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mandla rae – Artist Interview

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Author Jo Mcleish - The Media Room

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Tell us about yourself, where do you come from and what do you like to do in your spare time?

So, I was born in Zimbabwe, but raised in London and now I live in Manchester. In a way this makes me feel like I am from everywhere. In my spare time I like to go on long hikes, I like to climb trees, I just like to be part of the natural world.

Tell us about your artistic practice – what’s your favourite piece that you have worked on or performed?

I guess my practice started out as poetry and developed into performance poetry and spoken word. In terms of my favourite piece of work, I’ve been working on my first solo show for the last year and a half. I was commissioned to perform it at Queer Contact in Manchester, but because of the pandemic I’ve turned it into a short film instead and it will premiere as a film at Queer Contact in April.  It’s called ‘as British as a watermelon’, and it’s a reflection on what it’s like to grow up without citizenship.  The strangeness of living your life ‘in between’ I guess. That feeling of not quite belonging anywhere, and how you reconcile that.

What opportunities do you see in the LIBERTY EU programme for young artists?

For me, one of the most important things as a young artist, is the ability to collaborate with other artists and that’s what the LIBERTY EU project offers.  And that geography doesn’t matter – where you live and in what country you practise is not an issue.

I’ve been working with artists in Italy, Amsterdam and Germany – it’s all about connecting with people.  What LIBERTY EU offers is the chance to take part in international collaboration, even if you cannot do that physically.

Why do you feel that it is important for young artists to travel and work across Europe?

Because it allows you to work in different ways – every country is different and therefore it allows you a great deal of experimentation.  We all learn from each other and there are differences in culture across Europe, so we have to embrace that and allow it to inspire us in our own practice.  It gives us, as artists, the chance to explore and collaboration for me is a vital part of creating.

What do you feel are three key factors affecting young artists today?

Firstly, I think it’s the need for young artists to have backing from organisations, that they are ‘aware’ of you and your work, because this helps open doors for you. I think it’s also important to have these organisations believe in you, and help promote your work, because as an individual young artist it’s so hard to get your work seen. And finally, access to funding (and lack of), also impacts on young artists. Again, having backing from organisations can help with this.

How do you hope the LIBERTY EU programme will impact on you as a young artist?

I guess it’s about continuing to work and working on projects that are close to me and that I’m passionate about. The Liberty project has given me the opportunity to work and collaborate with international artists and to develop my work beyond my own artistic practice. So my piece for Liberty has meant a chance to work with a dancer and an animator – it’s allowed me to explore different art forms.

Extract from Freedom of Movement? curated by mandla rae at Journeys Festival International 2020

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