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Inu (2019)

Inu was located for public display - in a shop unit, along a busy high street, in order to contextualise the theme of the commoditisation of the black body. It is my view that if Social Anthropology is defined as the branch of anthropology concerned with the study of human behaviour in societies, cultures and their development; then human exploitation through slavery, colonialism, the prison industrial complex and organ trafficking, can be defined as the ‘interruption’ of a human society and culture.

My overarching aim was to create a socially conscious and thought-provoking site-specific

performance piece and anthropological study set in a shop window in London, which would form part of my initial practical and theoretical enquiry into PhD research titled ‘Staging Black Activism’- the potential of activism through strategically placed site-specific performance art to bring about socially conscious political and cultural change. I define my role as that of ‘Artist-Activist’. An artist-activist’s practice sits at the intersection between performance art and anthropology, whilst her/his audience/participants commune with one another through their experiential bodies and through the cultural significance of a site. The relationship between audience on the pavement and performers inside the shop window were therefore symbiotic (both feed off the energy of the other), whilst collective identities served as reflectors of a shared culture and shared social issues.

With its themes of global capitalism and humans as a hidden commodity, frantic movement-

monologue and movement-dialogue, colourful playful imagery with splashes of African print, the piece also references Afro futurism - which is a branch of performance art that looks to science fiction in an attempt to reimagine a progressive and technologically advanced future for Pan African people, thus creating a self-governed economic power base. This subject was researched extensively prior to creating visual and performance material.

Through this project I was afforded the opportunity to examine the commoditised body in spatial contexts of my chosen site and the audience reception to the staging of a piece of activism. I particularly felt that the piece had been successful in its aims, when an audience member commented that “that lady is me!” – referring to the refugee character. She recognised her own plight in the piece, her issues, her humanity. I was told that she also returned with her children for a second viewing. The shopping complex management recorded the performance and requested that I stage the piece on site again in the near future.

Olutomi Kassim

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