Matthew ‘Kupakwashe’ Murrell’s Emerging Director Residency – Week 1 Blog Post

Matthew ‘Kupakwashe’ Murrell is on the Fresh Milk platform this month as the second candidate in the inaugural Emerging Directors Residency, hosted in collaboration with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF). Despite working within a short time-frame and noting that two weeks is not enough to fully flesh out a residency of this kind, Matthew is making the most of the time and resources he has been afforded by having fruitful discussions with his assigned mentor, renowned St. Lucian poet, playwright and director Kendel Hippolyte, and doing research for his chosen play ‘Shakespeare’s Nigga’. Read more from Matthew below:

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My name is Matthew ‘Kupakwashe’ Murrell and I am a part of the Emerging Theatre Director’s Residency pilot project with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) and Fresh Milk. Although this is the first collaboration of its kind, it’s not the first time I’m undertaking a theatre residency at Fresh Milk. In 2013, I completed a residency in playwriting, producing an excerpt of a play I was devising titled ‘The Brightest Red’.

For the first week, I’ve experienced some ups and downs as it’s the first of its kind and some kinks have to be dealt with along the way to make future participants happy. Given two weeks to do research and then give a presentation of findings is really not enough. Talking to my assigned mentor, St. Lucian playwright and director Kendel Hippolyte, he agreed as well. One week for researching and another for rehearsals as I divided it, still meant little time for proper conceptualisation, rehearsals, scheduling etc. As a director’s residency, I would expect more time to be given for proper research and rehearsals, but it seemed more like a tight window for academic purposes of research and a small presentation of findings. I also expected not to do the whole piece as intended, but even a scene or two in this small window isn’t enough in my opinion. Time is necessary.

shakespeares-nigga

So for my residency I’m working on ‘Shakespeare’s Nigga’ written by Trinidadian born and Toronto based playwright and actor Joseph Jomo Pierre. I was first introduced to Joseph’s work years ago as a student at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination (EBCCI). At that time, Alison Sealy-Smith was teaching there fresh off the boat. I always found his work to be daring and unapologetic, and it influenced my writing a lot, especially when our works focused largely on masculinity. Later, Joseph and I became good friends when I travelled to Toronto and spoke about this particular project. ‘Shakespeare’s Nigga’ enters into the dream world of Shakespeare where he is confronted by his black/Moor characters. His rebellious slave Aaron (Titus Andronicus), his obedient ‘slaves’ Othello (Othello) and Tyrus (Titus Andronicus). Shakespeare also deals with his rebellious daughter Judith, who has an ongoing relationship with Aaron. I chose this play for the themes presented and what they meant for me. Shakespeare represents a part of the patriarchy; 50 years of Independence is being celebrating all throughout the Caribbean this year, and our literary giants still hold a back seat to Shakespeare.

His works in our space are considered ‘classics’ and used as a tool for classicism in our classrooms in the days of ‘growing up stupid under the union jack’. Reading the text, as a Caribbean ‘yute’, I saw the proverbial whip being handed down on Aaron’s back by Othello, who was ordered by Shakespeare to do so, as a constant reminder not only of physical but also mental slavery. Aaron’s response to uprise and to denounce Shakespeare as not his ‘negro’ but his ‘nigga’, turning around that hateful word and putting power and purpose to it, and also Othello’s realisation of Shakespeare’s separatism of he and Aaron to cause divide is nothing short of revolutionary for black literary consciousness.

“I am not Shakespeare’s negro. My palate is not so refine. My coarse hair knows not the acquaintance of a brush…”

– Aaron

As research goes, I’ve brushed up on my Shakespeare knowledge on Titus Andronicus and Othello. To be very fair, I am not a Shakespeare fan (except Hamlet), so personal feelings aside, it’s quite interesting to see the playwright’s use of characterisations of the hated Moorish slave in one piece and a hated Moorish commander in other. Both did what they could do to muster respect and a proper way of life, instead…

“…For the paper, look how low we’a stoop/
even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coup/coup…”

– Kanye West

I’ve also done a lot of reading in Augusto Boal’s ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ which I may add is one of the hardest rangate books on theatre and performance I’ve ever read. So theatre kids in college and university reading this blog, invest in it. Many a times while reading it, I’ve been constantly reminded of what I love about the theatre, and what I think has been missing from our scene for some time. Another part of my research was looking at Spike Lee’s ‘Chi-Raq’. As a Spike Lee fan all my life, I totally enjoyed what he did in taking Lysistrata and making it a contemporary film surrounding the tragedies happening in Chicago’s inner city. Taking a Greek tragedy and showing the purpose and strength of #BlackLivesMatter was especially something I wanted to focus on within my research.

