we use dance, song and language. We play outside , generally in groups, up to 10 people – one team performs, the other decides if their performance is strong enough. Call the game MacFun.
2 young women took part in an international slam festival – and a national slam festival. These are young women I’ve worked with – aged between 11 and 16. This was their first experience of anything on this scale. I worked on one of their texts, and then they were able to take part in a master class in France. I worked as their coach. It was really interesting, a little unusual, to do all this training via Zoom. This has changed things – it’s not about just coaching for a competition but longer involvement. One of them has had a baby sister in the family and the other is going through a bit of an identity crisis – trying to work out who she is. So it’s a delicate balance – and I don’t enjoy having to be severe and put certain boundaries in place. When I work , it’s a fourway partnership, the organisation, the young person, myself and the family. So I’m waiting for her anger to pass.
I took part with a friend in a Ted Talk.
We were able to perform in this space and draw attention to the discomfort surrounding our creole identity. It was really great. I haven’t been able to perform live for a while and my colleague had been in a difficult violent relationship. She openly spoke of her personal situation. So it was really important to take the space together and create a different dialogue. It was really fascinating to see how people responded to our text – an audience of 1700 people, a really mixed audience, including heads of large business, and people who speak lots of different languages on top of creole. The audience enjoyed our performance and we felt like we had really achieved something.
In 2021, we are thinking circus school – so watch this space!
August Wilson : US playwright.
All you need in life is love and laughter. That’s all anybody needs. Love in one hand and laughter in another.
Henry Tayali (1943-1987) is commonly considered to be Zambia’s most famous visual artist.
He went to secondary school in Bulwayo, and then on to university to study Fine Art in Kampala and then at postgraduate level in Dusseldorf.
Adept at painting, photography and sculpture, his work has been called ‘crowded social realism’.
What’s going on...
Friends of St Pauls Library presents :
Reservations via firstname.lastname@example.org
Excerpts from When rain clouds gather by Southern African writer, Bessie Head
“No men ever worked harder than Botswana women, for the whole burden of providing food for big families rested with them. It was their sticks that thrashed the corn at harvesting time and their winnowing baskets that filled the air for miles and miles around with the dust of husks, and they often, in addition to broadcasting the seed when the early rains fell, took over the tasks of the men and also ploughed the land with oxen.”
“And there was something so deeply wrong in the way a woman had to live, holding herself together with her backbone, because, no matter to which side a woman might turn, there was this trap of loneliness. Most women had come to take it for granted, entertaining themselves with casual lovers. Most women with fatherless children thought nothing of sending a small boy out to a lonely cattle post to herd cattle to add to the family income. But then, such women expected life to give them nothing. And if you felt the strain of such a life, all the way down your spine, surely it meant that you were just holding on until such time as a miracle occurred? And how many miracles an ordinary woman needed these days.”
“Things wouldn’t have been so bad if black men as a whole had not accepted their oppression, and added to it with their own taboos and traditions. Once he had pulled away from these taboos, he found the definition of a black man unacceptable to him. There were things like Baas and Master he would never call a white man, not even if they shot him dead. But all black men did it. They did it. But why? Why not be shot dead? Why not be shot dead rather than live the living death of humiliation?”
“No words, however wise, could explain the awfulness of death, not while the living were firmly attached to love, child-bearing, child-rearing, hunger, struggle, and the sunrise of tomorrow. Life had to flow all the time, for the living, like water in a stream.”
A landscape a far cry from Botswana…but still the sense of loneliness pervades. Let’s flip it!
This month’s poetry competition - open to everyone who defines themselves as BLACK* - is on the theme of ‘Loving’. Maximum 30 lines. Entry £4 per poem or 3 poems for £10 with a cheque/Postal order made payable to BLACK* artists on the move, 20 Trinity St, Taunton TA1 3JG by 25 January 2021. No name should be visible on the poems – but include a sheet with your name/poetry titles/contact details. Winner receives £50, and 2 runners up, receive poetry book prizes. Give it a whirl – the odds are better than the premium bonds! Winning poems appear in next month’s newsletter.
“Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” -Toni Morrison (Song of Solomon)
BLACK* artists on the move The Gro(o)ve November 2020
"In this world of such abundance, surely we can find the means to assure that no child will go hungry, no pregnant woman will be too weak to survive childbirth and that every one of the nearly six million children who will die next year because of malnutrition will be saved." ~ Nelson Mandela from a statement on building a Global Partnership for Children, 6 May 2000
Let us give thanks and praise for our lives. For our entering the earth and being part of humanity at this juncture in history. For the
well-ness and unfathomable abilities of our bodies. For those we love and who love us. Those who make us laugh, those who make us cry, those who test us, reflecting back to us some learning we need to activate in our lives right now. For the beauty that is always surrounds us, from the light caressing a droplet of rain falling, to the crescendo of colours the trees wave in front of us as autumn nudges on. For the 60,000 thoughts that bless our brains each day. For our infinite river of creativity. For humility to understand our purpose in the universal picture right now.
Gratitude paves the way to greater abundance.
As does generosity to those more in need than we are. However depleted and forlorn, we always have something to share, some means of uplifting others.
And finally having a clear, spelled out, idea of what our abundance Gratitude goals might be.
Take a sheet of paper and scribble down 5 abundance goals for the next six months. You may want a play commission. A new car – but be precise. Is that a car which is new to you or a brand new car?
You may want to choreograph and perform a new dance piece? Or hold your first ever photography exhibition? Or get yourself a new comfy bed so you are able to restore yourself more fully and dream more deeply. Write down your five wishes. Then come up with a way of sharing your creativity freely with one or more people. You could
tell a story to your family. Send a ‘thank you’ poem to a friend you’re losing touch with who made a difference to your life.
However hard you may feel life is at the moment, breathe in for a moment or two and appreciate how deeply blessed you are.
BAOTM has got slots for 10 more artists to join the Creativity and abundance course. This is an individualized training programme. We will work alongside you to pin down your abundance goals and strategize how your creativity will carry them to fruition.
Email: email@example.com if you would like further information and/or to register.
Interview with Joy Jones
Joy, how would you describe yourself as an artist?
(She laughs). I am primarily a writer but I also like performing. I’ve enjoyed telling stories and hearing stories since I was a little child.
Bedtime at my house when I was a child was my mother reading from a book or my father telling me stories. I also liked being in front of an audience.
I am an avid reader and read across genres. So as a writer I write across genres, poetry, prose, journalistic writing and plays – and for adults and children. I’m a very greedy writer and want to try everything.
What are you working on creatively at the moment?
My children’s novel Jayla Jumps In has just come in and is about a girl who starts a Double Dutch team – and I started a Double Dutch team so I’ve been doing a lot of promotional activity.
It’s aimed at girls aged 8-13.
How can people contact you direct to get hold of a copy of the book?
The book and postage comes to 22$. So just email me first and we can sort this out.
In a couple of weeks, I will be the keynote speaker for a girls conference. 150 girls will attend a virtual conference and I will give each girl a copy of my book. I’m the closing speaker and I will give each girl something positive to think about as they go about their weekend.
I’ve also had numerous interviews on book bloggers sites.
What are your most important achievements in your varied life?
I never would have thought that Double Dutch would figure so prominently in my career. An offhand comment led to me setting up a team, writing a play, teaching Double Dutch abroad in Russia and most recently it’s led to a novel. My team DC RetroJumpers get invited to do displays and occasionally we get paid to do that.
Tell us a little about how much time ‘Double Dutch’ takes up and how it impacts on your life.
The Pandemic has had an impact and we did an outdoor event yesterday. My colleague Robin has the contracts for doing after school teaching of Double Dutch and it’s a significant part of her income.
America is in turmoil right now. How do you see things panning out? What are the implications for artists?
