Dreaming big for 2019. EMC News and a New Years Eve Eve gift for you

E ku odun, Eku iyedun, Bonne Année,  Feliz Ano Novo, Happy New Year!

Welcome all our friends and supporters to our January newsletter!

Wooooow it is nearly 2019 and what an amazing last month of 2018:

Kundalini learnings with the Karam Kriya School,
Featuring in on the big screen in Beth Rowley’s Forest Fire at the London International Film Festival (which also took home two awards),
The launch of Business Yoga,
The launch of two films with Dancing Words at the Free Word Centre,
The chance to see the Athlone Young Poets who I met during my British Council funded trip to South Africa working with poet Toni Stuart perform in London (sponsored by The Barbican),
Launching with represent North in Leeds,
Completing my first two months working at Yorkshire Dance on a project with Older people,
Flying to Nigeria with Global Grooves and Gemz Mas Band.

Above is a photo taken in Nigeria whilst parading with Global Grooves at the IMO State carnival. Below you can read a snippet from my blog about the experience… full blog will be released in January.

I am excited to get this newsletter out to you before January begins, because I hear that the 5th January is the perfect time to dream big and make your new years intentions and so, I wanted to give away a free and magic worksheet made up of many different tools I have learnt and been taught that helped me to look back and review 2018 and to face forward and dream big for 2019!

At the link you will see some easy exercises that will take you about 15 minutes to complete and will help you make 2019 your best year yet!

http://ellamesma.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/New-Year-Intentions-inspirations.pdf

Wishing you a beautiful beginning to 2019 and we hope you have given yourself time to rest, recharge and reflect!

Below you can also read all about next months workshops which I am super excited to be touring across the UK and further afield plus you can make the most of our early bird discount.

And you can catch the trailer/interview for our new project Foreign Bodies, find the links to the poetry dance films which launched this month, and read a snippet from my latest blog about a beautiful trip to Nigeria!

Happy New Year,

Much love,

Ella xxx

Nigeria for the Imo State Carnival
I have just landed from what I can only describe as the best, most extreme, most epic trip of my life: Nigeria really felt like a high vibrational place where all the spiritual journeys I have been on over the last four years began to take on a deeper meaning.

Travelling with Global Grooves and Gemz Mas Band for the Imo State Carnival, the best way to describe Nigeria is as medicine for the soul: not always easy but transformational if you are able to receive the lessons… Even where to begin with the day to day experiences of Nigeria I cannot… but I feel I truly understood the saying “As above so below” because with each disaster, an equally amazing experience happened: for each moment of bliss, there was an equally as shocking one… but truly, I think that they were only so sweet tasting because the harshness of some experiences meant we could truly step into gratitude and thus abundance and realise that it’s not about everything being perfect but about seeing the perfection in each moment…

Full blog coming in 2019

Upcoming Workshops: HEART and HOME
HOME Series Workshops: Dates for your diary and discounts.
I have recently developed 7 workshops which are touring the UK and Europe using both movement and meditation. These workshops are designed to heal, open and empower, and each is inspired by a specific chakra.

I developed these workshops to unleash the dancer inside all of us: to move uniquely, to create authentically, to respond, to lead, to follow. Just like nature, we all have our natural and unique talents to share with the world, and I love to use beautiful rhythms, magic and creative imagination to draw these out and come home to who we are together and how we move authentically.

HEART is a movement meditation which uses different techniques from contemporary and partner dances to get back in touch with ourselves and to remember how to communicate without words. Danced to Latin and other awesome tracks HEART includes lifting, one to one and group partner combinations as well as meditations to connect to the heart.

Upcoming Sessions:12th January: HEART and HOME at Trinity, Bristol

19th January: HEART at Siendo, Lisbon 

27th January: HEART at The Place

Prices:
Earlybird: £15 (Pay before 7th January)
Drop in class: £20
Buy four classes: £50 (£12.50 per class)

Beth Rowley’s Forest Fire
Dancing Words: Poetry dance collborations
Dancing Words presented 3 new poetry dance films featuring the work of 3 exceptional British poets. Catch the full length videos here:
Warsan Shire
Caleb Femi
Mimi Khalvati
Foreign Bodies: An Underwater Love Story

Thank you for your follow

Researching the Underwater Love story that is: Foreign Bodies

Foreign Bodies | Ella Mesma Company | Interview R & D phase 1 from Ella Mesma on Vimeo.

