Monday 13th May, 4-6.30 pm
11 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3RF
The residency project is drawing to a close. Please join us in exploring the outcomes and methodology, and sharing other experiences. Kayo will perform some of the new work developed as part of the residency and we will discuss some of the key issues the project has raised, as well as reflecting on the project as a whole.
There will be a drinks reception and a chance to network after the forum.
To reserve a place, email: email@example.com
The second research forum for the creative and critical residency of Kayo Chingonyi occurred on the 4th March at the offices of Counterpoints Arts. After a brief summation of the previous events of the residency, the floor was open to discuss their work in relation to refugees and migration.
First to speak was Laila Sumpton who spoke about her co-founding and subsequent work with Bards Without Borders, a collective of poets from refugee and migrant backgrounds making new work inspired by Shakespeare. The organisation encourages people to question the cultural ownership of Shakespeare and it invites 10 poets from 10 different countries with 10 languages to respond to Shakespeare with a focus on exile. It creates spaces for refugees and migrants to develop as artists, who are poets and artists in their own country but this collective gives them weight as artists in the UK. Bards Without Borders tackles a central focus of the residency: the combination of scholarly and academic standpoints on the topic of migration.
Comparatively, Dr Stephen Smith described events to be put on in the Petrie Museum and in the Great North Museum that encourage memories of the Romans in the Middle East and North Africa. He aimed to encourage people to change their engagement with museum artefacts to create new memories from old objects. You can see details of the project here.
Lucy Coren, who is currently working as a Mobilizer for Playing Identities; a project using the Pan Speech online collaboration tools to mash-up European theatrical traditions, posited that theatre can be used as a bridging tool between communities and as such challenges dominant bureaucratic language surrounding refugees and migrants. She emphasised the need for care when presenting the refugee/migrant experience as the line between performance and appropriation can become easily blurred. To avoid this, Lucy’s project uses experimental practices outside of traditional theatre to create a creolised performance which encompasses a variety of experiences in an authentic manner.
As a performer of Yiddish songs, Vivi Lachs stressed the importance of multilingualism in performances that cross barriers of understanding. She discussed the tension between academia and performative art to convey the experience of the Yiddish diaspora. She questioned how you can define yourself within such a community and suggested that poetry and art can explore culture in an alternative way.
Our response to the forum was to think about the importance of language. Laila’s discussion about the colonial history of Shakespeare made us think about the trope of Caliban. Caliban’s use of language in The Tempest is significant in that he uses it against his colonisers. With this in mind, how much can the English language truly encompass the migrant experience? Whilst the unification of arts and activism can lead to new creative and critical ideas, it is still within the English language that these ideas are voiced. Bards Without Borders therefore presents a new way to re-imagine the English language and destabilize perceptions of refugees which, through the limiting scope of English, may prove to be detrimental.
Please join us for the second of our research forums, where we will be hearing about innovative collaborative projects from artists and academics.
WHEN: Friday, 4th March at 4 pm
WHERE: Counterpoints Arts, Unit 2\3 Hoxton Works, London, N1 6SH
CONTACT: email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place
Laila Sumpton: Poet, activist and co-founder of Bards Without Borders, a collective of poets from refugee and migrant background making new work inspired by Shakespeare.
Dr Stephen Smith: Visiting Tutor in Roman Archaeology and Art at Royal Holloway, University of London and co-organiser of a project called ‘Remembering the Romans in the Middle East and North Africa’.
Lucy Coren: MA Student at University of Kent and Mobilizer for Playing Identities, a project using the Pan Speech online collaboration tools to mash-up European theatrical traditions.
Alice Mukaka: PhD Candidate at UEL, who recently organised the seminar “The Role of Rights Activism, Academia and Performing Arts Practices: A conversation” as part of the programming connected to the play Nine Lives by Zodwa Nyoni at the Arcola Theatre.
Dr Vivienne Lachs: Teacher, Yiddishist and singer, Vivi sings Yiddish popular songs with local bands, leads walking tours of the East End and is currently working on a post-doctoral project connected to Kayo’s residency.
The first formal meeting of the project took place on the evening of Wednesday 3rd February. Those present set out their motivations for involvement and relevant personal research as well as their hopes and expectations from the project.
Kayo’s introduction to his residency highlighted his desire to create new work during the project, focusing on creative and critical hybridity. He opened with an example of what he thought this might look like: a poem by Li Young Lee entitled ‘Self-Help For Fellow Refugees’.
Dr. Emma Cox then offered a critical response to one of Kayo’s poems ‘Naturalised Citizens’. Her discussion focused on the relationship between language and power, quoting from Rowan Williams’ lecture, ‘War, Words and Reason’ . In reference to this, she initially used her own experience in visa application to explain how bureaucratic language and closed yes/no questions limit reality into a financial discourse of accept and reject. This is an issue in terms of individual self-expression as it blocks response.
She addressed the language of power and explored the attempt to emotionally conceptualise a hyper-rational bureaucratic language. Giving the recent quote ‘swarm/bunch of migrants’ as an example, she revealed how this, apparently flippant, use of metaphorical language perpetuates an image of migration and ultimately blocks any discussion into the credibility of this image. She was encouraged by the opportunity in the project to create new ways to respond to migration; focussing on liberation of expression.
The open discussion questioned the tension between the usefulness of migrant experience as an abstract concept, and the vital need to talk about legalities such as the refugee convention. It was admitted that the engagement of new people who are not directly involved in the discussion of Migrant Experience would be difficult. Attendees included those involved in Documentary, PhD researchers and novelists and all contributed ways in which audience reaction plays a part in the public understanding of the refugee experience.
In response to these discussions we considered Carolyn Cooper and her theory that translation is an ideological issue. This made us consider the extent to which writing in English would effect cultural expression: what idiosyncrasies of a culture are lost when described in a different language?
To end on a more hopeful note, Salman Rushdie argues that something can also be gained through this translation, and we will reflect on Kayo’s reading on Wednesday 10th February with this in mind.
A reading with poet Kayo Chingonyi and playwright Angeliki Tsanikidou
4.00 – 5.30 pm 10th February 2016
Boilerhouse Auditorium, Royal Holloway, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX
Kayo Chingonyi is the author of two books of poetry, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016) and is currently working on a third. He is a writer-in-residence at George Green’s School, a commissioned poet for the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Associate Poet at the ICA from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016.
Angeliki Kitrini Tsanikidou was born in Greece. She comes from a long line of good story tellers. Growing up, she was fascinated by the stories she heard from the women in her family and decided to start making her own. She studied English and Drama, worked for the Theatre and as a teacher in Greece before moving to the UK to undertake a PhD in playwriting.