As you may now, the Presidential Election is coming up in 2 days. The country is very divided and whoever wins, half the country
will be upset. For artists, the pandemic has been more of a trial than a tragedy,particularly for performing artists. Performance venues have closed down and the likelihood of them re-opening is still far off in the future. All of those people are out of work and will continue to be out of work. It’s devastating for artists and devastating for audiences – so often, art is the escape valve people use to get by. Right now, you can’t go to a movie or see a play. You can replicate those experiences using the computer or television but the shared community experience is lost. A lot of the time, people join an online programme because they have nothing better to do. But I am a big fan of in person contacts.
What will BHM be like in February 2021?
It will all be virtual, all stuck on the computer. There will be
some innovations and maybe the lockdown won’t be so complete by February.
Interview with Keith Stewart, poet and photographer
How did you become an artist?
It’s been a drift, My mum used to remind me I used to write and chuck the pieces of paper away. But in the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve taken it more seriously, I started taking more photos a few years back. Travelling prompted me. And a cheque my mum gave me for Christmas. And one year I bought myself a decent camera and it was onwards from there.
In 2016 I published my poems. It was one of those things that came from years of writing and
making compilations of writing. I decided to just do it. I got my photos together and my favourite pieces of poetry, edited everything together, I had some money at the time. I found someone who helped me tidy up the design and printed it out for me. I had about 100 copies done.
There was a life change at the time so it felt like time to do it and do it for me. I wasn’t
worried about selling it. It was about getting it done and out there.
It was for friends and family. Had a launch party and people came. Everybody was happy with it.
Where has that completion of a piece of work taken you to?
Somewhere in the future I will want to sell them and get them into shops.
I’m thinking about doing an e book version which will make it much easier to get things done with it.
What is your dream scenario for your art?
Over the next few years, my project is called ‘To Make Manifest’ – different ideas I want to make happen. I’ve got some stories and ideas I want to turn into animation. Partnerships – it’s
the time for people to work together. I can do things with people with different skills. Building that online presence which will help with selling. T shirts and hat type designs.
I’ve got tons of ideas and it’s about making time
Tell us about your current life style and how it lifts and carries you artistically?
I am a TEFL English teacher and this allows me to travel to different parts of the world I want to see. For instance, I wanted to see Brazil, Rio and meeting people.
I don’t have a set base in the UK. My home is wherever I am. It might be for a few months or a few weeks.
But you live in a place. Being away from standard pressures releases other forms of creativity. I’m living in Martinique at the moment.
Coming here where I don’t speak French, I’m learning French and learning to engage with people differently. You can’t assume. You have to find new ways to communicate and your brain has to be creatively engaged every day. Travelling means different cultures. Different food, the way people talk. So that makes you feel more creative. A simple
example. I love cafes. So when I’m in England I would head out to my local cafe, take a book and relax for a couple of hours. Where I am in St Pierre, Martinique, the cafe closes about 3 in the afternoon. So you have to do things differently. There are beautiful alternatives, like outdoor restaurants.
So sometimes I go there, sit and watch the blue sea and the boats bobbing about. Different stresses
– like the flies buzzing around. Using google translate. I stay long enough to feel like a local. When I was in Mexico, people used to stare at me. But after 3
months, it stopped. And I got quite upset, no one was staring at me. It meant I’d become a local, been accepted. There’s something very lovely in that.
Also I’m doing a ceramic class. There’s a creative bit, focusing on design. Getting ideas from people, for colours. I’m on my 5th piece – the teacher’s great. It’s all about creativity and relationships.
Sounds like the perfect setting for a great piece of creative work, your masterpiece?
A youtube channel with videos and animations which have a more creative side. Plus my English teaching – it’s also creative. I don’t teach from a book – we have varieties of conversations. Creativity for me is around all the time. And my 7 day a week press team! I’m
rushed off my feet all the time here in Martinique.
For your enrichment
Check out this brilliant visual arts website brimming with stunning work by contemporary African diasporan artists.
