The Philomela’s Chorus programme premiered at the 2017 Encounters International Short Film Festival. Formed to address the virtual absence of a broad diversity of black female and female identified voices in the arena of artists’ moving image, and mindful of writer Claudia Rankine’s assertion that in contemporary culture, the ‘invisibility of black women is astounding’, it brings together the work of four emerging black female artists from literature, visual arts and the moving image, and offers an opportunity to see a new and exciting range of styles and approaches – from the polyphonic to the deeply personal.
Using video art, performance and experimental narratives to explore ideas of the hidden or censored voice, each artist reminds us of the power of communication through the contribution of their own free-form interpretation of the Philomela myth. These works are a combination of personal experience and collective memory infused with a deep sense of urgency.
Philomela’s Chorus is not just an exercise in image making; it is a unique and challenging programme, which attempts to create a shared visual vocabulary. In differing ways each work is a celebration of cultural and personal survival calling to mind poet Lucille Clifton’s moving Won’t You Celebrate with Me. These four artworks take us on sharp and thought-provoking journeys via biography, historical memory, cultural archives and sound to tell familiar yet unsettling stories.
The Words I Do Not Have Yet
Phoebe Boswell | UK | 11 mins | bw/col
A salute to women in history who have used their bodies in protest when they haven’t been permitted to use their voices, this film reflects upon the collective strength and subversive potential of women standing together and using their voices in collaboration.
Beverley Bennett | UK | 12 mins | col
A tapestry of voices reveals the multi-faceted complexities and experiences of what it is to be a black woman in the UK today. Linking the realities of the every day with historical legacy of the African Diaspora, the personal becomes political.
Nicola Thomas | UK | 8 mins | col
Drawing on the ancient Greek story of Philomela and Tereus, Mel’s Lament imagines a present-day version of the couple and the complexity of their relationship.
Jay Bernard | UK | 8 mins | col
In 1981 the New Cross Fire tragically claimed the lives of 13 young black people and was met with state, media and police indifference. Haunted by that history, and in the context of the recent rise of the far right, Something Said resurrects the spirit of Yvonne Ruddock, whose 16th birthday was being celebrated the night of the fire. Bernard recently won the Ted Hughes award for new poetry with the performance Surge: Side A, a multimedia sequence also exploring the New Cross fire.