Hello! Can you see me?

Through my work in the arts, I have often sat in inherently white cultural spaces and asked myself this question many times.

My wonderful friend Pakeezah Zahoor wrote this piece that sums up what so many people of colour felt/feel growing up in Britain. Have a read! Post your comments and have a lovely day looking beyond what you already know.

https://bradfordsnationalmuseum.org/2019/04/12/hello-can-you-see-me/

Hello,
Can you see me? It’s just that my whole life I’ve been looking at you and trying to look like you. In fact, I think we’ve all been trying to look like you and to talk like you too. Perhaps we’ve spent too much time in attempts to reflect you, see ourselves through your eyes, talk about ourselves through your eyes. Just to clarify, it’s not because we hate ourselves but because we knew, though nobody told us this, it was the only way we’d be seen and counted. That constant pressure to evolve from our working class, free school meals, brown, immigrant selves; into as white, middle-class a version as we could muster. And I wasn’t even conscious of it until just yesterday, the fog suddenly lifting around a realisation that I can’t actually be other than who I am.

And you know, these days I’d rather look at my mum than at you. Hear about how she was betrothed to my dad at birth, how the thought to question this decision made on her behalf wouldn’t have crossed her mind. That she married my dad at 20 but spent 11 years in Pakistan before she was able to join him in the UK. I want to know how she bore that period of time with patience, determined that she would have a home of her own one day. I can’t imagine how my mother, beautiful and smart, spent her twenties waiting like that. I’d rather look at my dad, who moved to the UK at 11 years old, growing up in a country where as a teenager, he had to fight and defend himself against skinheads at the end of every school term. Whose teachers told him not to bother applying to University, who read stories about great leaders in Muslim history to give him a sense of place and to keep his identity intact. I can’t imagine my dad, a man of words, at 17 creating a makeshift weapon to use should he need to.

It would do you good to look closer at my mum and dad too. You say you want to engage with ‘diverse’ audiences, open up your establishments to everybody, showcase art from different cultures, reflect the society in which we exist. But you’re not even looking at us. How can you hope to establish meaningful engagement if you won’t even look at us? Why do you expect our participation when your understanding of our context is so limited?

It feels to me that the reality of the immigrant experience has been so steeped in shame that as a culture we’ve skimmed past it. Its being too unsightly – that poverty and confusion and shame, to find yourself in a country you don’t know, that constantly tells you that you don’t belong, that you’re not good enough and that you should just go back. And then to stay and try to make a home for yourself anyway. Our parents didn’t tell us about some of the uglier things they had to deal with, and no one else talked about it either. Being an immigrant almost certainly meant being working-class and working low-level jobs regardless of your potential. They focussed on raising and feeding their families whilst trying to gain a level of financial security. There weren’t many spaces in which they felt accepted and safe so the spaces they inhabited openly were limited; spending most of their spare time in the homes of friends and family. There was a lot of good food and a lot of laughter. They certainly didn’t step into walled institutions like the theatre or art galleries, even the white working class didn’t go in there. And because they didn’t go in there, well their children, they don’t go there either. They’ve grown up unfamiliar with these spaces and they have inherited the same sense of not belonging. And it can go on like this for generations.

So when you ask, ‘Why don’t they come?’ I’d say that an open door doesn’t always feel like an open door and that some barriers are invisible. I’d say that we are all human beings and we need to feel understood in order to build trust. We’d like to see more of us in your institutions, so we could recognise ourselves in you. We’d prefer it if the dynamic between us didn’t feel so distinctly focussed on our difference but simply on who we are. If it didn’t feel like you are the hand that gives and we the ones who receive. Maybe that way we’d just walk in without having to be asked.

If we could try to comprehend each other better, with clarity and honesty, then perhaps we could communicate a way to move on from the past.

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4th Review ~ ‘Cuts Of The Cloth’!!

4th Review of Cuts Of The Cloth! I love reading them but can’t help noticing that the fact that the play is a collaborative process, sometimes slips under the radar for some!

Its so important to acknowledge the team it takes to put something like this together! Yes written and performed by me but I want to reiterate it’s also co-created/directed by Nikki Mailer who was producing too 💪🏼( since we are a small team of two at Outside The Frame Arts ) with Kooj Chuhan on soundscapes & visuals, Andrea Pazos working on our set, Kalpa Vriksha who marketed with 🔥and the brilliant team at HOME making this come together! Special thanks to Carla Henry, Elmi Ali and Sarah Yaseen who were part of its development last year during the work in progress as well as Keke Thompson and Alison Surtees who supported and funded our work through Futures Venture that has made all our Outside The Frame’s work possible. Hats off to The Royal Exchange for giving us rehearsal space too! And a heartfelt thanks to all my friends who had to listen to my ‘imposter syndrome’ anxieties throughout the process!

We’re excited to see what comes of this so if you know any theatres or funders that would whip this up – let us know! oh and here’s the review!!!

http://www.caughtintheact.co.uk/cuts-of-the-cloth-review/

Cuts of the Cloth – HOME, Manchester – THE PLAY’S THE THING

Have a read of this review about our Outside The Frame Art’s ‘Cuts Of The Cloth’ play showcased at Home Theatre & Arts Centre for PUSH Festival this weekend!

Cuts of the Cloth – HOME, Manchester – THE PLAY’S THE THING
— Read on theplaysthething.co.uk/2019/01/20/review-cuts-of-the-cloth-home-manchester-theatre-review/amp/

Outside The Frame Arts ‘Anti-Oppression Movement Workshop’ – Oct 2018

Have a read of Outside The Frame Arts blog about our Anti-Oppression Movement workshop last October. Heavily focussed on racism, sexism and intersectionality, the workshop brought together many women of colour! Click on the link to hear all about it!

http://outsidetheframearts.org.uk/saria-khalifas-reflection-movement-workshop-with-camille-barton/

FTRW NOVEMBER Write Up – Burning Eye Books

by Synth Void Find the Right Words is certainly THE place to be on a third Wednesday evening. If you can take yourself Upstairs at The Western around 7:30pm, you will find a vast array of poets (and a dog, if you’re lucky!) from in and out of Leicester, delivering words to make you laugh,…
— Read on burningeyebooks.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/ftrw-november-write-up/