Along with the research, my mentor Kendel and I had great conversations about theatre, the drama and the direction of the piece. The dream of Shakespeare opens countless ideas of how to manipulate the space. The use of language, sound and lights presented endless ideas and great discussions. Next week I work with my actors in the space. Right now, instead of using all the characters, I will only be using three. The legendary Patrick Foster as Shakespeare, the enigmatic Nala as Aaron and the feminist powerhouse Luci Hammans as Judith…I love my cast as you can see from their superpowers.

And as I end this report…

“what light over yonder breaks?
….oh shite, is de ra**hole police!”

– Kupa

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ncf mark rgb2This project is a collaborative initiative, funded by the NCF Barbados

Open Call: Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellowship Programme 2016

As a direct outcome of the Tilting Axis meetings in 2015 at Fresh Milk in Barbados and in 2016 at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Scotland based cultural partners CCA Glasgow, David Dale Gallery, Hospitalfield and curatorial collective Mother Tongue have come together to offer structural long-term support to an emerging contemporary art practitioner living and working in the Caribbean. This is a new fellowship opportunity that focuses on the development of pragmatic and critical curatorial development hailing from the Caribbean region, and is research and practice-led, and mentor-based. The fellow will receive a maximum of £5,000 towards travel, accommodation, and living costs. The fellowship is co-developed in partnership with British Council.

Tilting Axis logo

Designed as a year-long programme between the Caribbean region and Scotland, the fellowship will have an open-ended outcome. It offers support for critical development of curatorial practice and gives a practical base in the partner institutions, connected with the successful candidate’s proposal.

We seek proposals that engage with the unique visual culture available in the Caribbean and what might be learned from its unexpected and innovative approaches. The successful candidate will be encouraged to travel throughout the Caribbean in search of such approaches and research. As part of this fellowship a trip to Scotland is essential, offering an opportunity to use the experience with the Scottish based partners as a form of mentorship. In collaboration with the partners, a realistic budget will be proposed, maximising the opportunities.

Within the Tilting Axis meetings, complexities of mobility, decolonisation, institutionalism, curatorial knowledge, pragmatics, and social realities have been surfacing as keywords of urgency within Caribbean cultural life. The mentorship element in the fellowship allows for a stable basis from which to draw and use spaces, libraries, individual knowledge, and other infrastructure, both in the Caribbean and Scotland) depending on the nature of the needs in the application.

For whom?

Curators, researchers, artists, or cultural producers based in the Caribbean region who want to make new links within the region as well as in Scotland and have a keen interest in developing their curatorial practice.

Goals

• Develop, stimulate, support, and visualise curatorial and artistic realities coming from the Caribbean region
• Facilitate face-to-face communication in Scotland as well as in the Caribbean region
• Offer a free and open access to knowledge
• Provide a stable platform for professional experiences
• Produce critical knowledge on educational tools as well as visual culture
• Focus on emerging practices
• Cross existing language barriers
• Utilise the existing Tilting Axis network
• Offer practical support and a trip to Scotland

Geography

The Caribbean is an active region. The definition of what is the Caribbean is not uniformed; Wikipedia provides a useful list that includes the islands and the continental countries.

Drawing on the specifics of the region through processes of decolonisation, language barriers, race, mobility, and digitalisation, your proposal might approach actively how people live and work and especially how contemporary art takes a responsibility to reflect and act on it. What are fears as well as potentials in these current times? Within such a complex geography, what are the challenges?

Mentorship and support

The fellowship offers a strong supportive framework and takes the model of a mentorship programme. Depending on the candidate’s interests and skills, several personal mentors are available for support throughout the programme. There is open access to infrastructure, curatorial and artistic ideas, exhibition spaces, archives, and libraries as well as personal stories and experiences within these institutions and individuals. Also online, Skype, and email support will be available from the mentors throughout the fellowship. A contribution to the public blogs of British Council and CCA Glasgow will be required along with a final report on the Fellowship and a presentation at Tilting Axis in April 2017 at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.