Nigerian multi-media artist Ayobola Kekere-Ekun Priveledged the Abridged edition 2019
What’s going on
Friends of St Pauls Library Open Mic Night 26 November 7 – 9pm. FREE. We are in for a fun-filled evening in November when the incorrigible Ron McGrath is our guest poet. Reading slots available. Tickets can be reserved by emailing bristolfriendsofstpaulslibrary@gm ail.com
Newlyn Art Gallery and the Exchange Penzance Head of Programme Strategy Salary :
£30,728 to £35,622 This is a strategic planning role, rather than a curatorial role. https://newlynartgallery.co.uk/ab out/jobs/Deadline Monday 23 November.
End note : Something to mull over all month because art nourishes us, replenishes us, restores us....
Poetry slice courtesy of Langston Hughes Life is Fine
I went down to the river, I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't, So I jumped in and sank.
I came up once and hollered! I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.
But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!
I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground. I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.
I stood there and I hollered! I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.
But it was High up there! It was high!
So since I'm still here livin', I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love— But for livin' I was born
Though you may hear me holler, And you may see me cry—
I'll be dogged, sweet baby, If you gonna see me die.
Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine
BLACK* artists on the move The Gro(o)ve October 2020
Happy BLACK* history month 2020
If we don’t know our history, how can we understand ourselves?
What does BHM mean to you?
A time for reflection? A time of irritation because surely EVERY month should be celebrating Black history? We understand those conflicting viewpoints – and we want everyone to remember and appreciate that
Black history begins in the Stone Age with the very first pre-historic people who were busy leaving their inimitable mark on the world
Afrika was the cradle of civilisations. The most ancient city in Egypt is Luxor, established between 7200 and 3200BC.
The most influential library in the world was based in Alexandria; all the important texts of the time would be literally hunted down and deposited in the library.
Significant cities in Africa are Memphis, Thebes, Carthage, Alexandria, Ife- Ife, Benin, Cairo, Kano City, Timbuktu, Lalibela, Djenne
– each with their unique history and achievements.
Djenne mosque built entirely of mud
Ta-Seti is the oldest Nubian state, established between 3500 and 3100 BC. In fact, the words Ta-Seti were used to refer to Nubia originally. It is the location of the first pharaonic tradition.
Knowledge and a broad understanding of our history, culture, heritage are more important now than ever. It is easy to be brainwashed and manipulated into thinking that Black history is limited to reacting to white oppression, that white people always need to ‘be in the frame’ in some way when we contemplate our past.
BAOTM is happy to include an article a month on a historical topic – so do get in touch if you
Interview with Dr Helen Thomas, writer and academic
Where did the idea for your book on Black British literature over the past 250 years materialize?
The book started as a small project on reading rooms in Cornwall which in the 18th century and onwards providing reading materials beyond the mainstream press. That got me thinking about Black people in Britain at the time and how they got to read. Were they able to find reading materials that represented themselves? It struck me just how important reading is in the development of our identity.
Once I started looking into that, I became more focused on how the law ‘read’ Blackness and how Black people, through their actions were able to change the law.
The scope of my research increased from the 18th century to contemporary Britain, brining in issues around immigration and race relations.
The project wasn’t creative to begin with – but it has really inspired my poetry on Black lives.
Do please download your free copy of this book in October – there’s a lot to learn. Black people did some amazing things and brought us to where we are now.
Interview with Ugandan dancer, Arinda Daphine
What prompted you to become a dancer?
As a performing artist, I am always searching to re-invent myself. I started out with spoken word in 2012 and when I had to stage my own production in 2017, it became absolutely necessary to incorporate music and dance into my performance. Dance is visually engaging for the audience and they are more alert when the artist’s body moves to words and rhythm.
Communication sustains civilizations and dance is a universal language; I want to tap into that. I am a poet. I would love to dance to the music of my words when I recite. It is fun; for the audience too. That is my inspiration for dance.
On a more personal note, dance keeps me vibrant and youthful. It gives me something to share with my daughter who is madly in love with music. I was bullied in school for my height, being an early bloomer, I always seemed awkwardly tall for classmates
and so I hunched my back to appear shorter. Dance helps me try to correct my posture and to heal wounds inflicted on my self- esteem/body-image during the formative years.
