A Study in Devotion

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Curator & Costume Designer
Sabrina Henry

Photographer
Adama Jalloh

Sculpture Artist and Costume Collaborator
Dominique White

Choreographers
Ffion Campbell Davies & Ann Marie Campbell

Dancers
Joyce Souza
Rudzani Moleya
June Campbell
Ama Rouge

Music
‘Libation’ by Ffion Campbell Davies accompanied by live percussion performed by Mac Dende

Originally performed at MARKET Peckham

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As creative director, I initially worked with the lead artists to develop the narrative then we were all left to create autonomously within our disciplines while maintaining a continuous dialogue and collaborating to bring the elements together.

The performance took place in a fictional terriero space created by sculpture artist and costume collaborator Dominique White whose work focuses on the myth of the Kalunga line as a place where ‘stolen people’ will be returned when they die.  

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Within the space Dominique created an abstract seascape which was still wet and drying during the shoot and performance. The sail-like fabric hanging with thick rope and anchored by white dust covered buoys that moved and changed little by little over the days it hung.

This totemic ‘set’ created a grounding space for choreographers Ann-Marie Campbell and Ffion Campbell Davies to embody with spirituality, connected to their ritual experiences of Candomble in Brazil.  

The choreography focused on joy and connection and the idea of devotional labour as a transformative action.  There was no ‘stage’ and dancers performed a caminhada, navigating the space in procession, involving and revolving around the audience, always seen but never truly ‘there’. 
 
The feeling was this was the dancers space, and the audience though present were in no way essential to the practise or the  performance itself.

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Photographer Adama Jalloh captured this as a meditative process.  Looking at the dancers interconnectedness as well as the symbolism - literal and figurative, showcased in the costume and movements - that link our shared ancestral knowledge and understanding as black women of the diaspora from ancient bantu nations, to Brazil to the UK and back again.

For costume I worked with Dominique using the methods and materials of her sculptural practice combining these with blue denim to represent indigo dying in the era of slavery and white clothing to represent Yemenja. 

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Natural kaolin clay soaked fabric released white dust clouds as the dancers moved.  Woven raffia was used to stitch fabrics together and to create masks and headpieces.  And finally stripped rope made ‘nets’ adorned with gold leafed shells that draped over the dancer's shoulders.

The performance was set to an electronic soundscape created by Ffion Campbell Davies that included elemental sounds and dance-music rhythms layered with bell patterns and live percussion performed by Mac Dende to represent the traditional sounds and calls to Orisha you would hear during Candomble worship and how this practise repeatedly manifests in contemporary black diasporic music and culture.

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