What does selection for Push mean to you?
Emmanuel Bajiiji: Receiving the Push commission, has been an exciting opportunity as well as a challenge to dig deeper as an artist. It has inspired me to transcend the boundaries of my imagination, creativity and practice beyond the arena I have worked in before.
Push will enable me to reach a wider audience than I have been able to reach before. It’s a new platform for me and I am very excited by the prospect of being part of that.
How has the last year affected you as an artist?
Due to the pandemic, most of the projects I had planned with different organisations, schools, universities as well as festivals could not go ahead due to the restrictions, as my work has always been in front of audiences and participatory workshops which were no longer safe. The experience was disorientating which led to being more creatively innovative with my work in order to reach audiences without meeting them physically.
I was commissioned by Sheba Arts and Cross lab for their online festivals where I had to produce poetry for both in form of audio and poetic films. This approach created a new experience that this time I no longer meet my audience physically, and I could reach people I would have never met in person. It’s refreshing when you bump into a stranger and they tell you they enjoyed your performance during lockdown.
Last year also lead me to more of a realisation that our creativity is not just limited to the stage but also the corporate sector as I used it to work with individual entrepreneurs and business start-ups with my storytelling. It led to creating new ways of seeing. The fact that creativity held us together during this period and will be a significant weapon to get us out of it.
What do you hope the audience will take away from your show?
I hope they will be excited to see the world through my eyes. Feel less fear of the other, more empathy and compassion. I also hope that they will never look at snow or candy floss the same way again. I hope they will see it more as a metaphor. I hope the audience will leave the show with realisation and awareness of their real individual identity that is a part of the shared identity of all of us who make the fabric of our diverse society.
What comes next for you after Push?
After Push, I hope to bring Candy Floss back to Oldham and share the experience locally before I find means of touring it elsewhere. Theatre in most communities has remained a privilege that has not reached some groups of people and I hope to use my experience to encourage participation and inclusion of non-traditional theatregoers through relevant themes and shows, starting with the newly emerged communities. I also hope to use it to get young people from the diaspora to participate in creative workshops together with indigenous young people.
I hope that my participation in Push will be a motivating factor to other people that their stories and voices are relevant too and that there is a place for them in the creative industry. This will increase the visibility in the arts of a hidden community that has been created by the interaction between young people from different countries and continents and the hybrid culture created by their shared experience which we see everyday but have not fully given recognition.