‘Africanize’ Harakati Offers: A facilitators P.O.V


The purpose of this workshop was to engage with the University of Birmingham’s Research & Cultural Collections (RCC) African collection of artworks and artefacts. Practising use of voice and body as a methodology, canvas & platform; participants and researchers are encouraged to come together to embody the nuances around the existence of the collection in its new context, as opposed to its original country of origin. This acting & performance workshop was designed to embody the feelings, the consequences and projected meanings of the collection. And from this hopeful angle of sympathy, we would speak on behalf and or to the art for all of us doubling as an audience to hear and also be invited into the interpretation process. 

“all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” – (from As You Like It, spoken by Jaques) 

We were full of creativity and interests for the genius on display in the Banking hall of the Exchange university building. Expectations were questioned from very early on, as to how acting & theatre can intersect with african heritage. It was important to follow an order of introductory play, context of the collection and then final full creative engagement. Something we had practised in the three previous Africanize workshops. 

For the acting workshop, with support from the RCC we came close to the theatre of museum culture. Questions of who can or why we can’t served as character motivations. Who can touch the artwork? Who is considered smart enough? Who is the final interpreter? Why can’t we as the public touch the objects? Why are they encased? Why haven’t we engaged in this way? 

There were audible gasps as a gloved objects expert allowed for three thorn figures to tour the faces of its guests in the hand of an untrained but inquisitive performance artist. We were amidst the depths of the stories of these objects and indebted to the knowledge they inspired. It wasn’t until we debated the meaning of Yusuf Grillo – Musicians in Procession that we questioned who would be right or if more light could be shared on the “right” interpretation of art. Together we accepted the power of interpretation when it isn’t stifled. We followed our own intuition around the space, telling and re-telling stories. Using our imagination as a language for lived experience. We were ready to be actors, like Shakespeare’s players. for “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.

Harakati Offers: 

  • We often find it difficult to escape a mentality where by we accept the interpretations dictated on to us 
  • We are master specimens creating masterpieces. All of us. 
  • We come into rooms like this, knowing that we will discover each other in the mystery of how we collectively engage with African heritage.

Three songs listened to whilst writing this: 

  • Valesuchi ft. Vaskular – Black Jesus 
  • Frisco – Fire Hydrant 
  • Young T & Bugsey – Dundee 
Written by Sipho Eric Ndlovu
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