REVIEW – THE HAIR WRAP DIARIES

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by Carmina Masoliver

Piles of colourful patterned fabrics line the stage, and three women dressed in black Lycra leotards select a fabric and wrap it around their head. The fabrics are drawn across the stage as the performers’ bodies undulate in a backwards crawl, before the scene is set as a hair salon with the colours swept away in a swirl around a chair.

As the title The Hair Wrap Diaries suggests, during this Uchenna Dance production written by Bola Agaje in partnership with director and choreographer Vicki Igbokwe, we hear different stories from each performer. Yet the show is also interspersed  with dance, giving it a strong sense of poetics as the words are broken up and repeated with the movements. The stories themselves are carefully selected, offering a rainbow of different generations of black women, exploring their relationship with hair.Continue Reading

DEBRIS STEVENSON — PIGEON PARTY

by Carmina Masoliver

Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson is founder of The Mouthy Poets, based in Nottingham, who are a collective of 50 young poets. A poet herself, with a blurb of incredible achievements, I can’t help but envy her success as someone so near my age (she’s actually younger). Watching from the outside, I can see how much she has grafted to get where she is today, and her enthusiasm for what she does shines through at workshops, performance events, and is inside every well-chosen word on the pages of the Pigeon Party (2014) collection with flipped eye publishing.

Poems are enclosed in two-part poem After The Blackstone Rangers, which sets the scene for the collection. They describe a childhood growing up in cities, where “everyone was learning”, whether rolling cigarettes, or dancing. The words are both familiar and unexpected; a place where love and friendships are based on fun that is “still disposable and warm” — referring to the “can of Scrumpy Jacks”— but also holding a wider resonance, like most of Stevenson’s work.Continue Reading

POETRY HITS THE HEADLINES, BUT IS IT FOR THE RIGHT REASONS?

by Carmina Masoliver

For those who are partial to a bit of poetry, you’ll probably have heard by now that Sarah Howe has been awarded this year’s T.S. Eliot prize by judges Pascale Petit (chair), Kei Miller, and Ahren Warner. You may also have seen this article, which questioned the negative tinge of the criticism of which Howe has received. Katy Evans-Bush argued that these criticisms were more to do with Howe’s age, gender and ethnicity (Howe is of dual Chinese-British heritage). Some seemed baffled both that it was possible to win on a first collection, yet also that it took her ten years to write. Surely the fact that she spent so long producing the poetry might suggest how it became possible to win? I mean, that, or witchcraft.Continue Reading

SEXY FILTHY GYPSIES: THE STRUGGLE FOR ROMANY IDENTITY THROUGH THE ARTS

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by Jonathan Lee 

In the post-imperialist Western world, liberal society is becoming ever more self-aware of social and cultural sensitivities, most evidently in the influence of the arts as a vehicle for perceptions of race, gender, sexuality and culture. Cultural appropriation is a topic hotly debated, and one where the divide between appropriation and appreciation can sometimes be uncertain. This ambiguity and subsequent argument is usually tied to power relationships, dichotomy in stereotypes (e.g. black hairstyles being perceived differently on white heads) and most often, the struggle for the appropriated culture to control its own identity.

The struggle for Roma to self-determine their own public identity — that being which is perceived by those outside of the Romany community — has historically been dominated by stereotypes of the ‘Gypsy other’. These myths, biases and often outright lies likely stem from the Middle Ages with arrival of the Roma in Europe. In an age of relative racial homogeneity, the Roma appeared as a foreign, outsider race whose dark countenance was associated with evil in a time of church hegemony and bigotry. The associations forged with the Roma during their early arrival were compounded by subsequent centuries of persecution and hatred, often based on conceptions of ‘the Gypsy other’ rather than interactions.Continue Reading