For ten years we have provided a legal safety net for members who have been denied access to legal aid because of complicated cases. In ten years this has been members seeking safety from gender based violence and trafficking. We are moving towards a sustainable model where we have continuous access to the best legal support available to challenge Home Office decisions, but we need 50 people to donate £10 per month. If you have visited Meet me at the River and you want to support us in our work, please consider becoming a regular contributor. Either by setting up a regular direct debit with the information below, or clicking on the link to our Open Collective Page.
Friday 12 June 14:30 – Saturday 13 June 19:30, online
Migrant Artists’ Mutual Aid joins with artists mayfield brooks, Mary Pearson and Jennifer Verson to host a two day virtual symposium which brings together important networks in the UK and across the Atlantic of artists, academics, arts organisations and the public sector to create a space for critical and exciting new thinking about the role of socially engaged artistic practices at an important historic moment.
Presentations, videos and conversations will be streamed publicly via YouTube; for Proximity Zoom Rooms access please register for an invitation to join the discussions.
We’re pleased to announce the following performers and speakers, with advance videos for you to watch before the symposium:
Mary Pearson & mayfield brooks
Opening and welcome with Mary & Jennifer Verson Fri 14:30, How to Be Afraid? check-in #1 17:00, Transatlantic Horror Show: How to Be Afraid? performance 22:00, How to Be Afraid? check-in #2 Sat 17:00, trialogue with Seke Chimutengwende 18:30, digital interlude 19:30
How to Be Afraid? is a performance project that explores fear as an antidote to counteract the trauma of our separate but connected histories of the transatlantic slave trade, finding hauntings in our current psyches.
In our practice, we return to the question ‘What are you afraid of?’ as an improvisational score. The answer pours out and brings with it things we didn’t necessarily know were there.
mayfield brooks improvises while black, and is currently based in brooklyn, new york. mayfield is a movement-based performance artist, urban farmer, writer, and wanderer. mayfield is currently an artist in residence at center for performance research and abrons art center in nyc, and has performed & taught nationally and internationally.
Mary Pearson Performance maker, dancer/researcher, teacher, organizer. 2012-2018 toured solos FAILURE, The Sand Dog Cometh, andFoMO, mofos! internationally. Fascinated by collaboration as a complex and coordinated practice in survival. A co- curator of Con|VERGE, REMIX collaborative performance residencies at Ponderosa Dance (DE). Teaching improvisation as a FAILURE Lab. Current practice is moving through collective and embodied trauma.
Opening and welcome with Mary Pearson & Jennifer Fri 14:30, Proximity Zoom Room #1: What are our approaches to art and social repair? 16:30, Promixity Zoom Room #2: Connecting Social Justice Struggles through performance: Asylum, Detention, Slavery and our work with ISM Sat 13:00, Proximity Zoom Room #3: Performance and Peacebuilding practitioners 16:00
Jennifer Verson is a Doctoral Candidate at The Centre for Trust, Peace, and Social Relations at Coventry University where she holds a United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Studentship for her research ‘Performing Peace: Applied Performance and Scriptural Reasoning as a Peacebuilding Process’. The first joint studentship represents UNAOC’s expansion of research activity in the area of intercultural dialogue and the role it plays in promoting (or inhibiting) social solidarity, trust and peaceful relations in diverse and changing societies. Performing Peace is an interdisciplinary research project that investigates the use of performance and performing arts in religious peacebuilding.
She has a Masters Degree with Distinction in Cultural Performance from Bristol University. Recent publications include Migrant Artists’ Mutual Aid: A Short History in Images. Kritika Kultura, (30/31) pp.217-223 (2018). Co-editor Migrant Artists Mutual Aid: Strategies for Survival, Recipes for Resistance. Liverpool: Migrant Artists Mutual Aid (2017) .
She is a founder and Artistic Director of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid (MaMa).
How to Be Afraid? check-in #1 Fri 17:00, Transatlantic Horror Show: Horror Project Reading 22:00, Trialogue with mayfield brooks & Mary Pearson, Sat 18:30
Seke Chimutengwende works as a performer, choreographer, teacher and movement director. Recent choreographic projects include a duet, Black Holes made in collaboration with Alexandrina Hemsley which was part of the British Council Showcase in Edinburgh 2019 and a solo, Plastic Soul, which premiered at The Yard Theatre in January 2019.