What is your artistic vision?
I aspire for organic growth into an all-round artist. I have not had a professional journey with the arts; what I know about performing and writing has been learned from the streets, so to speak. So the streets being my inspiration, I will stage performances that incorporate art in all its diversity. It is a dream to be able to bring the intricacies of language (my obsession as a writer) to an audience using music, dance and drama. Already I am working with local studios to produce poetry infused with music, and I am making steps in dance. Drama too must follow in step. I view my artistic creations so far as raw and unfinished material for a production by Arinda Daphine incorporating music, dance and drama.
What's it like being a dancer in Uganda?
Uganda is an accepting place for dancers. We have a vibrant scene with traditional dancing troupes who take all the money because they perform at weddings, political rallies, formal and informal gatherings; they are loved. Dancing in a group is more appealing and easier for growth and work opportunities. Solo dance careers are hard to come by and that is scary for the dancer who seeks intimacy with the audience, the one who goes beyond merely entertaining and exciting crowds, who desires to write a story with the movement of the body. Audiences are less patient with this kind of dance
and so not many artists are doing it. Otherwise being a dancer in Uganda means there is a lot of space for a breakthrough, no one is going to ask for academic qualifications from a dance school; Ugandans will take you as you are and that is encouraging but perhaps also limiting because a challenge brings out the best, gets you out of the comfort zone into excellence.
Watch Arinda Daphine dance live online as part of Sheba Soul Ensemble’s Are you sure we are awake? At Bristol MShed Friday 9 October. (See link below)
Interview with writer Tina Tamsho-Thomas
You have been active as an artist in the UK for decades what patterns, if any, do you see?
As a teenager my activism in the peace movement continued as I became a writer, particularly in my key role of helping to establish Manchester’s Cultureword. At that time, the predominantly white
management committee favoured temporary, Black writing projects, destined to be marginalised and un-developed.
Negative patterns were turned around when strategic aims of establishing a Black Writing Development post were achieved, creating Black writing history.
Crucial to that development was founding Blackscribe - the only black women’s performance poetry company of its kind. ‘They illustrate the strength and creativity of Black women’ and gave voice to UK Black women writers in the 80’s.
Negative patterns also highlight how the genius of Black artists can be undermined by flavour of the month, discriminatory funding that shatters dreams, destroys livelihoods and threatens individual/community mental health and well-being.
Healthy patterns demonstrate resilience in transcending such challenges, and how resourcefulness can achieve success.
My human rights activism is also international and includes Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Gambia and Malawi. As human rights ambassador with the Angola 3 Coalition to free political prisoners, I visited New Orleans, Portugal, Netherlands and The Court of Human Rights, Brussels.
What about our present situation as Black artists leaves you most hopeful?
The Black Lives Matters mainstream publishing initiatives, including setting up the Black Writer’s Guild. Many artists expect leaders to act on their behalf. Under these changing times, changing ourselves, taking responsibility for our own creative development and achieving self-empowerment would be worthwhile goals.
Also, Bernadine Evaristo winning the Booker prize, seeing the Renni Eddo-Lodge bestseller all over Waterstones and shero Angela Davis included on the top 100 most famous women list.
What about our present situation as Black artists leaves you most despondent?
I try not to be despondent, rather take a problem solving approach - again leadership. We all complain about weak, corrupt, irresponsible leaders, yet ineffectual complaining helps to keep them in power and changes nothing. United we know we’re powerful, let’s focus on that.
Tell us about your achievements as an artist Tina
Someone is Missing Me – My forthcoming poetry collection due Jan 2021
Haunted By The Truth. Unique coming-of-age memoir – seeking publisher
Dancin in Sepia Dreams – Autobiographical play. Received a standing ovation, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
The National Kenyan Mothers of Political Prisoners Campaign. Spoken word performance Nairobi Cathedral, Kenya
Bicentenary Anniversary of the Abolition of Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade. Performance Poetry Residency. Honouring the Ancestors. Manchester Art Gallery
Developing writing and performance skills with diverse groups nationally and internationally is also a major achievement.
