A year ago today, a dear friend of mine died of cancer. She was old but not that old and youthful in spirit, her name was Jaya Graves who I will miss dearly. Her death at the time was overshadowed by the far more devastating loss of my own son just 10 days earlier, and its taken me until now to put this all too brief post up.
I first met Jaya in the late 90’s as part of some activities supporting refugees and people seeking asylum in Manchester. She later became involved on the management committee and then as occasional collaborator with the artists’ collective that I had founded, Virtual Migrants www.virtualmigrants.net and we used to meet at the Southern Voices office at St Peters House Church and Chaplaincy.
In 2003, while she was a member of the Manchester Museum Community Advisory Panel, I was commissioned to create a series of video works for permanent installation in the at that time new galleries being built, and one of the videos was of Jaya. Here it is along with another two from the same series of videos.
The more recent work on environment, climate change, race and migration was co-developed with her vital contribution, meeting at her house. It was Jaya who suggested we call the project The Centre Cannot Hold, from the WB Yeats poem. I valued our reflective, analytical, critical and good humoured chats enormously, as well as the ideas and knowledge she introduced me to. We were good friends even though we only met occasionally, and I miss her. I count her as an inspiration and influence on my work and my humanity. May she be carrying on in the way she always did so well wherever she may be.
PS: Regarding my dear son Naseeb, mentioned earlier, I have not felt the need to put a post about him on this website since there is a memorial website dedicated to him already at www.naseebchuhan.wordpress.com .
THE POPPY RETAKE is a new video art installation by Kooj Chuhan with an alternative take on World War I by connecting colonialism and computer games with a systematic war culture. The installation references the involvement of and impact on European Colonies by World War I and was supported by the experiences of the actor, Tracey Zengeni, herself having sought refuge in the UK. Its going to premiere at the fantastic Z-arts centre gallery on Tues 18th April from 6pm, and will be on show there for nearly two weeks. There are full details at www.metaceptive.net/poppy-retake including of the opening preview night. Here is an introductory trailer for the work:
Essential details for The Poppy Retake:
at Z-Arts Gallery, 19-28 April 2017
335 Stretford Road Manchester M15 5ZA 0161 226 1912
Open daily 9am-9pm except Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday closed
PREVIEW: Tues 18th April 6pm
Speakers: Susan Chieni, Kirit Patel and others / Poetry: Afshan D’Souza-Lodhi / Music: Serge Tebu & Emmanuela Yogolelo
FREE ENTRY but booking advised: www.poppyretakeshadows.eventbrite.co.uk
Will wars ever end? Was World War One’s ‘Lest We Forget’ a deluded slogan by Europeans who endured enormous suffering yet ignored even greater calamities for their colonies? Is war in fact the default future human addiction as global economics, culture and inequality spell more conflict forever?
The Poppy Retake is a new piece of video installation art by Kooj Chuhan which poses these questions. The artist Kooj uses dramatic sequences of imagery that mix aspects of culture today, recent conflicts and refugees with world war one and the historical realities for people in previous colonies such as India, East Africa, The West Indies and Nigeria.
Who knows that the first and last shots of World War One were fired not in Europe, but in Africa? Or that 1.5 million soldiers from India fought for the British? The installation will be exhibited together with an extensive series of documentary history panels created by Southern Voices, titled ‘From the Shadows of War and Empire’. In all this will present a unique exhibition taking an African and South Asian perspective on World War One and the role of the British colonies within it.
Art that can re-interpret, re-situate, connecting wars, colonialism, games
Kooj hopes to get people to shift from the usual and massive stereotypical icons of World War I and understand its part in the ongoing process that has got us where we are today, and how young people are influenced and co-opted into cynical acceptance of conflict yet remain oblivious to colonial histories and geopolitical power interests. This war was fuelled by rivalry based much on competing colonial portfolios between European countries, and colonies were enormously affected in critical ways during and after the war.
However, Kooj is quick to point out that, “As an artist my job is not to stuff a load of history down people’s throats, but to draw out a human experience in simple and metaphoric ways that bring people closer to the underlying meanings and hidden agendas of the war.”
