Artist Selina Thompson tells us about her upcoming project Dark And Lovely. Performances run from 15 - 21 February at Union105.
"I’m Selina, I’m an artist, I live and work and drink and dance and most importantly get my hair done, in Leeds. Over the next few weeks, I’m working on a project called Dark and Lovely which is commissioned by East Street Arts, and supported by Leeds Inspired and Arts Council England.
I wanted to write to you, and tell you a bit more about the project, a) to tempt you into coming to the performances, like a particularly hirsute siren, b) because it’s actually - and this is a little cheeky, so forgive me - really, really good for me as an exercise to sit down at regular intervals and explain what I’m doing, and why , and c) Because both me, and my producer, Emma are hugely, hugely proud that this project is a part of Leeds Inspired! We’re both people who chose, very specifically to live in this city, and were welcomed, warmly and immediately. So it’s lovely to be working on a project that feels tied to the city in a really set way.
Dark and Lovely is a project about black hair. Curly, coily, springy, kinky, coarse, fragrant, spiralling, shining, growing, breaking, relaxed, shop-brought, braided, permed, jheri curled, afro, straight, hi-top, hi-fade, dreadlocked, crunchy, stubborn, tough, bantu-knotted, hot-oil-treated, big-chopped, natural, dyed, Brazillian, dark, lovely, black hair.
I’ve wanted to work with East Street Arts, a brilliant, brilliant, arts organisation in Leeds (they put on lots of events in the city and beyond, and work with artists to help them develop… amongst many many other things), since before I lived here, and when the opportunity came to make something for them, as a part of their programme of work at Union 105, their Chapeltown space, I was eager to do so.
I wanted to make something that would feel like it belonged in Chapeltown as a geographical location, and something that connected with my relationship to that bit of the city. And I was drawn, sort of irresistibly to hair, because Chapeltown is where I get my hair done and where I pick up my haircare, and that’s an emotional act for me: It connects me to my heritage as a black woman more explicitly than perhaps anything else in my life. Hair, is not just hair for me.
So from about… it says August on all the flyers, so we’ll go with that, but it may even have been a little earlier… since last year, I’ve been making my visits to Chapeltown a little more structured. Drank tea and listened in in Barbershops, learnt how to weave, relax and braid like a pro, stacked shelf upon shelf of relaxers, butters, creams and gels, and discussed and debated and been teased and teased RIGHT BACK the topic of hair in the black community. Because I believe, I truly do, that like all, seemingly little things, at it’s heart, the debate about black hair tells us a lot about black identity: how we view ourselves and each other, how we want to be viewed, how we feel that we should be viewed, and also our deepest, darkest fears and also most fragile hopes about what blackness means now, and what it could mean. Big Questions.
So that’s a little introduction to the project there! I’m going to stop now, because I want to write you some others if I can – perhaps one about the photo shoot, and DEFINITELY one about the GORGEOUS film screening we did in Chapeltown. But for now, Farewell, have a lovely week."
You can follow Selina on Twitter @SelinaNThompson
Dark and Lovely is funded by Leeds Inspired / East Street Arts / Arts Council England