This autumn, I have been supported by Arts Council of England and Metal to research and develop a dance theatre piece. Danced to Fado, Kizomba and Kuduro rhythms by composer Sabio Janiak we created FOREIGN BODIES: An underwater love story.

Triggered by something I learnt a family member on one side of my parents said about someone from the other side, the piece became a love story involving two people of different heritage to explore identity, belonging and racism. We used the notion of disease, contamination, and transplantation as metaphors to explore the experience of ‘the other’ –BAME people, and other marginalised groups, and ask what is gained and lost through integration. We have been researching movement and dance techniques to translate an underwater love story between two people of different heritages (inspired by my parents).

Told through the narration of host Milton Lopes, Foreign Bodies is an interactive anonymous quiz show.

I am extremely grateful to have been able to use this R&D period to develop the choreographic language of the piece drawing on folkloric styles like Kuduro and Kizomba as well as working with an experienced Creative Technologist to explore how digital technologies can build on the sensory and empathetic experiences of audience members.

In the age of Aquarius: a time where technology like the worldwide web connect us, I wanted to explore the difference between online worlds: without borders, to the world of immigration, visas and forced migration. In the R & D for Foreign Bodies, we set out to cross borders and oceans to illuminate the enormity of time, to tell the stories of individuals and echo the bigger stories: ancestry, evolution and the haunting legacy of historical power structures. I spent a lot of time developing the text and researching around science, religion, language and colonialism.

During the process I reaffirmed that the piece was a love story: that even worked its way into the title! Most of my work also speaks of transformation, of the journey to know ourselves and during this  & D, I discovered that in this work, the metaphor around trauma would be told using ‘jellyfish.’ Inspired by Jellyfish, Foreign Bodies is about the healing of trauma and the planet earth.

My ultimate ambition during this R&D was to make a structure for a one hour show. I am happy to say I did just that and surpassed it, because I also wrote a script! I developed the script, with the support of Edson Burton, Milton Lopes (actor) and Luke Pell, and was able to put together a full framework for the script and an hour long show, which Sabio Janiak is now using to develop the music.

Over the period, I was offered in kind mentoring by Annie Rigby from Unfolding Theatre and it was super helpful to have someone I could call up and talk over the various challenges in the studio. I learnt that this is extremely important and valuable to an effective creative process and what a wonderful human being she is!

With the support of South East Dance I had the opportunity to work with experienced dramaturge Luke Pell, and I would like to continue to nurture this relationship for the future. I loved working with Luke and really benefitted from having him present.

I like to work with diverse casts who have a range of different styles and experiences and tend to work collaboratively, each bringing our personal experiences to the work, allowing a depth and a vulnerability to the work and a safe space to learn and grow. I collaborated with a cast of 6 artists (Milton Lopes, Lucia Afonso, Elsabet Yonas, David Evans, Franck Arnaud Lusbec, Isaac Ouro Gnao). Each artist brought special skills and a range of dance styles such as Bele (Martinique), Kuduro (Angola), Breaking & House, as well as contemporary dance. I also worked with  Sabrina Henry (costume designer who works with artists of various disciplines to connect pre-colonial traditions with the British experience as a way to re-imagine the future). The development of this work was a deeply personal piece for the cast and myself and we grew as a collaboration, and a company. The entire cast, including musician, costume designer and technologist are invested in the future of this work, which is super exciting: I cannot wait to see where it goes at the next phase.

We spent 1 week rehearsing in Liverpool and also visited the Slavery Museum, one week in Bristol, including a transatlantic slavery history tour of the city with Dr Edson Burton, and one week in London.

In addition to the R &D, we shared the work with the Creative Youth Network in Bristol, who fed back on the work and to small audiences in London and Bristol, and invited Ersen Ermis a videographer to film the work, creating a short trailer and interview about the piece. We offered morning company class to professional dancers and one workshop aimed at amateur dancers and people who are new to dance in Bristol.

I developed technology with Gentlemen Octopus Limited (who are currently creating technology for Massive Attack) to create an interactive anonymous quiz show. This meant I was able to further develop my desire to make work which is immersive for the audience but without putting the audience on the spot or making them feel pressured or singled out. I researched the British Citizenship test and many texts, and from that, developed a fun quiz, which explores “what does it mean to be a citizen of the world?” Long term, I want the audience to have a fun immersive experience that is informative, provocative and presents different viewpoints and stories to shed light on history.

