May 28 2015
There were many, many events at the Alchemy Festival (May 15-25) at the Southbank Centre and some of our writers visited more than one offering and in this piece one looks back at her own personal highlight
by Chayya Syal
THIS year saw the London Southbank centre open its doors to Alchemy (May 15 – 25) for the sixth year running. The festival celebrates the cultural relationship between the UK and the Indian sub-continent and saw artists and festival-goers from around the world descend upon London.
The highlights, for me, included watching “Veil“, “United Colours of Frustrasian” and “The Singh Project” to floor art from Nepal (Mandala) and a walk-through exhibition which detailed the South Asian experience in Britain from both World Wars to date.
Having toured, and received glowing praise, in the Midlands and Bradford, it was only a matter of time before “Veil” came to London.
It was created by production outfit, Mama Quilla, and is an installation piece which also features a live performance about British Muslim women.
Upon arrival, viewers were greeted by three masked figures shrouded in white material that represented Muslim women from different parts of the world. As the performance got underway, each actor unveiled themselves from the mask and fabric as they recounted their experiences – these ranged from child rape and war in Syria, an abusive marriage to a young career-driven woman’s anxiety about beauty and aspects of womanhood in a Somali village.
The installation aspect involved three domes with a speaker, where viewers could stand under and listen to British Muslim women discussing different types of veils from the burqa and hijab, gender and sexuality to make-up.
It made for powerful and emotive viewing; each story drew the audience in and it was fascinating to see how they wove in and out of each other seamlessly. At the end, a Q&A session was held to allow the audience to ask questions and for Shanaz Gulzar to discuss the installation in greater detail.
Another production, which also discussed the nuances of British Asian identity, was “United Colours of FrustrAsian“.
Members of the audience were treated to performance which fused live music, technology and story-telling as we were taken on a journey of examining identity and how it is constructed. The piece featured two actors (Inder Goldfinger and Ezra Khan) who recalled moments of their past and reflected on how the preconceptions of skin colour, faith and gender had impacted their lives.
The piece hinged on two questions: ‘Who are we?’ and ‘Who might we become?’ While it was extremely confusing to follow the play’s storyline, I found the performance to be extremely relatable – I even had tears in my eyes at one point – and relevant given Britain’s current social backdrop.
‘United Colours of FrustrAsian’ is presented as part of Alchemy on Tour, in partnership with Black Country Touring, Cast, Doncaster, Oldham Coliseum and Southbank Centre.> For more on see here http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/united-colour-of-frustrasian-90768