Focussed on publishing my Haunted by the Truth memoir and developing it into a screenplay. Developing an exciting new podcast about Angela Davis. Promoting Someone is Missing Me.
Creativity and abundance:
BAOTM is inviting artists and arts organisations who need to reappraise their creative purpose and financial needs. Small group training sessions take place on Friday afternoons 2.30-5pm followed by a package of individual support. Please contact blackartistsonthemove to reserve your place.
8 October 7pm Online free. Gold Dust in Black:
BAOTM, in partnership with Bristol Museums, has commissioned 5 outstanding
artists to take us on a scintillating adventure to commemorate the achievements and prowess of Black History giants: Mary Seacole, Josephine Baker, Nelson Mandela, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Sidney Poitier.
9 October 7pm. Online free. In partnership with Bristol Museums, Sheba Soul Ensemble performs Are you sure we are awake? The international co- production featuring artists from Zambia and Uganda examines colonialism and COVID. A unique, timely piece:
11 October 4pm Sheba Soul Ensemble, supported by Watershed, presents FLY! Higher Black History Month Spectacular.
5 hours of outstanding performances (Josephine Baker)
and thought-provoking content (Martin Luther King). Luxuriate in this trip down not just any old memory lane. Tickets are £5 via the link below – (complimentary tickets available via firstname.lastname@example.org)
16 October, 8pm. Online. Free. BLACK* artists on the move welcomes Dr Helen Thomas for the launch of her FREE e-book Black agents provocateurs : 250 Years of Black British Writing, History and the Law.
Free copy of this ebook available
: To download a free copy of the
ebook during Black History Month,
You will be asked to enter your address details - but not card details - and a link should be emailed to you immediately.
29 October,7pm. Online. Free. we are partnering with Friends of St Pauls Library to bring an outstanding pen Mic event. Tina Tamsho-Thomas, renowned poet and entertainer is our guest poet. Elders from the Malcolm X Centre will be sharing their poetry too - and, as always, slots are available for audience members to share their work.Next month – more on abundance (couldn’t squeeze it in this issue) and an interview with Hilda Twongyeir
Black artists on the move The Gro(o)ve September 2020
Interview with Kamari Romeo
BAOTM : Tell us how you tumbled into being an artist.
I always wanted to be a performer/artist. I grew up with an older sister who was a singer – she was really really good. I wanted to be like her. I joined a school drama club and acting was really my thing.From the age of 9, I knew i wanted to be actor. I loved theatre and films. I used to take magazines, read them line by line and try them out in different accents. Started out with the school drama club when I was 12. Then I convinced my parents to let me go to the Sylvia Young Saturday School – wanted to go to the full time drama school but my parents couldn’t afford it. So sat6urda school was the next best thing. I have been to drama school but my courses have been in Drama, Applied Theatre and Education. Really, really good. Then my Masters was in Producing. A lot of my acting training has happened outside drama school – I have had a non-traditional route into acting.
When I found acting specifically, I enjoyed bing someone else at that time, putting myself in the shoes of another person. It was almost like a form of escapism. I used to dance as well – at that time it was an amazing form of escapism and I found a new community and family.
I think creativity has been a personal lifeline. Keeping myself busy and looking after my mental health. I had a difficult childhood. I am a care-leaver. So community has been key to my recovery – feeling like I am a part of a wider world when I started to produce my own work.
BAOTM : What are your artistic objectives right now.
Particularly during the lockdown, my artistic objectives are to continue practicing that creative muscle. To be more creative at this time and to build up a portfolio of my work. The work I do through humble bee i would say is unique and it’s taken a long time to articulate clearly to people what it is I do. Not because the work isn’t clear but the method and the aesthetic are non-traditional.
All my projects are site-specific – the choice of sites – varies according to project. Could be a restaurant, a church – I did an immersive piece in a church. I work remotely from home and then choose a specific locality.