During the process, I had been thinking about how art can be used as a tool to tell personal and global and stories and speak up about what is happening in the world. It had been a strange and sad time globally, with Bolsonaro coming to power in Brazil, the migrant caravan headed from Honduras to the US and the death of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, and so this work became an important opportunity to provide a message. I believe that art can be used as a tool to shed light on the collective suffering in the world and as a tool to protest and make our views heard. I aim with this work to make peaceful yet provocative art that engages non-dancers and breaks the fourth wall accessibly and comfortably.

In this creative process, I was able to finally step into and be the choreographer I always wanted to be. By changing my role to just choreographer and not dancing, I was able to work fast, efficiently and intuitively, bringing new sides to my personality to the space, and seeing the whole picture of the work truly. I have learnt that I am truly moving into and across art forms with this work, and to understand how I work and who I am as an artist.

I learnt a lot about holding the space and all the tension in it: artists bring their own lives and their personal stories and history to the space. I developed a system to check in each morning and allow that stuff to be seen so that we could raise above it and work effectively. I also used this to deal with some of the bigger and heavy topics in the space and to deal with any dynamics in the space. I feel I learnt a lot about this in terms of the people in the space: the work that I am making: that asks a lot of the company, and I got further insight into how to manage that so I can get the best out of each dancer and allow them to feel safe and held.

I also learnt a lot about how to protect and care for myself in that environment: a lot is needed to balance such a space and not get worn down or worn out by the needs of everyone in the space, and so I learnt to appreciate the self care needed to work in this environment and stay true to me. I realised how important it is to state what I want and need clearly and not to take on others ‘stuff’, or to take things personally, but instead to uphold my standards of excellence, and to strive consistently for that.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this process: I could not have done it without you all! I look forward to sharing more news on this exciting project soon!

Thank you for your follow

December Updates

Read the original post here

Olá, Hola, Bonjour, Pẹlẹ o,

Waaaah! It is nearly 2019!

Welcome all our friends and supporters to our December updates… the season of Sagittarius!

We have many things to share with you… plus an incredible discount on our classes (almost half price) for our loyal newsletter readers.

Sagittarius is a time to dream bigger and envision new possibilities, and we have been doing just that!

Above is a fabulous photo taken by the extremely talented and visionary Nathalie Teitler for part of her ‘Dancing Words’ series.

I danced for two poems this year: for poet Mimi Khalvati, and my absolute hero, Warsan Shire (who wrote some of my favourite bits of the Lemonade album for Beyonce herself!)

Sneak preview clips from Mimi Khalvati and Warsan Shire poems are below as well as info on how to come and see the full length footage.

Below you can also read all about next months workshops which I am super excited to be touring across the UK and further afield next year….
(plus get an exclusive discount available to subscribers only!)

And you can watch the trailer/interview below (which we made during the R&D for our new project Foreign Bodies). We are now in the planning phase for part two… excited doesn’t cut it… audience…promoters… the world… I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly!

Reflecting on 2018 before this year comes to a close, here are some of our highlights:

I graduated with an MA from LSCD (I still can’t quite believe it! Blog post coming soon!)

Tichea Brade and I curated WCOL at Richmix, a beautiful event sharing the talents of so many amazing artists from DJ to beatboxer to a chocolate yoga meditation!

I toured Roots of Rumba to 6 venues and sold out in London working with some incredible artists (watch the highlights here: It was such a delight to be able to tour some of my absolute favourite artists around the UK!)

I began touring a series of 7 workshops (which I hope to be touring much more in 2019 across the UK and further afield!)

Our team of wonderful women finished the Ladylike tour (Oh chickens I miss you so!)

We began the creation of a new work (Foreign Bodies: An Underwater Love Story) (as mentioned more below)

Toni Stuart (poet) and I premiered Papyllon in South Africa (It was also my first time ever to visit Africa:which was pretty life changing): If you haven’t already check out my blog posts about the experience here.

All this as well as lots of teaching dance and yoga, and moving to Leeds to work part time as a Dance Development Artist for Yorkshire Dances’ Dance On project. (We just take it all with big Martha Graham style strides)

We are also excited to announce our becoming a resident at Pervasive Media Studio in 2019 (we are doing the running man right now to celebrate) and Trinity Bristol Associate Artist. Plus I am super excited to be travelling back to Africa this month: I am headed to Nigeria with Global Grooves for a Christmas Carnival show!