Seke is currently researching a new piece looking at ghosts and haunted houses as a metaphor for how histories of slavery and colonialism haunt the present. Seke will introduce his research and share some writing that he is working on as part of this research.
Humanise Project Human part 2 Fri 18:00, Stating The Obvious 21:30, Trialogue with Priya Sharma and Salma Noor Sat 14:30, Proximity Zoom Room #3: Performance and Peacebuilding practitioners 16:00
Aleasha is an artist who works primarily on audiences; finding ways to cue, gain consent and encourage authentic, public intimacy. Her primary interests are ritual and the wisdom contained within fairy/folk/mythic tales. Aleasha is currently engaged in a research practice called the Humanise project which is exploring ways to reveal the mechanisms by which we (de)humanise one another.
Stating The Obvious is an acknowledgement that no matter how deep any of us go into investigating the human experience we find ourselves coming back to the same realisations. This session is about bringing these obvious things into consciousness and it is that consciousness that brings repair.
Priya Sharma & Salma Noor
Video & digital interlude Sat 10:00, trialogue with Aleasha Chaunte 14:30, Proximity Zoom Room #3: Performance and Peacebuilding practitioners 16:00
Priya Sharma is a film maker and researcher, and has been a Stuart Hall PhD Scholar in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests include emerging cultural identity, digital aesthetics, cultural production and the intersections between race, gender, sexuality and class.
Salma Noor is a multi-disciplinary artist currently producing digital collages and GIFs. Her work uses punchlines and incorporates the compositional qualities of dereliction. She is interested in colour combinations, architectural spaces and black popular culture.
‘A Guide To Navigating Institutions’ by Salma Noor and Priya Sharma
Comprised of a 5 minute animation, Salma Noor and Priya Sharma have created a short guide to navigating institutions based on their experiences as artists and facilitators working within and outside of arts institutions. They bring to light the diversity initiatives put forward by large arts institutions who have (by and large) failed to engage local communities and support marginalised artists and projects invested in genuine social justice and repair. In light of an upsurge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement, people have begun to demand accountability from these institutions who have gotten by on performative gestures towards social justice and community building. Edited so it can be easily shared on social media platforms (where much of these discussions have been taking place), this guide serves as a fun and uplifting primer for those entering into contracts with arts institutions, working as part of DIY collectives or bravely going it alone (or probably all three simultaneously).
Sam manages the day to day running of the MaMa group, and provides assistance with individual casework, as well as organising the food parcel deliveries during the COVID-19 lockdown. He has an MA in International Slavery Studies, focusing on Modern Slavery and has worked in the National Referral Mechanism, assisting victims of human trafficking in the UK.
Yasin Duman & Merve Kurt
Marbling Paper Ebru Art Performance (Merve Kurt) Sat 11:00, Presentation 15:30, Zoom Room #3: Performance and Peacebuilding practitioners 16:00
Merve Kurt is an interdisciplinary visual artist, humanitarian aid worker, and gender-based violence consultant. She exhibited the traditional marbling art of Ebru in Istanbul, England, Scotland, and Paris. She is particularly interested in the use of art in cohesion, integration, and expressing the diversity of society. She has explored a myriad of artistic media: from painting to ceramics, from hands-on to digital, from photography to felted making. She has attended several art therapy courses and implemented art healing techniques in her works since 2010.
Yasin Duman is a Ph.D. candidate at Coventry University and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) consultant. His research focuses on intergroup relations and social cohesion between refugees and non-refugees in Turkey. He has been providing MHPSS and staff well-being consultancy programs to national and international humanitarian organizations including the Association of Assistance, Solidarity, and Support for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (MSYD-ASRA), Yeryuzu Doktorlari (YYD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Welthungerhilfe (WHH), and worked as a psychologist in Concern Worldwide. He applies art therapy techniques in his sessions and consultancy programs for individuals and groups.
