Last night was the first performance of ASHA.

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Leaving the artistic decision of sound and image marriage to the last minute I decided on having sound and image separate, or rather, spontaneous and live. I opted for reading hers and my poetry while the moving image piece was screened next to me on a sheet that we set up in the Louis Armstrong Pub in Dover, with the help of Dover Arts Development (DAD). The small space, with its stage and mirrors opposite, worked very well.

I asked musician Paul Chenour to join me on the flute.

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It was improvised, spontaneous and with just a few minutes to brief him and get an idea of rhythm and breathing we started. The bouncing off each other was so exciting and I felt safe on stage. He will be joining me on future performances also. The fruition of this project feels like another beginning. I was asked what was next recently and had no answer. I think this still has life in it, the actual performance. It does not feel like a result but a living, breathing, growing thing.

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The show was about 30 minutes and then I had a discussion with my audience of about 20 afterwards. It was a lovely discussion. Everyone felt very comfortable. It was great for me to do a piece that moved people without shaking or nearly traumatising them, for a change. Work like Untitled 13 (2011), where I painted an inverted cross on myself with my menstrual blood straight from the source, and ReFraming (2012), where I consolidated my feelings around my past sexual abuse in Cyprus, always made an impact and interesting discussion came from it but it tended to take time to get out of that space. It was so nice to finally be out of it and be able to enjoy being there. Every time I watched ReFraming I had a knotted stomach. I can’t watch it anymore. I am not there anymore. Every piece takes me to the next one and I cannot do it if I am looking back all the time.

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*Photographs by Clare Smith*

I decided to focus on the poetry and the personal life. I used my old photographs and newspaper clippings on the events I focused on in performance. I did not include any interviews with her, any political talk, no more apartheid. Spending a month in South Africa this year really made me understand where apartheid is now. They are moving on. It does not feel like people are still talking about how horrible it was. They are really and truly dealing with the effects and moving towards reconciliation. This of course takes decades but it is happening. I want to look to the future, not the past, when it comes to this political situation. I felt any political talk would be a polemic. It is apparent but did not need to be spelled out.

Her strength, as a story, was the personal. I found it more interesting, which meant I could get more out of it as an artist. This work was a performance from the start. I could not box it into a self contained moving image piece. It needed to be live and flexible. It needed to invite others in. It needed to be spontaneous, like her actions all those years ago.

I have been thinking about, researching, working towards and doing this project for a year now: I knew I was interested in following her story last summer. I knew I was going to follow it and apply for a grant last autumn. I put in my bid to the Arts Council of England (ACE) in the beginning of the new year. I got the money from ACE in spring. We travelled to South Africa in spring. I had been embodying her for six months before we got to Africa, where I let myself become her but also find a way of working with her as myself. Hard. Fascinating. Tiring. Great. I edited this summer in the UK and Berlin. I am performing it now in the UK and it only feels like the start. Again. A fresh start with an old toy, one that can be pulled apart and folded in endless ways. The versatility of this project is a real gift for me and my practice.

I have been exhausted recently with this and really felt it was ending. That part had. I feel it gave me something at the end that was not just a result. That in itself feels like a success.

Thank you ASHA.