Small thoughts on work by self-identifying women of colour

I’m in Edinburgh and I’m seeing shows to ‘diagnose’ as part of The Sick Of The Fringe. I’m meeting new faces and being reminded that one of the freedoms that being paid (a bit) to be up here is that I can seek out shows around my more organised schedule.

I’m in need of comfort you see. I need a return to listening to narratives that connect with me and I think work by self-identifying women of colour will be my tonic. I don’t need to ‘like’ the work but I need to be present with it. I need to feel my body present with these women. A body that will see them. A body that will feel with them.

I will dutifully place my body in the service of these women’s work. I will witness the ways, physicalities, emotional labour, articulations and forms that many in the arts still refuse to make space for. Throughout my goings about in the UK as an artist/whatever, I usually see work for a variety of reasons; I do it for my own curiosity and learning, I do it for these artists and I do it to let venues know – even if only in financial terms – that the work is needed.

At the moment, I am doing it for me.

I need to be reminded that I’m not crazy and that I am not blind. Like enacting a spell by writing it down, I need to evidence that work by women of colour actually exists regardless of how many tales I hear along the lines of ‘no one applied for the role’ ‘no one sent in an application’ ‘no one came to mind to programme’.

I may disagree with the form that this work by self-identifying women of colour takes. I won’t understand all of it. Some devices may be problematic. But I need it. I need it in a way that moves past the need for representation although I haven’t got the language for what I mean by that yet.

I need to seek out this work because unfortunately, what I see happening around me in majority white venues, festivals and curations, calls on me to lock into a resilient mass of emotion shouting out that this work exists. I see defensiveness, fragility and an assumption that the PoC in the group or at the meeting has time to advise, educate and re-traumatise themselves with anecdotes where tangible (often spoken) racism happened. In some ways, I need this work because I want to live.

I want to live in fluid and multi-directional motions rather than hurtle backwards to re-visit pain. I want time to develop myself and the language I have to articulate the now overused but still frequently misinterpreted ‘politics of identity’. I am no longer interested in being employed to loop back to god knows when…to have to explain or  to have my body dance through the politics I have lived through which it feels like majority white arts spaces are only just catching up to.

I want to fly. I feel like I haven’t flown in ages.

I was at some lovely friends BBQ and Get Out came up. All the white folk wanted my take on it. I said I liked it but was really unsettled by all its reminders and the conversations I had with a black man after we had watched the film together made me sad. I didn’t really get to say all that because there were incessant interruptions by white folk saying how much they liked it. How fun it was. How right on it all was. It seemed to me that they were so eager to share with me that they had got all the jokes and therefore all the impacts of racism too. I felt unable to say that this scenario wouldn’t have been out of place in the film they were lauding…I saw their fragility, how fragile the whole situation was, and I did not want to break it. To do so would have outcast myself and I wanted to remain close to them.

However, I felt like I have felt on many occasions this year – that these conversations are great, that they are important but that I do not need to be in the room. If I do not need to be in the rooms that I spent my twenties chasing the power and kudos to get into, what happens now?

I do not know and so I am seeking solace in others (un)like me who might show me how they are coping, making, standing, resting, caring and seeking.


I am using the term ‘self-identifying’ because I don’t want to presume I know the gender identities of the performers I see. I mean it to include cis and trans women and genderfluid people. If I am using the term too broadly to the damage of others please let me know.