ArtBlack FuturesCulture

‘black waters’ won’t dance around britain’s dark history

February 6, 2020

In the early 20th century an atrocious event occurred at Kālā Pānī prison in India’s Andaman Islands in which Indian independence activists were tortured. The Hindi words Kālā Pānī translate to “Black Waters”. In 1781, a massacre occurred aboard the Zong slave ship where 130 African slaves were thrown overboard in order to claim insurance over their lives. In the 1980s a Black British dance school called Phoenix Dance Theatre was founded to “bring a broader range of voices to the stage”. These events are all connected — past, present and future.

Now, in 2020 the theatre’s current artistic director, Sharon Watson has joined forces with Shambik Ghose and Mitul Sengupta of the Kolkata-based company Rythymosaic to tell their shared response to Britain’s dark history that, of course, looms in the present because, of course, there is still water all around to remind us. 

For a better future, history must be acknowledged. One of the most expressive art forms, dance, can be the perfect communicator on what is not so easy to reconcile. Speaking to The Guardian, the impressive trio of Rythymosaic explained that in addition to giving a spotlight to these not well-known events, the decision to base it off them was because the same atrocities are ever-present in modern-day conversations of Britain’s colonialism.

The project does not wish to spoon feed you history but to provide you with enough striking images that you want to go home and research the events for yourself. It uses the specific events to spread a universal message with images all can comprehend like “forced transportation, entrapment, emancipation”. There are pressing issues that continue to thrive as a result of this dark past like how events like these are written out of history, and the lack of visibility that has too long gone on for the UK’s diverse population. The idea to use three choreographers for a singular piece is a message on how although there is one history there are countless perspectives on it.

This performance will do a UK tour from February 2020 to March 2020.