Alexandrina Hemsley and Seke Chimutengwende
Alexandrina Hemsley and Seke Chimutengwende began working together in 2016. Exploring the potentials and problematics of Afrofuturism shapes their collaboration. They situate their bodies inside shifting and imagined landscapes, searching for hopeful possibilities amidst the harshness of past and present dystopias.
‘We - the universe - come up for air from the dank cavern of non-existence” - Black Holes 2018
Alexandrina and Seke’s previous collaborations include leading a professional development workshop as part of LADA’s DIY 13 programme, Unfunky UFO. Supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation this project became a DIY Progression project, which they facilitated a four day artists’ retreat for artists of colour to explore how their work journeys in dialogue with futurity.
Their current project Black Holes weaves together poetic text and movement, Alexandrina and Seke come together to retell the history of the universe from the big bang through to the universe’s death.
Speculating on how to be with their bodies that carry histories of marginalisation and anti-blackness, Seke and Alexandrina combine elements of Science Fiction, and personal narrative to propel the personal and the mythic onto a cosmic scale.
“More and more my artistic practice is concerned with building environments where movement states can happen; where the multidirectional, transformational potential of dance can conjure itself over and over. A space for othering that resists alienation but is instead the process of becoming otherwise. A suggesting of invitations to look and to feel that are other to the white, hetero, cis-male modes of gaze and meaning production.
I have been drawn to afrofuturism since making a series of photographs with Katarzyna Perlak called Bounty Bars and Oreo Cookies. (see image)
I enjoy afrofuturism as a strategy to situate my body in fictional spaces that both make apparent systematic, racist dislocations and their effects (feelings of not belonging or being anywhere) while supporting/fueling the body-imagination to do whatever it wants and needs. I am also interested in problematising much of afrofuturisms US-centric aesthetics and questioning the space mainstream afrofutrism makes for those of african diaspora far away from the ‘Motherland’.
Making Black Holes has led me down the path of asking, ‘Where do I/we as people of colour, get to spill out of ourselves? Where can we be excessive rather than hold stories in?’. It’s partly why the work has such an absurdly ambitious narrative thread - to retell the history of the universe. Voicing the universe’s beginning and end launches speculation far beyond the current contemporary frictions without flying away completely; for there are beginnings and endings to navigate each day. In the attempt to ‘escape’ I hope Seke and I evoke the complexities of escaping current, oppressive political climates.
The creative process has allowed me to take a confident step and build upon both my writing and movement practices. An act of healing a place into being. A poetic work to put the things that feel like too much in.”
“I have been working across the forms of experimental dance, physical theatre and improvised performance in both large and small scale contexts over the last 14 years as a maker, performer and teacher.
Black Holes is the second science fiction piece I have made, the first being The Time Travel Piece, a show about a time traveler who travels to various points in the far-flung future to watch a series of dance performances. He then comes back to the present and attempts to recreate them.
I found out about Afrofuturism a few years ago reading an article about Nnedi Okarafor’s work. I was already a big George Clinton fan and had heard some of Sun Ra’s work but didn’t realise that they were also referred to as Afrofuturists. I became fascinated with the subject and read books by Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany and NK Jemison. I wondered if anyone had made any Afrofuturist dance pieces but couldn’t find any at the time and thought about making one myself.
Black Holes is the first time I have made a piece in collaboration with someone else, the first duet I have made, the first time I have performed in my own choreography in a significant way and the probably the least improvised piece I have made.
For me Black Holes draws on Afrofuturism to disrupt dominant ways of thinking about race in relation to the past, present and future. When I read Octavia Butler or listen to George Clinton’s music it can feel like a relief to see different ways of representing race. I hope Black Holes give people this same feeling.”
Black Holes is choreographed, written and performed by Seke Chimutengwende and Alexandrina Hemsley.
Black Holes Project is co-commissioned by Cambridge Junction, The Place and Chisenhale Dance Space. Supported initially by a 2016 Seed Commission for BAME artists from Camden People’s Theatre and supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Additional support from Trinity Laban and Greenwich Dance.
Categories: Featured Artist
Date Posted: 23 May 2018