Article published: Wednesday, November 14th 2012
A series of interactive lectures by the Mbari Group, a new local collective of activists and artists, and Sustained Theatre Up North, a membership organisation promoting black, Asian, and minority ethnic artists, starts tomorrow at the Zion Arts Centre in Hulme. Mule caught up with Mbari Group member Hafsah Naib to learn all about it.
The series, entitled Tell It Like It Is, presents the second part of the group’s Say It Loud programme, aiming to provide a different perspective on black history and present-day topics of local communities in and around Hulme over the course of four interactive lectures. The events will cover issues including racial representations in the media, official statistics and their use in relation to black communities, employment issues and contemporary activism.
Artist and filmmaker Hafsah Naib is one of the founders of the Mbari Group. “Everybody is familiar with the concept of Black History Month”, she said. “But we look at ourselves as a much more organic and creative platform, not only active during a single month.” As a consequence the group’s pilot project Say it Loud runs from October to December, with another project for 2013 in the pipeline.
In partnership with the Z-arts centre, the Mbari Group and Sustained Theatre Up North launched the project with very little money and just £1,000 funding from a Manchester City Council ‘cash’ grant. “We did this completely off our own backs”. Naib works as a contemporary artist exploring identity and representation through photography, installation and film.
The group wants to encourage an impetus for locals in Hulme and nearby areas with diverse populations such as Rusholme and Moss Side to reflect on issues they’re affected by, not least cuts, the police, employment and regeneration. “It’s rooted in the notion of the Black History project but we want people to get more active”, explained Naib.
The Mbari Group wants to involve their audiences and create further work from discussions at their events and offer a platform not only for information but also exchange and participation. In the first lecture, Naib and Milton Brown, the other speaker, will consider of media representation and race in an image-based way and ask the audience what they feel about these representations.
“We want to create a focus group out of that, so it’s not only imparting information but people doing something.” She added that the audience will be asked to come forward and could develop into a writing or a dance group. “That’s what Say it Loud is about.”
While some of issues are universal and affect everyone, Say it Loud want to specifically offer a forum for Manchester’s black population. “Issues of black communities in Manchester are quite different. We want to create a place where this voice can be heard, expressed, taken forward to offering ideas and solutions.”
Primarily it’s a local programme, looking to involve local partners, press, volunteers and funders. But the first part of the programme has already attracted audiences beyond Hulme, Moss Side and Rusholme. “People from all over Manchester come to our events.” It is relevant to broader audiences from North and East Manchester as well.
Naib told Mule how the idea came about when she was hanging out with her friends, talking about the civil rights movement in the US. Naib had stumbled upon the fact that Malcolm X had stayed in Manchester after his talk at the University of Manchester on 3 December 1964.
“He stayed in one of the semi-detached houses in Withington. We first just laughed about this great political figure living in one of those houses in Manchester.” But out of the anecdote grew more serious questions.
“We asked ourselves: What kind of opportunities are there in Manchester? How do people feel about the black voice and the black community? What do people feel about the fact that young black men in Manchester are six times more likely than anyone else to be stopped and searched by police in Manchester today?” From those discussions, the Mbari Group was born.
“It’s a breath of fresh air for the area and the concept of black history.”
Following publication, a reader highlighted that Sustained Theatre Up North’s equal partnership with the Mbari group in this project was not highlighted. This error has since been amended to accurately reflect the project. MULE thanks all readers for their vigilance and assistance.
Tell it like it is will run over the next four Thursdays from 7pm – 8.30pm. The sessions will cover:
- Race, Media and Representation – 15 November
- The Numbers: statistics and black communities – 22 November
- Employment: what’s working? – 29 November
- Activism Today – 6 December
All events will be based at Z-Arts, 335 Stretford Road, Manchester M15 5ZA
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