I work within various disciplines – theatre/literature/archiving and community projects on and off-line. The objective of that work is about making audiences less passive and to start a conversation through the work but also to offer new perspectives on marginalized voices.
Toybox, my audio-visual spoken word album looking at British childhood – the Toybox was a contemporary archive of my childhood as a British care-leaver and a way for me to analyze my experiences in a way that goes away from the current clinical dialogue on care-leavers.
For my next trick Black and British will not saw me in half For my next trick my foster parents will pull my full allow allowance from their purse. For my next trick social services WILL believe me, can you see how this one was done? For my next trick my mum won’t compare me to my white friends, I will disappear!
BAOTM : Where will you be and what will you have achieved in 5 years’ time?
I am currently setting up a Black History school for children in the UK. Over the next five years I’ll be looking at continuing to secure partners – particularly with the Black History School ,establishing partners across the UK. The goal is for my work to be used as case studies – could be by the government – work that falls in both the arts and health sectors. I would like to use my projects ad focus groups – it is possible to create this work to a high. I hope as the work grows I can make partnerships with the NHS t substitute mental health and wellbeing support which otherwise wouldn’t be considered due to funding cuts. I am interested in creative intervention.
At this time in my life being trans, it is usually within the context of a trans issue. Even with Toybox, my presentation was at times androgenous – I didn’t feel the need to feature the trans part of myself – though it did come through in costumes and make up. For me, there are many intersections within my identity, being Black, Trans, having a disability, my sexuality, and so it is very difficult to talk about Transness on its own because it crosses over with different feelings and experiences.
This is a really interesting time to be an artist, creator and producer, specifically a Black producer. I acknowledge it is really important that as well as putting work out there, to practice self-care.
Boundaries, setting boundaries. Keeping focused. The more I do this work, the more I find like-minded people who support the work I do. I also find people want to capitalize – so saying no is a really big thing.
Opportunities, questions, I have to constantly go back to the drawing board and question what is appropriate for me. It is so easy to get distracted - particularly in a large city like London where there’s a lot of opportunity and you feel you have to take it. Self-care – a commitment to yourself to follow through on the work you have said you will do and set boundaries while doing that....
Interview with Amantha Edmead
BAOTM : You have been an artist for a number of years. What brought you to the profession in the first place and what keeps you here?
It is something I have done for as long as i can remember. When i was really little through church, we did performances. It was a white Methodist church – very much the 70’s feel of God is love. So in Junior church, we did lots of Bible readings and performances with music and song. I loved the feeling of performing. That was my first taste.
That continued when I went to school – doing school performances as well added to the church. There was a real freedom. By the time I was 9, I started dance lessons – tap and ballet, and then jazz and contemporary jazz. By the time I was 9, doing church and school and dance and Brownies, I was all about performance –
the feeling of being able to be anything, be anything. Th energy that goes through you when you’re performing – how you feel when there’s a response. It was all about the feelings for me.
What keeps me here is the love of that energy and freedom. I see it as a privilege playing and exploring other people’s lives even though you always bring your own life to it as well. And the power of what art can do, what performance can do, to make people feel, think – it’s a real gift and a real privilege to be involved.
BAOTM : Highlights of your career?
At the moment, the work on Sold has been very important. Winning the Best Ensemble at Edinburgh 2019, was one of the highlights and then Theatre Show of the Week for Week 1 at Vault – they were both highlights. The power of an uncomfortable story to touch people – I am proud of that. It’s the true story of Mary Prince and her indomitable spirit to fight for freedom in the late 1820s.
Starting Kuumba Nia Arts – going from a performer to setting up m own company – on 27 April 2009 – it is something I always wanted to do. It’s about confidence. It had been a dream to set up a company producing the work I wanted to see. I had clear visions – about the work I wasn’t seeing. So on the back of African history classes – I wanted to see stuff on the Songhai Empire – done in an epic way.
Water’s Flight was my first commission – so a highlight and then working with Talawa in Othello in 1997 – Talawa because I was three years out of drama school and I had always loved their work –it was a bit of dream. Water’s Flight was the first time someone had given me money and believed in me. It was important to me because it was for the reopening of a theatre space that I had grown up in. So that was a full circle for me.