Wishing you a beautiful and festive month creating what you love!

Much love,
Ella xxx

Foreign Bodies: An Underwater Love Story
We have begun the process of creating a new show: Arts Council funded project Foreign bodies: an underwater love story danced to
Fado,
Kizomba,
Kuduro rhythms by composer and magic maker Sabio Janiak (who also makes music for Hofesh Shecter)… check out some of his magic hereNarrated by Milton Lopes (who I first met as an apprentice with Upswing Circus and is also an incredible circus artist!),
Foreign Bodies is an interactive anonymous quiz show with technology by Gentlemen Octopus Limited (who are currently creating technology for Massive Attack), that explores:
“what does it mean to be a citizen of the world?”
Using Jellyfish as a metaphor (hence my newfound obsession with all things jelly: they are even getting into my dreams!),
we explored healing from trauma on planet earth.We had some wonderful artists join us:
Franck Arnaud-Lusbec
Lucia Afonso
David Evans
Elsabet Yonas
Isaac Ouro Gnao
as well as dramaturgy Luke Pell via South East Dance (thank you thank you thank you!). We hope to bring Foreign Bodies back in 2019… watch this space!
Dancing Words: The Ugly Daughter and Afterwardness
Dancing Words present 3 new poetry dance films featuring the work of 3 exceptional British poets:
Warsan Shire
Caleb Femi
Mimi KhalvatiThere will be a poetry reading by Caleb Femi, as well as a Q & A shared by Dfiza Afi Benson with panelists:
Poet Caleb Femi
Filmmaker Fiona Melville
Dancers Elsabet Yonas and myself
Costume designer Sabrina Henry
Creative director Natalie TeitlerTuesday 11th December

Free Word Centre

60 Farringdon Road

London

EC1R 3GA

Reserve Tickets

Afterwardness Trailer
Upcoming Workshops: HEART and HOME
Dates for your diary!

I am super excited about these 7 workshops which I began creating using both movement and meditation on my lovely company dancers. Each workshop is designed to heal, open and empower. and is inspired by a specific chakra:

HOME
WOMB
CREATE
HEART
SING
FLY
SPACE

I created these workshops to unleash the dancer inside all of us: to move uniquely, to create authentically, to respond, to lead, to follow. Just like nature, we all have our natural and unique talents to share with the world, and I love to use beautiful rhythms, magic and creative imagination to draw these out and come home to who we are together and how we move authentically.
12th January: HEART and HOME at Trinity, Bristol

19th January: HEART at Siendo, Lisbon (Watch out for more information!)

27th January: HEART at The Place
TIMES: 16.00-18.00

24th February: WOMB at The Place

31st March: CREATE at The Place

28th April: SING at The Place

HEART uses different techniques from contemporary and partner dances to get back in touch with ourselves and to remember how to communicate without words. Danced to Latin, Electronic, and other awesome tracks HEART includes lifting, one to one and group partner combinations as well as meditations to connect to the heart.

Prices:
Earlybird: £15 (Pay before 1st January)

Drop in class: £20

Buy four classes: £50 (£12.50 per class)

Receive your VIP Newsletter Readers discount
Dance On at Yorkshire Dance
I have also been working as a dance development artist on a lovely project in Yorkshire run by Yorkshire Dance. Dance On is a dance programme to tackle inactivity among older adults, delivered by a partnership of One Dance UK, Yorkshire Dance and darts (Doncaster Community Arts). It is a lovely project: there have been tears, laughter and meeting some many beautiful souls! Have a little look here (And if you know an older person in Leeds who might want to dance, send them along!)
Thank you for reading! Don’t forget to make use of our special and exclusive discount for our January workshop at the place (And let us know if you want to make it a Christmas voucher and we can post you out a beautiful printed voucher!)

Don’t forget to follow our facebook page and instagram accounts for insights and giveaways.

Have a wonderful month and closing of 2018 from all the team at EMC

Thank you for your follow

Ella Mesma’s Updates (November 2018)

Olá, Hola, Bonjour, Pẹlẹ o to all our friends and supporters,

Welcome to our November update. We hope you are all well and enjoying the pumpkins and fireworks: autumn has truly arrived, and what better time for creating, reflection and some deep learning!

