A UNIVERSITY of Warwick PhD student and a Zimbabwe-born artist, storyteller and activist are among five city poets who will put their words centre stage at Coventry’s Shop Front Theatre.
Commissioned as part of award-winning Theatre Absolute’s two-year project Humanistan, which was paused earlier in the year due to Covid-19, these five new works by Shahnaz Akhter, Laura Nyahuye, Andrea Mbarushimana, Lanaire Aderemi and Raef Boylan will be exhibited monthly in the Shop Front Theatre windows from October through to February 2021.
This series of poetry commissions, funded through Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund, enables Theatre Absolute to continue to provide essential support to independent artists, and allowing for a safe, physically distant experience while also connecting people through culture.
Shahnaz Akhter’s work is the first to appear in the Shop Front Windows. Having just gained her PhD from the University of Warwick, her work looks at the discourse of British Muslims.
She said: “Writing about non-mainstream voices, both within my PHD and within my playwriting is something that I am very passionate about.” Her words will be exhibited at the Shop Front throughout October.
Chris O’Connell, Artistic Director Theatre Absolute said: “We’re really pleased to be able to feature five Coventry based poets over the next five months, and present their words to people through our Shop Front Theatre windows.
“We asked each of them to respond in their own way to our Humanistan provocation and we are looking forward to sharing their work. These poems are for the people of Coventry (and beyond if you are able to stroll past the Shop), because we are one, and now more than ever we should support artists and our community, and aim to connect, inspire and bring people together through sharing culture.”
Following Shahnaz there will be poetry in November by Laura Nyahuye, an artist, storyteller, creative writer, community worker and activist living in Coventry, who was born and raised in Zimbabwe, with work by poet Andrea Mbarushimana on the windows in December. A headliner in the UK and Ireland, Andrea’s poem ‘For My Husband’ recently featured nationally in the BBC Upload festival. She is in the current cohort of the Room 204 mentoring programme with Writing West Midlands. You can find out more at www.andrea-mbarushimana.com
And in January 2021 you will be able to read work by Lanaire Aderemi, a playwright, poet and performer, which mainly explores the politics of memory whilst challenging the marginalisation of black women’s voices, histories and stories. She graduated from the University of Warwick with a 1st Class in Sociology in 2020 and is currently on the Warwick MA Writing Programme.
The idea behind Theatre Absolute’s new Humanistan project is to create a critical mass of work that forges meaningful connections, challenges division and isolation in society, and celebrates our humanity.
Humanistan takes inspiration from the thoughts on nation and society from writers such as Benjamin Zephaniah, Francois Matarasso and Ben Okri. The definition of ‘istan’ means land, country, of place. In that case, Humanistan means Human Country – a place we all belong to, but can find it hard to spend as much quality time in as we’d like.
The Humanistan programme returns in full from 2021 with a poetry performance by Stephen Lightbown at the Shop Front Theatre in March, to be followed by performances of new work by Theatre Absolute’s own Chris O’Connell in June, and Sharron Devine in the Autumn. The full programme will be shared via theatreabsolute.co.uk and regularly updated in line with Government guidelines.
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