Take Me Somewhere series: Ashanti Harris

Words by Sarah Lapinsky

The Take Me Somewhere Festival is back again to bring audiences radical works from a diverse group of the world’s most cutting-edge contemporary performance makers. Running from the 13th through the 28th of October, audience members can look forward to immersing themselves in creativity and experiencing innovative, moving works like Walking with the Ancestors in Joy and Healing by Ashanti Harris who we had the chance to speak with ahead of her performance on Saturday, the 28th of October at Tramway.

Q: How would you describe your practice/artistic journey?

A: I am a multi disciplinary artist working most often with dance, performance, sculptural installations and sound. A big part of my practice involves teaching and facilitating workshops for participants who also perform with me, or for audiences to gain a more embodied experience/understanding of the things I am exploring. 

During the pandemic I started making audio guided workshops for audiences to listen to in their home or out walking in a place of their choosing. These instructional sound works sat somewhere between a workshop and a partcipatory performance experience. I liked the way that they let me share my research with an individual audience member and allowed them to situate the thinking in their own personal context. This performance is a development from those pandemic works. Since then I have been exploring ways of creating an audience experience that is individual and personal whilst also being part of a collective, shared space.  

Q: What is your work about and where did you find inspiration?

A: Walking with the Ancestors in Joy and Healing is an interactive, reparative reading, guiding the audience on an imagined procession in joy and healing. Shifting between collaged narratives centred in Black histories, descriptions of real and imagined spaces, movement provocations and guided body awareness exercises, this performance ritual invites the audience to consider the many layers of narratives which intersect and overlap with their own experiences and to move with them, inviting joyful possibilities for collective healing.

I was inspired by the multidisciplinary nature of Caribbean Carnival and the ways that everybody involved (performers, makers, musicians and passersby) can experience the carnival as a form of meditation, a pilgrimage, a ceremony, a protest, a ritual, or a joyful act of healing. I am also inspired by guided meditation, and African diasporic cosmology and its associated ritual practices. I follow lots of healers on social media who support me to connect with my ancestral heritage through different ritual practices. And I really believe in the power of making time and space to slow down and just listen and feel.

Q: What would you want the audience to take from experiencing your work?

A: This work is a collage of all the things I have been thinking, exploring, reading, listening to, feeling, and doing shared with a small audience of 20 through two voices – one guiding the audience through thoughts and another guiding the audience through movement. I hope that participating in this artwork will guide audiences to reflect on history and current events and imagine alternate realities and new possibilities for the future. I hope that it is a joyful opportunity to slow down and think and feel and move and find a connection with something they hold in their bodies.

Q: What drew you to the Take Me Somewhere Festival? or What is Radical about this work?

A: As a multidisciplinary artist working across visual art and performance, my work never sits completely comfortably in either setting. I like when audiences can touch things in an exhibition, I like to blur the definitions of (and space between) the audience and performer, and I like creating live, immersive and intimate spaces. I applied for the Performance Now Commission to share new work in TMS because it encouraged ideas which challenged the normal parameters of performance making. This work is an exciting new experiment for me and it has been really great for it to have a home where it belongs! 

Tickets & more info: https://takemesomewhere.co.uk/ashanti-harris

Artist website: ashantiharris.com

Header image by Gavin McCourt.