Proximity: New Directions in Art and Social Repair is supported by public funding by Arts Council England, and with in kind support from The Bluecoat and Metal Culture.
Proximity: New Directions in Art and Social Repair
MaMa is happy to announce that we have an exiting new event coming up in the Summer with some co-collaborators at the Bluecoat.
Saturday 13 June 10:30 – 4:30pm
Migrant Artists’ Mutual Aid joins with artists mayfield brooks, Mary Pearson and Jennifer Verson to host a day long symposium which brings together important networks in the UK and across the Atlantic of artists, academics, arts organisations and the public sector to create a space for critical and exciting new thinking about the role of socially engaged artistic practices at an important historic moment.
The symposium shares transatlantic artistic approaches to the joint history of slavery, using as a starting point the practice and theory from Migrant Artists Mutual Aid’s recent National Lottery Heritage Funded work creating new music based on the exhibitions and archives of the International Slavery Museum, alongside duet collaboration ‘How to Be Afraid?’ which continues from its beginnings in Liverpool in 2017, funded by Arts Council England.
Inspired by the German practice of Vergangenheitsbewältigung or ‘working through the past’, critically, Proximity is a space for the creation and sharing innovative practices in peace building through performance.
The 29th of April was the final performance of our new song writing project, which ran over the last year, made possible with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Choir wrote new songs on the themes of migration and asylum using the archives of the International Slavery Museum to develop their work. 6 new songs were written and performed over the year with the help of the MAMA team and Meika Holzman providing artistic support. The songs Brave and Strong, No Sugar in our Tea, We Are Human, First Poets, Valobashi and Remember Your Name.Remember Your Name was inspired by the work of Turner prize winning artist Lubaina Himid, work looking at the experiences of slavery and memory. It has been a pleasure for the group to work with our partners in National Museums Liverpool on this project and our thanks go out to the Heritage Lottery Fund for making this project happen. More new work and recordings will be coming soon so, watch this space…
by our friend Dr Victoria CanningA mural in Toxteth, Liverpool, a key historic area for immigration in the city.
As a dock city, Liverpool has served as a gateway to the sugar trade, slavery and global transport for hundreds of years. It has long been a city of immigrants from Ireland, India and Pakistan to Somalia, Ethiopia and Jamaica. It boasts the oldest Chinese community in Europe, and the largest Chinese arch outside of China. But like other parts of the UK, for those seeking sanctuary in the city today, the tightening of the immigration regime has made life full of uncertainty and injustice.
In early September, the women of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid (MaMa) – a Liverpool-based group of refugee rights advocates and women seeking asylum which I am involved with – were worried when two of its core members did not attend a regular meeting.
As news filtered through, we learned that the women (alongside two others) had been dispersed from their accommodation to a northern town 20 miles away: too far to walk back, and too expensive to travel for women receiving £5.30 per day while awaiting refugee status. The practice of dispersal means people seeking asylum can be moved away from friends and family at any point, without choice or negotiation, with little notice, to a place they may have never been.
Eventually, from speaking with the two women, it transpired that they had been approached by staff from one private sector provider at the accommodation block they lived in at 1pm on a Friday afternoon and informed they would need to move “temporarily”. They were given until 4.30pm to gather their belongings and leave their already temporary homes. No need for the children to get ready for school on Monday morning, since they were being wrenched from attendance at the very start of term.
Echoes from 70 years ago
The treatment of people seeking asylum in Liverpool today has parallels with a more sinister moment in the city’s post-war history. In 1946, it was Chinese migrants who bore the brunt of rising anti-immigration sentiment in the region. Having recruited around 20,000 Chinese men into the British Merchant Navy during World War II, once their service was over, they were deemed “undesirable” elements of Liverpool life.
Instead of offering these men and their families sanctuary, the Home Office ordered a police raid on their homes. In an early morning round-up in the summer of 1946, an estimated 1,362 Chinese men were arrested, temporarily detained, and deported. Around 500 children were estimated to have been left behind.
Seven decades later and similar events are still happening. In 2014, the women of MaMa were shocked when a long-time member was detained and deported by the Home Office. Her right to further appeal had been rejected. She was forced to leave 13 years of life and belongings in the city that she loved, with the friends she knew. We had known her well, some for almost as long as she had been in the UK. We sang from a phone on loudspeaker to comfort her as she sat in Yarl’s Wood detention centre. She was deported to her country of origin within days.
