Sunday, 27 November 2016

REVIEW: Rashida Bumbray collaborates with Simone Leigh on Aluminium

Sat 26 Nov
Tate Modern
Simone Leigh & Rashida Bumbray - Aluminium

Closing her series of discussions, performances and workshops focusing on transatlantic Black Diaspora, Simone Leigh collaborates with New York-based choreographer and curator Rashida Bumbray on Aluminium. The immersive performance journeys through the concrete corridors of Tate Modern's the Tanks and Switch House, carrying the pain and desire to connect to African ancestry. 

Rushida Bumbray, Photo Credit: Jamie Philbert

Dressed in a floor length red dress, Bumbray sings African American spirituals, her voice echoing in the corridors. Lay down body, lay down a little a while..., a reminder of African slave burials and the influence of colonialism. The women sway slowly as they climb stairs and slip round corridors. At the top of the stairs, a young flautist and trumpeter join the quiet procession. 

In the twists of a spiral staircase, the audience look on as Bumbray and Leigh glide in their dresses. The tempo picks up, Bumbray taps and hoofs, stamping louder and lifting her skirt to reveal dozens of silver ankle shakers. The independent rhythms of Bumbray's tapping, her singing and the musicians melodies, create the familiar polyrhythm that is central to African forms of dance. 

Rashida Bumbray (left) and Simone Leigh (right) in Aluminium


The sense of pain and weariness is carried heavily in Aluminium. There is no denying that the performance moved much of the audience. Bumbray slips with ease across the boundary between post-slavery performance and the desire to connect with pre-colonial African ancestry. There is a fluidity between past and present, which serves as a stark reminder that the past can repeat itself. 

2016 has been an incredibly bleak year. Marked by a surge in police shootings in the US, the election of a bigoted US president, and a general shift to the right in Western politics. The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012, and the countless deaths of African Americans in the years that followed, has informed a great deal of political art in recent years.

Leigh and Bumbray remind us that the historic wounds within African American communities are still open. There is still much healing to be done. 
But the entrenched systematic racism that is holding strong in US and Western politics is jabbing at these open fleshy wounds.

Maya Pindar

With thanks to Tate Modern for providing press images.

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