Above is the talented Dani Sands who performed at Roots of Rumba this summer. Photo by Ersen Ermis.

Below you can read all about this months workshops, Roots of Rumba and Papyllon updates and footage and all our recommends! Wishing you a beautiful month creating what you love!

Much love,

Ella

 

CREATING
Here at Ella Mesma Company, we have been creating a new show: Arts Council funded project Foreign bodies: an underwater love story danced to Fado, Kizomba and Kuduro rhythms by composer Sabio Janiak.

Told through the narration of our host Milton Lopes, Foreign Bodies is an interactive anonymous quiz show which we are developing with Gentlemen Octopus Limited that explores what it means to be a citizen of the world. In an age where tools like the web connect us, ‘Foreign Bodies’ crosses borders and oceans illuminating the enormity of time to tell the stories of individuals and echoing the bigger stories: ancestry, evolution and the haunting legacy of historical power structures.

Inspired by Jellyfish, Foreign Bodies is about the healing of trauma and the planet earth. We had some wonderful artists join us on a creative R&D across the UK: Franck Arnaud-Lusbec, Lucia Afonso, David Evans, Elsabet Yonas and Isaac Ouro Gnao as well as actor Milton Lopes and dramaturgy Luke Pell. We visited Metal in Liverpool, The Trinity Centre in Bristol and Shoreditch Town Hall via Dance Umbrella and Sadler’s Wells in London. Thank you Arts Council for your support and all the venues which hosted us. The interview about the process of this first phase of R&D is not quite ready but keep an eye out as we will be releasing it this month!

Dancing Words

I joined Dancing Words to film two poetry dance pieces for two wonderful poets: Warsan Shire and Mimi Khalvati and costumes by Sabrina Henry and make up by Michela Di Felice. I can’t wait to see the results!

REFLECTING
Papyllon

With time to sit down and reflect, I was able to put in to words all of the emotions I felt in South Africa in this bloghttp://ellamesma.co.uk/blog/papyllon about my journey creating a duet with Poet Toni Stuart. In this newsletter you will also see the first draft of the trailer of our piece, called Papyllon below:

Papyllon Trailer
Roots Of Rumba

In July through to September we toured Roots of Rumba: a beautiful event. Above is a foto taken by photographer Ersen Ermis of Ffion Campbell Davies in her performance of “Womb Paves Way” which premiered with us here at Richmix. Below you will see a teaser of some of the shows that were a part of the tour.

Roots of Rumba teaser trailer
LEARNING
I have been thinking about how art can be used as a tool to tell personal and global and stories and speak up about what is happening in the world. It has been a strange and sad time in the world, with Bolsonaro coming to power in Brazil, the migrant caravan headed from Honduras to the US and the death of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, and so this message from Marianne Williamson of the Teach the Teachers training I have been doing this month felt poignant:

“We don’t speak forcefully enough when it comes to politics, the environment, and social issues. If we continue polluting the air and water, we could lose civilisation as we know it. If we continue to suppress the vote among large groups of people, we could lose our democracy.

We cannot pretend this isn’t happening. There’s a difference between transcendence and denial. Negative denial is when you’re just not looking at it. Positive denial is when you realise it’s happening, but you deny its ability to go any further, now that you’re here. You deny its ultimate power over you.

We have to use our spiritual perspectives to reduce ourselves to zero—so that we can be present for the really big issues facing humanity. To be really available to the suffering of humanity, it has to mean more than just the suffering of the individual. We have to wake up to the collective suffering”.

This is why I love art as a tool to protest and make our views heard. This month I saw an awesome piece of street art in Bristol, and continue to resolve to make art which does not ignore the problems of the world and spreads love!

HOME WORKSHOP with Ella Mesma at The Place, London

DATE: 4th November
TIMES: 16.30-18.00
COSTS: £20

HOME: Starting with the feet and the ‘Yonvalou’ from Haiti (which traces back to Benin in West Africa), HOME is is part of a series of workshops which I use with my company dancers to encourage us to come home to our bodies, using dance and the voice as a healing tool to and expression of freedom. HOME uses different improvisation techniques to discover the unique movement language within all of us.  Danced to Latin and Afro house, (and other awesome tracks) HOME includes body isolations, contract/release work, floorwork and the imagination!