The Poppy Retake installation depicts a never ending loop which we can’t get out of, played out through a current character with a refugee connection from today. The work is inspired by resistance to wars and colonialism in history especially the WWI period focusing on narratives that have often been suppressed such as schoolteacher John MacLean from Scotland who was instrumental in the Clyde revolts during and after WWI, or Indian revolutionaries such as Kartar Singh Sarabha, or the many women from East Africa whose families died from a famine made worse by European demands for resources to support the war. Within the installation we encounter hints of these people and events but we remain stuck in a continual loop of wars, games and colonialism which appears to have no end, driven along by a background tempo and video loops which play with ideas of nationalism, patriotism, dissidence, loss and war game videos.
Historical Documentary Exhibition ‘From The Shadows Of War And Empire’ by Southern Voices
Alongside The Poppy Retake installation will be a set of educational panels titled ‘From The Shadows Of War And Empire’ created by Southern Voices about the issues around World War 1 from the perspective of the colonies.
2014 marked 100 years since the start of the World War One (WW1). In a very real way, this was the first global conflict, with war between the European Empires drawing in well over 100 countries.
This project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, examines the involvement of the British colonies (India, West Indies, Nigeria and East Africa) in WW1 and the impact the war had on those countries. Southern Voices look at European imperialism, the devastating losses on the colonies’ own ‘home fronts’ and subsequent strengthening movements for self-rule and independence.
The impact and views of the people in the ‘colonised countries’ are either neglected or absent in commemorative events. This exhibition provides a more balanced account of this global war than is commonly available or known and adds to the connecting of wars, colonialism and wider contexts.
Interactive Digital Carnival Installation by artist Kooj Chuhan, inspired by environmental activism stories from across the world – including Chico Mendes. SPECIAL OPENING EVENTS SAT 28th FEB incl. Film Screening, discussion, Multimedia Music Performance, live Brazil link, interviews, poetry and free food! Full details: http://metaceptive.net/chamada/
at Global Grooves Centre until 21st March. 10 mins walk from Mossley station – just 20 mins train from Manchester, only £4 off-peak day return ticket! (MAP)
– 4pm: Film “TAKING ROOT: WANGARI MAATHAI” + discussion.
– 7pm: LIVE PERFORMANCE by Kooj/Holly/Leon, guided tour, poetry by Sai Murray, live link with Brazil environmentalists + Free Food!
A digital art work inspired by Brazilian activist Chico Mendes, made up of voices, imagery and sound from across the world. Visitors encounter a range of objects which they can play like instruments, which then spark off videos, music and poetry from guest artists, documentary filmmakers and environmental activists. A pioneering attempt to combine Digital Art, Carnival, Environmental Activism and Documentary.
– 4pm-6pm: Film Screening “TAKING ROOT: THE VISION OF WANGARI MAATHAI” the activist who went on to become the first environmentalist and also the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (2004). Plus talk by Kooj exploring Climate Justice, incl. discussion chaired by poet-activist Sai Murray.
– 7pm: LIVE MULTIMEDIA – MUSIC PERFORMANCE, presented by poet Sai Murray plus guided tour of the installation and a live link with Brazilian environmentalists. Free food included!
GUEST ARTISTS: Kooj Chuhan invited artists and activists from across the world for media contributions to create a composite work from each person’s own parallel to Chico’s story, creating an ‘exhibition within an installation’ with Afro-Brazilian layers. READ MORE ABOUT THE GUEST ARTISTS at http://metaceptive.net/chamada/guest-artists-and-activists/
Map for Global Grooves Arts Centre
Venue and Location: Global Grooves Arts Centre Vale Mill, Micklehurst Road, Mossley, Ashton-under-Lyne OL5 9JL.
10 mins walk from Mossley train station. Walk all the way up Micklehurst Road, find the mill via the last turning on the right before the end of the road.
Just 20 mins by train from Manchester Victoria station, costs only £4 for an off-peak day return ticket!