The first tv was a BBC series called Songcatcher in 1997/1998. It was exciting to go to the centre, walk past the studios and spend some weeks in there.
With lots of the early acting I did it because I loved it but I didn’t have a proper plan – even though I had been told many times to get a plan.
BAOTM : Have you got a plan now for the next five years?
Am formulating one. Building the company. Ideally Sold is going to run through to end of next Autumn or the beginning of next spring. Outside of that we are hoping to do annual symposiums – the first one being in October. The African Theatre Symposium is looking at African theatrical traditions throughout Africa and the diaspora, looking at traditions in performance – how they comm. From African roots what has been retained in the performances we see today. Exploring the performance fusions – not your straight 3 act play =it’s not as simple as calling something a tragedy, a musical it’s often about fusing the performance styles so it is not as narrow.
BAOTM : Favourite quotation?
One hand can’t clap.
I am because you are.
Stepping into the river of abundance Part 1
I don’t know about you, but I grew up with the notion of the ‘penniless artist’ really drilled into me. So it has taken me decades to ditch that belief and see myself for who I am.
So before we get down to the nittygritty of funding and securing an income for ourselves, let us take a moment to think about our art and our lives. (Please feel free to answer these questions in writing or in a recorded format and let BLACK* artists on the Move in on your observations – we have 5 books available for the most moving and thought-provoking responses – send to email@example.com)
1. Why are you an artist?
2. What is your art form/s – why did it/they ‘choose’ you? What is there about the present moment which is absolutely perfect for your artistic development?
3. How do you develop yourself? How do you cherish your art and deepen your understanding of the skills and talents you have been given?
4. How much time do you devote to your art? Is that enough?
5. Imagine there are no barriers at all. Makes some notes on the next three major projects you want to deliver. Why are they important?
6. Who are you working for? Who is your audience? How does your work nourish them? We all have infinite creative potential inside of us.
We are all constantly coming up with new ideas/ways of thinking and being creative. We are all carried along on an endless flow of artistic abundance.
Finding ourselves, centring ourselves in an understanding of our own ‘bigger picture’ is vital before we can begin to comprehend intersects with our lives.
More next month on principles of fundraising and income generation.
But we invite you to reflect on the following :
As Black artists in a white society, nobody owes us a living. We are richly skilled and capable of supporting ourselves and our families and contributing to the uplifting of our community. We have been brainwashed into anticipating poverty and struggle as our birthright. But nothing could be further from the truth. So put your Arts Council begging bowl away. No, don’t put it away. Smash it!
WE ARE RICH, STRONG, INDOMITABLE ARTISTS, ENDOWED WITH OUR ANCESTOR’S UNBROKEN SPIRITS AND UNBRIDLED CREATIVITY. THE VOICE OF NOW. IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME TO RECEIVE OUR INHERITANCE AND TO SHARE OUR GOOD FORTUNE AND INFINITE GIFTS WITH OTHERS. BLACK* artists on the move Events listings 20 September 4-9pm Sheba Soul Ensemble is offering another opportunity to catch FLY! Higher – brilliant cinematic offerings by Black women directors.
This event is unfunded and tickets are £5 for the 5 hour session.
to obtain a complimentary ticket if required. FLY! Higher Black History Month special is taking place on Sunday 4 October. Join us for a moving compilation of stories and figures who have marked us all.
https://www.ticketsignite.com/event/3283/fly--higher-black-history-month Friends of St Pauls’s Library Open Mic Thursday 24 September 7- 9pm.
Chanje Kunde is our guest poet and poets join us from around the world – the Philippines, the US, Botswana, Uganda.
Last words :
In our October edition we will be continuing our series on abundance and how to create the financial environment you need. Plus an interview with Tina Tamsho-Thomas and Hilda Twongyweire, women writers who bring change to their communities. And we hope to have more details of great Black History Month events – so please send us information through by 24 September. Have a great September.