We have 6 places left and I would love to share this special workshop with lovers of good music that moves you: all experiences welcome: just come with an open heart and imagination! Reserve your tickets at this link below:

Sign Up Now
SHARING
3rd November: WE CREATED OUR LIFE with Tichea Brade 

is about inspiring and empowering people to create the life they would love. The event focuses on connection and leadership, because effective communication can be the catalyst for change. In this world where we have become disconnected from ourselves and others, good communication skills can enable real human heart connection, leading to a happier and more connected community.

I will also be sharing a workshop called HEART at the event

https://www.richmix.org.uk/events/dance/we-created-our-life

And that’s all we have space for! (Photo above of Francis Odongo taken by Nicola Hunter at our Newcastle CPD day).

Don’t forget to follow our facebook page and instagram accounts for insights and giveaways: We think this article about the true roots of Halloween is a fascinating read!

Thank you for reading our news and have a wonderful month!

Thank you for your follow

Papyllon: My journey in South Africa

This year I had the incredible experience of travelling for my first time to Africa. I was awarded an Artist International Development (also my first time to receive the award) to work with acclaimed international poet Toni Stuart in Capetown. Just reflecting back on this experience I am filled with every emotion from warmth at the wonderful people I met, saudade (at missing them like mad) and then at the same time a combination of confusion, and anger at some of the other things I saw and experienced in South Africa.

We explored the complexities, nuances and discomfort around identity and ethnicity as people of heritage who often pass for white, exploring what privileges and what guilt that brings us, and how it affects how we view ourselves, can we view ourselves as women of colour? South Africa, with such a complex history of racism where it was actually illegal to be mixed heritage was a powerful place to locate the creation of this work. In the first week, before we began rehearsals, we attended the Cape History Tour with the incredibly inspiring Lucille Campbell, learning many untold tories of South African people of colour historically. I also visited the apartheid museum in Johannesburg and went to Robben Island: all of which were incredibly harrowing and important reminders of the history of this complex country and of how fear can lead to such atrocities in the world.

I found myself thinking a lot about privilege over the weeks I was in South Africa: around slavery and the lack of reparations or redistributing of wealth after apartheid, at the privileges I have experienced in life and at being able to be there on this incredible journey, at the opportunity to have had an education and at being able to create work which I truly love, at the very obvious divides in wealth in the city: for example the gates locking people in to their houses to protect their wealth. Then the bigger signs of privilege, for example on the day of our second performance I saw police moving homeless people sleeping rough in the centre out to other areas: which reminded me of many things that happened during apartheid with re-housing, or of stories I had read in Trevor Noah’s ‘Born a crime’.

Papyllon was a deeply personal piece for both Toni Stuart and I to create, and took the form of the heroine’s journey to speak about our mixed heritages; what we, as women, learn and un-learn from our mothers; and how we step into our own lives. Papyllon was also inspired by the four stages of transformation in the lifecycle of the butterfly and alchemy or transformation in the form of healing and stepping into our best selves.

There is a strong tradition of ancestor worship in South Africa: making offerings to, honouring and respecting our ancestors, and a belief that our ancestors maintain a spiritual connection with their living relatives. Doing some of this work myself I was struck to see this drawing below of us with the long line of our ancestors behind us (the women to the left, the men to the right) and how much it resembles a butterfly or bird. I wanted to work with the butterfly in Papyllon because it is reborn during its lifetime on earth, and I wanted to allow this experience to be a cleansing and a rebirth for us and our ancestors.

Via Dancing Words collaborations: I have interpreted the poetry of Warsan Shire, Karen McCarthy Wolf and Mona Arshi, but this would be my first time to creating work as a true collaboration with a poet and sharing the spcae. I learnt a lot stepping into the poetry world about the power of language and communication: especially in a country where there are 12 national languages. I found myself thinking a lot about how language can be a powerful tool to oppress and to empower. Poetry being one very empowering tool: just like song, to allow people to have a voice. There is a deep healing that can happen in a poem, and as I got to know the community further during the Open Book Festival, I was struck by the truth in poet Phelisa Sekwata’s words: ‘Poetry is a healing.’

