In some ways the most meaningful consequence of my Arts Foundation Fellowship actually came with the nomination. Without going into too much detail, during the winter of 2017 I’d slipped in to a negative spin, my confidence was crushed and I was financially on the edge of collapse. I hadn’t made music, performed or been creative for several months. In the middle of this period the AF nominee brochure arrived in the post. I remember having spoken to Shelley about the difficulty of conveying the breadth of my work in the brochure, but I didn’t anticipate the effect that seeing my work laid out would have on me. To see my projects, my friends and collaborators printed across those pages with such thought and care was truly moving. Seeing my work recognized in this way amongst a selection of peers was powerful and restorative. Before seeing it I’d been seriously contemplating my ability to return to my arts practice, yet the nomination gave me hope to persevere through what was personally a very difficult time.
When I look at the above picture I see a mixture of feelings in my face, obviously there is happiness and pride – but I also think in my eyes there is a genuine look of relief – as if a weight was lifting. Receiving the award marked the beginning-of-the-end of that bad spell, and it cemented feelings of worth in my practice, giving fresh hope for my creative future. In reality a large chunk of the award money went straight into paying off debts, and it couldn’t have come at a better time; had I not got the award I would have had to immediately look for full time job to balance my books. I’ve been slowly replacing that money into my “AF Pot” ever since.
When I applied for the AF my intention was to return to Xingu, Brazil to work with Takumã and the Kuikuro community. As it was, shortly after the award I returned to Xingu on a British Council /PRSF residency. It was on this residency that I began both a friendship and a collaboration with singer Akari Wauja. Working with institutions in Brazil, remote communities and individuals with very different cosmovisions and value systems, takes time and patience. My hope is that these collaborations are long term and can build slowly into meaningful and mutual enriching exchanges. These relationships continue and seem ever more important in the face of the growing threat to Xinguan communities way of life imposed by Brazil’s ultra-right President Bolsonaro. The AF award has allowed me to pursue these collaborations at their own pace – without rushing – a unique position.
With the support of the fellowship I’ve recorded an album of Akari’s traditional songs which will form the basis for our live collaboration. The award money partially funded producer Cam Deas’s mixing and mastering of these recordings to a professional level (CD will be release on Antigen Records in September 2019 and has already received airplay of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction). Both Akari and Takumã will be able to travel to Europe in October of 2019, as part of events of an emergency forum to be held in Madrid. In addition to this the AF award will enable me to invite Akari to the UK prior to the Madrid visit, this will allow us to further our musical collaboration; paying for flights, accommodation and rehearsal space. We will present our collaboration publicly for the first time in a pre-recorded live session for BBC Radio3’s Late Junction, and then again in Madrid as part of the Forum.