Application

Applicants for the fellowship are invited to develop an independent proposal outlining a clear interest in the issues highlighted. The proposal should include a realistic travel itinerary, carefully selected within budget restrictions, and content driven. The application can be based on already existing research or offer new projects. No outcome is expected from the outset, but a proposal that shows organisation of collateral events that allow for public access to the issues is appreciated.

Departing from a curatorial ambition, we expect to see strong proposals of maximum 1000 words. Please include a budget proposal (maximum of £5000), a CV and two references. The application should be submitted via e-mail to: jennifer@cca-glasgow.com.

Submission deadline: Monday 11 July 2016.

Emerging art practitioners are particularly encouraged to apply. The successful candidate will be living and working in the Caribbean region.

Remy Jungerman, Spirit Levels, CCA Glasgow 2014, Photography by Alan Dimmick.

Remy Jungerman, Spirit Levels, CCA Glasgow 2014, Photography by Alan Dimmick.

Summary

Aimed at curators, researchers, artists, or cultural producers focused on, or with a clear interest in, curatorial practice from the Caribbean region.

Fellowship period: mid 2016 – mid 2017, to be negotiated depending on proposal and personal/professional situations.

The Fellow will be assigned a mentor from the core partners depending on their needs and wishes. Throughout the year these mentors are accessible online or on location.

A total project budget of £5000 will be allotted for the duration of fellowship. The award shall be used exclusively to cover only the costs of travel, per diems, and other fees and living costs identified in the final budget approved by the selection committee.

The Fellow will be selected on the basis of a project proposal and a succinct motivation elaborating the candidate’s interest in developing a Caribbean curatorial practice. The deadline for submission will be Monday 11 July 2016.

The proposals will be judged by an international jury consisting of curators, academics, and museum professionals, after which shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview via Skype.

The Curatorial Fellow will be appointed at the end of July 2016. Jurors will be:

Tiffany Boyle and Jessica Carden, Mother Tongue, UK
Holly Bynoe, ARC Magazine, The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas and Tilting Axis co-founder
Mario Caro, board member of Res Artis, Tilting Axis partner
Annalee Davis, British Council Caribbean, Fresh Milk Barbados, Tilting Axis co-founder
Francis McKee, CCA Glasgow, UK
Max Slaven, David Dale Gallery, UK
Laura Simpson, Hospitalfield, Arbroath, UK

Possible partners within the network include:

Alice Yard, Trinidad + Tobago
ARC Magazine
Fresh Milk Art Platform Inc., Barbados
Ateliers ‘89, Aruba
Bermuda National Gallery
Beta-Local, Puerto Rico
British Council Caribbean
espace d’art contemporain 14°N 61°W, Martinique
Ghetto Biennale, Haiti
Johanna Auguaic, Director, BIAC, Martinique
Instituto Buena Bista, Curacao
L’Artocarpe, Guadeloupe
National Art Gallery of The Bahamas
National Gallery of Jamaica
National Gallery of the Cayman Islands
NLS, Jamaica
Tembe Art Studio, Suriname

In partnership with CCA Glasgow, David Dale Gallery and Studios, Hospitalfield, Mother Tongue and Tilting Axis. Supported by British Council Scotland.

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Fresh Milk featured in Chronicle on WCVB Channel 5 segment on Barbados

Thanks so much to Chronicle on WCVB Channel 5, Boston, for including Fresh Milk in their programme focusing on Barbados, which aired on Monday, February 8, 2016. Take a look at Fresh Milk’s founder Annalee Davis and Barbadian artists  Simone Asia and Versia Harris speaking about their work and experiences with the platform.

In this short segment, we share the clip with Lennox Honychurch who speaks about the Morgan Lewis Windmill.

This video is courtesy of Chronicle on WCVB Channel 5. View the original clip on their website here.

Transoceanic Visual Exchange and the Fresh Milk Team featured in Barbados Today

In her arts column ‘About Town, Across Country’ for the Barbados Today e-newspaper, Katrina Marshall recently shared two articles: one on the Transoceanic Visual Exchange (TVE) programme, and one focusing on what it means to be an artist-in-residence, speaking with Fresh Milk’s Katherine Kennedy about her work and residency experiences to explore the topic.

Thanks very much, Katrina, for taking an interest in the arts!

Barbados today TVE

To read the article on TVE, which appeared on pages 12-13 of the October 22 edition of Barbados Today, click here.

Barbados today Katherine article

To read the article about Katherine Kennedy and her thoughts on artist residencies, which appeared on pages 12-13 of the October 30 edition of Barbados Today, click here.