Whilst I was in Cape Town, it was experiencing its worst drought in over a century. The campaign was city wide, asking us to limit our showers to under 90 seconds, to avoid bathing, to put a bucket in our showers and sinks to collect water and use the run-off to flush toilets or water plants and to avoid flushing (if it’s yellow let it mellow). I found this made me think very differently and deepened my respect for water and its scarcity and also mother nature. The city is just beautiful, almost entirely surrounded by mountains and on the coast, it is hard not to feel deeply connected to nature here. As our piece is water based, we found ourselves talking often of the drought. As is customary in South Africa, we often associated Sacred Earth Mother as a living being- a spiritual Mother with the life-giving, nurturing qualities of our mothers. I wondered: if we humans were to treat mother earth with the respect, kindness and care we do for our human mothers, if we would still be facing droughts and other environmental crisis across the world?

Over the two weeks, we truly dived in and created a beautiful working environment: we ate together, stayed together, walked along the beach at sunset, we warmed up and meditated. We discovered three main themes in our work: Mothers, womb and water. The piece became about our mothers: a celebration of them, a celebration of our families and our ancestry. We began to dig deeper in this second week… to look further at the elephants in the room (this is how I make work), and to think about what is missing and what is too much. I believe each piece has its own personality, and it is about listening to and letting that persona be revealed.

Toni and I spent 2 weeks rehearsing in Stellenbosch in a circus, followed by a week of performances: one at the Institute for Contemporary Arts’ Live Art Festival and two performances at the Open Book Festival. We created a short projection of our families, in particular our mothers, to project onto the silks for our second performance where we knew we could not put weight on the silks.

It was a beautiful show. I have gained so much in this experience: in creating this show and in bringing it to life in such a short space of time, and in understanding a little deeper myself and how our stories can help and heal. There were so many beautiful responses and tears to this show, and I would now love to see how it is received in the rest of the world, or as we began to imagine, as collaborations on different artists of mixed heritage across the world. In addition to the performance, we took part in a post show talk at the Open Book Festival, and a panel discussion, both of which continued to reveal lots to us and audience members around this dialogue about being of mixed heritage.
We also collaborated to run a workshop at Toni Stuart’s Athlone Young Poets in a local secondary school, which was a most beautiful experience: seeing and imagining how wonderful it must be to have teachers who look like you growing up, seeing how talented all the young poets were, and seeing them bringing their poetry to life using movement. I look forward to seeing some of them in the UK in December where they will be performing their work (more details coming soon).

It was truly an unforgettable experience this summer. Art is a powerful tool to raise awareness of inequalities and transform trauma through expression and creativity, and this is a perfect example of that experience. I was delighted to be able to finalise the work as a duet, and I love how the work has developed. This experience allowed me to dig deeper in terms of my performance states, and over the rehearsal period I have further understood my process and how I love to invest from a deeply personal place for the true deep healing of telling personal stories to happen. I recognised in South Africa how important this work was for my own mental wellbeing: I felt emboldened to share my own story working with Toni: I learnt that stories are therapeutic, and that the healing experience of bringing these issues out into the open was freeing.

I was able to connect to this continent where I have a lineage and ancestry, and to learn about the history hands on through experiences such as Lucille Campbells transcending history healing tour and work into my ancestry. Being in South Africa there was a different learning around my own identity as a person of mixed heritage, a stepping into who I am and a positive impact being in a country where people are willing to talk about racism in a more open way. There was also a standing my ground in terms of realising who I was and was not prepared to spend time with in a country so divided on race issues, and in learning and understanding how I can work with mother nature and how I can contribute to or have a positive impact for change in the world. Art is a healing tool, an opportunity to tell herstory, to pave the way with positive heroines of different heritages, body types, experiences and empower and embolden future generations to create an even better world in the future.

Being around poets was truly a wonderful experience, and I am sure that this importance of language positively affected me and my experience making my next piece of work Foreign Bodies (for which I recently wrote an entire script). Working with Toni, I was able to learn a lot about myself and my practise, and to delve deeper into how to stand fully in and hold that with a new found confidence. I learnt to go slow: the importance of and the opportunity to reflect on my practise: I have decided this year to take a kind of sabbatical to look at my practise and the future of Ella Mesma Company: thank you Toni Stuart for this revealing!

Thank you to the Artist International Development Fund supported by Arts Council of England and British Council for this opportunity, and to the beautiful heart that is Toni Stuart. Thank you also to all the wonderful humans I met and South Africa: you are forever in my heart.
Thank you for your follow