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Chapter Three: An Afrofuture Narrative for Essex, Under the M25, Thurrock, Essex. Film still Andy Delaney 2022

OTHERED IN A REGION THAT HAS BEEN HISTORICALLY OTHERED

A three-part film and original sound work

I can't recommend it enough...it's just such an incredibly goosebump-inducing, bolshy, angry, fun, well-crafted, instinctive, singular and generous achievement in art...it's gut-punch work, and so meticulously realised. It's epic! - Tim Burrows, Guardian journalist and author of The Invention of Essex

Othered in a region that has been historically Othered is breathtaking. This work will stay with me for a long time - Beth Hughes, Curator, Arts Council Collection

A powerful exploration of what it means to be Black in Essex - Suyin Haynes, Editor-in-Chief, gal-dem

Such thoughtful, timely work - Ekow Eshun, Culture writer and curator 

Stupendous show - Louisa Buck, Art writer and broadcaster

Othered in a region that has been historically Othered opens in the woodlands surrounding Old Knobbley, an 800-year-old oak tree in Mistley, Essex. According to folklore, the tree served as a sanctuary for women who were persecuted as witches during the 17th-century English Civil War. Accentuating the commonality of oppression across vast timescales, the chapter marries the women's barbaric experiences with the contemporary lived experiences of African asylum seekers and refugees living in South Essex, as we hear their harrowing stories in the song's lyrics.

 

Chapter two shifts time and place from Old Knobbley to Dedham Vale, also known as 'Constable Country', where the English landscape painter John Constable painted his national masterpieces. Seen dancing frenetically in the 'Jab Jab' tradition of smearing shiny black pigment over the entire body, the physical movement indexes the carnivalesque gesticulation in which the formerly enslaved and their descendants satirically restaged scenes from their bondage to mock festivities enjoyed by the colonial upper classes. The chapter serves as a gift for the people of Essex and a transformative juncture, propelling the viewer towards a radical future vision in chapter three.

 

In the final chapter, the viewer is taken beneath the M25 at Thurrock into a future reimagination. An insistent voice-over fused over a hypnotic techno beat (a nod to the county's rave culture) envisages Essex accepting difference rather than denigrating it. In this way, a future differing irrevocably from the trauma enveloping past and present is conceived. The chapter was devised from focus groups held with individuals from the Black Student Societies at the University of Essex and the LGBTQIA+ community in Southend. The refrain in the spoken word asks,

 

What would Essex look like if the norm got turned on its head?

And the ‘Othered' became the norm,

If it wasn't so scared to embrace its differences.

And if the 'Essex girl' and 'Essex man' terms never came about,

And it led the world into becoming a better place for all humanity.


'Othered in a region that has been historically Othered' was shown in the main gallery for the solo exhibition of the same title at Focal Point Gallery between June and Sept 2022. The exhibition was also shortlisted for the Freelands Awards 2021.

Total duration: 28:30 mins

CHAPTER ONE: CONTEMPORARY ECHOES OF THE SUBJUGATION OF THE WOMEN OF ESSEX
In the fictive, one has the possibility of a re-inscription ~ John Akromfrah, 2021

4K Video with stereo sound, Duration 11:36 mins, (2:24 mins excerpt), Old Knobbley Tree, Mistley, Essex, 2022

Elsa James | Focal Point Gallery

CHAPTER TWO: A JAB JAB AWAKENING TOWARDS A NEW ESSEX
Because we have been troubled...~ High Mas, Kevin Adonis Browne, 2021

4K Video with stereo sound, Duration 5:38 mins, (2:02 mins excerpt), Constable Country, Dedham Vale, Essex, 2022

Elsa James | Focal Point Gallery
Elsa James | Focal Point Gallery

CHAPTER THREE: AN AFROFUTURE NARRATIVE FOR ESSEX
Afrofuturism takes that ‘othering’ and turns it into a zone of possibility and new dreaming ~ Dark Matter, Ekow Eshun, 2021

4K Video with stereo sound, Duration 11:48 mins, (2:01 mins excerpt), Under the M25, Thurrock, Essex, 2022.

Elsa James | Focal Point Gallery

All film stills Andy Delaney

INSTALLATION VIEWS

Elsa James Focal Point Gallery

Chapter One, Focal Point Gallery. Photo Anna Lukula

Elsa James Focal Point Gallery

Chapter Two, Focal Point Gallery. Photo Anna Lukula

Elsa James

Chapter Three, Focal Point Gallery. Photo Anna Lukula

Elsa James Focal Point Gallery

Focal Point Gallery. Photo Anna Lukula

Othered in a region that has been historically Othered was commissioned by Focal Point Gallery as part of the solo exhibition 'Othered in a region that has been historically Othered' (2022) and generously funded by Arts Council England, Focal Point Gallery and Southend-on-Sea City Council. With support from Art Exchange at the University of Essex. Audio Visuals installation by KSO Digital. Wall vinyl and invitation designed and typeset by Fraser Muggeridge Studios. The exhibition was curated by Elsa James.

Film credits
Conceived, written and produced by Elsa James from 
focus groups held with several groups in Essex, including individuals from the Black Student Societies at the University of Essex; the South Essex LGBTQIA+ community and
anonymous members of CAST, a Southend-based African asylum seekers and refugees charity. Film performance by Elsa James; Directed, filmed and edited by Andy Delaney; Sound composer and designer Trevor Mathison; Music Composer for Chapter One Paul Gladstone-Reid MBE; Movement Director for Chapters One and Three Lea Orož; Costume Designer Symone Williams; Costume Designer’s Assistant Allyson Williams MBE; Make-up for Chapters One and Three Jamilat Charles; Make-up for Chapter Two Storm Thompson; Drums and Conch Shell for Chapter Two Ken Lawrence and Niles Hailstones; Field Recordist and Camera Assistant Graham Tobias; Colourist Adrian Seery; Drone Operator Struan Wallace; Lighting Crew Alex Wallace and Scott Wallace; Researcher Holly Firmin; Consultant for Chapter One Syd Moore; Audio Stories for Chapter One members of CAST; Consultants for Chapter Two Lisa Williams and John Angus Martin; Focus Group for Chapter Three the Black Student Societies at the University of Essex; LGBTQIA+ Focus Group for Chapter Three Fanny Von Beaverhausen, Elliot Gibbons, George Morl, and Lu Williams; Voiceover for Chapter Three Nathan Chaplin; Production Assistance Sue Withers and Titles Rich With.

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