As weeks and months went by, other women grew increasingly concerned for their own futures. Those seeking asylum must comply with regulations which require them to sign in with the Home office regularly. In the aftermath of their friend’s deportation, Home Office meetings were daunting. Some of the women have already experienced Yarl’s Wood – none of them want to experience it again.
The ‘Utopia’ of rights
Unlike 1946, the legislative landscape of contemporary Britain is now embedded in a discourse of rights: human rights, refugee rights, and the rights of the child. Home Office policy and legislation advocate rights-based approaches and it has even published a plethora of guidelines on how to adhere to them.
And yet there seems little evidence of this Utopia of rights in practice. People seeking asylum are subjected to arbitrary detention, with no time limit in the UK. Abject poverty and destitution have become staple parts of the asylum process. Living in limbo, the threat of deportation looms every day, limiting individuals’ ability to look ahead to the future, particularly if they fear returning to their past in their country of origin. For asylum-seeking women living with violent men, refuges and support have been diminished by government cuts.
Meanwhile, people seeking asylum face ever more insidious forms of social controls on a daily basis, including immigration enforcement officers on public transport and regulations within housing. To give one example, women I spoke with who lived in one accommodation facility run by SERCO said that they had been told they would be reported to the Home Office for leaving bedroom doors open that could be a fire hazard. In this way, everyday actions become border offences.
New laws are biting
The impact of legal aid and appeal restrictions, introduced in the 2014and 2016 immigration acts have begun to bite. Refusals for asylum faced by women in MaMa are regularly based on obscure and sometimes legally precarious grounds.
Adequate legal support is ever diminishing. Cuts to legal aid mean fewer lawyers are available to take on appeals. The 2016 act facilitates easy deportation with those removed expected to appeal from the home country, and this has already begun: 42 people were recently deported on a chartered flight to Jamaica. A huge increase in the fees for appealing Home Office decisions now threatens further limitations on access to justice: another wall between refugees and their rights.
To fight back, MaMa has turned to choir performance fundraisers among other projects in an effort to pay legal costs. Only recently we collected goods to raffle to raise legal funds: a “raffle for justice”, in one of the world’s richest countries, with one of the world’s oldest legal systems. A country that colonised many of those that MaMa members have come from. The irony is not lost.
Tickets: £10.00 – book through Bluecoat website below Saturday 12th November 4 – 6pm
This autumn is the 5th Anniversary of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid 5 years of performance, music, campaigning, laughter, tears and prayers. Much has gotten worse in the UK for women seeking sanctuary, but we as a group are stronger than we have ever been.
On June 24th 2016 MaMa choir members along with visiting artists began devising their current work. Transmutable Voices: new aesthetics of citizenship was conceived as a way to capture and disseminate the unique community of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid. We have collaborated with World Renowned photographer Manuel Vason and award winning filmmaker Phil Cox (native voice) to capture the journeys and the voices of the women of MaMa.
This event at Bluecoat is a unique opportunity to be part of MaMa’s ongoing journey. This relaxed performance supported by Bluecoat who have generously offered their space. It is a celebration of how far we have come, how far we have to go, a relaxed performance suitable for the whole family and also a chance to be part of a community based justice project. The new aesthetics of citizenship embraces all of us and a performance a(u)ction will offer an opportunity to support a justice fund for the MaMa choir members/
This event will combine photo-performances co-created by MaMa members and Manuel Vason with live performances, storytelling and written text and will culminate in a “performative a[u]ction” of the photographs.
At the heart of MaMa’s activities is a weekly drop-in. Every Wednesday we share food, have a choir rehearsal, plan fundraising events, and support members who are going through the asylum system.
We welcome visitors, volunteers and donations to make this happen. This weekly time we spend together forges our friendships that provide a safety net. Often gender based violence whether it is domestic violence, rape, sexual slavery, FGM or trafficking results in people not being able to advocate for themselves in a hostile system. If we want to see an end to this violence we need to support survivors.