Creative community outreach projects empower local communities by providing a voice expressed through the arts. At the same time, projects provide opportunities for participants to learn new artistic techniques and vocational skills. Participants can be inspired to explore their cultural heritage and community.
Cultural Remix: Sharing the Sacred was a public art commission project that explored the diverse culture of the local area. The project was part of the Integrated Public Art Program 2011-2012 held in Noosa, Queensland, Australia. The work was screened nightly for three months in an open air plaza. Laterally Creative focused on the community’s nostalgic attachment to stories and objects that were sourced from local history archives, personal collections and oral history. Cultural Remix is a dynamic mosaic filmic response to these collections and memories.
Something we are struggling with in the UK arts industry, is the management of natural afro hair when we work on screen, and on stage. We are struggling in terms of how we are perceived. If we wear our hair natural, it is seen as too bold or not ‘professional’ when worn in certain styles. Then there is the issue of the painful inability of hair professionals to deal with our natural hair when we’re in hair and make-up on set.
This became a shared dialogue for me through being on set with two women of colour when were cast in a short film last year. We were strangers drawn together, and united by our hair stories. Between the three of us, we were wearing weave, braids and a home-made wig. We each had different parts in the film. Was our hair affecting the roles we got? On top of that, were we, as women of colour having a different working experience to our counter-parts with European hair and if so, what was that experience?
From here, my project “Afro Archives A Performers World” was born. I began to gather evidence. I interviewed friends in the arts from different cultures, ages and genders. Asking them questions and letting them speak freely about their hair experiences working in the creative industry of a white majority society. “Afro Archives A Performers World” has become a 12-episode series of chats about hair. Each episode is split into three parts (so they’re not too long). On the last day of every month, a different topic. For example in October, Black History Month, the topic is “Why Go Natural?” in November “Would You Shave Off All Your Hair For A Film?,” It’s freestyle, topic based chats.
Actors; Ayesha Casely-Hayford, Alice Fotana, Veronica Rose & Ketorah Williams, : photographs courtesy of Ayesha Casely-Hayford
Afro Archives is a project of collaboration and inclusivity. I called it “Afro Archives” because I wanted to create something where “afro” means something to everyone, beyond cultural background so that we embrace what we are not as part of what we are. This is why “Afro Archives” includes actors with all different hair-textures and from all different cultural backgrounds. We compare and contrast hair, and really identify with the afro-hair experience. I set my chats in “a performer’s world” because in the visual arts how we look, matters. It’s the perfect setting to chat hair.
Supported in-kind by host venue, the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton London, and an online not-for-profit platform called Africa Fashion. Generosity of friends and colleagues with their time and energy, original music composed by an up-coming composer, Livvy Baker-Mendoza and aspiring photographer of Ghanian descent, Robbie Spotswood. Without this collaborative supporting to bring these hair stories to life, Afro Archives couldn’t have happened. I’m beyond grateful, thankful, and never in more confidence that community and collaboration are the spring boards for creativity taking us from ideas in our heads to production of shared experiences that represent our lives, helping us recognise ourselves.
Actor; India Amarteifio: photograph courtesy of Ayesha Casely-Hayford
When it comes to our hair, we are born with it, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to change our natural hair texture. This is why the hair business is so massive. Forever manipulating hair to achieve a desired look. One way or another - curly, bald, straight - hair is a never-ending saga. It’s also why anything that curbs freedom of choice or identity in respect of hair, arguably becomes a cultural issue. I’m still keeping an open mind and continuing to explore, but clear voices can be heard on Afro Archives evidencing that discrimination exists against women of colour especially, when it comes to our hair as we try to pave our way working in the arts. You can catch the latest episodes on YouTube and follow the Africa Fashion blog too. I’d love to hear other people’s comments and experiences - What is the global experience? #AfroArchives - amazing hair, talks!
Laterally Creative new projects include:
A children’s e-book and an audio book seeking to be adapted to a feature length animation.
Community outreach projects involving creative expressions and appreciation of cultural heritage.
Experimental films and soundscapes that re-interpret selected poems.
Cultural animations .
New film script seeking producer interest.
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