Birmingham Arts Ensemble to present ‘POWER’ performance on African Diaspora history

The Yoruba Contemporary Arts Trust (YCAT) is gearing up for an exciting event that promises to captivate audiences and shed light on African Diaspora history through a unique blend of music, poetry and dance. 

Scheduled for March 15, the event titled “POWER,” according to a statement, will be presented by the Birmingham Art Ensemble, a collective of young artists from Birmingham.

The concept behind POWER goes beyond mere entertainment; it aims to delve into the rich tapestry of Black history, emphasising the significance of cultural heritage and the interconnectedness of global narratives. 

The past cannot be disconnected from the present. However, the study of history which helps us get a better understanding of the past is absent in many schools across the United Kingdom, Kate Luxmoore, composer and musician, found out one day. Her daughter in a conversation with some of her friends were discussing their subject choices. They were not interested in taking History at all, even though they did not know much about their history as African Diaspora  people in the United Kingdom. 

“That was when I began to ask, wondering what the issue was. They did not feel that the curriculum represented their African roots enough,” Luxmoore says she also began to think of how to share African history in a way that engages young people beyond the classrooms.

The study of African history has been a subject of debate across the country, especially following the Black Lives Matter campaign. With media reports centering the significance of such a big void in the curriculum, other organisations draw attention to how eurocentric the history curriculums are. 

That was how the research started for  YCAT. It led the team to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, during which many people from the African continent were sold across the world. That global event is critical to the understanding of African Diaspora people today. Gradually, the first seeds of what became the POWER project were sown. 

Drawing the performance title from a quote attributed to Micheal Boulton, one of the leading industrialists from Birmingham when he said “I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have—POWER.” The history of Birmingham cannot be disconnected from trade, looking at the impact of slave trade on the city, even as it continues to grow more diverse. 

“I began to think of ways to create an educational resource on the slave trade and the history of the trade in Africa and its effects on Birmingham and why we would find ourselves in this city together,” Luxmoore says that led the musical and narrative performance which also celebrates African Diaspora musical and dance traditions which travelled across the oceans.

Considering the expanding diversity in the country, with a rising population of people of African descent, increased representation in the country’s educational curriculum is critical. Projects like POWER are important if the UK desires a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable society by cultivating awareness in Africa and its diaspora among children and youth. 

Enter the Birmingham Art Ensemble–an expression of YCAT–a creative collective of young artists across North Birmingham, who use performances to educate, inform and entertain. Through its work, BAE continues the YCAT mission to “nurture and promote connection and collaboration between artists working in different parts of the world and with the places they are working in.”

“We remain committed to spreading Yoruba culture through arts and culture,” says Olalekan Babalola, the creative director of YCAT. “And this particular POWER project is important because history is critical to explaining how Yoruba culture (and other Black cultures) became scattered across the world, in the first place.” 

The event will be at the Long Gallery on Friday, March 15, 2024. to see Birmingham Art Ensemble’s performance of ‘POWER’. Time is 1.45-2.30pm. Tickets can be booked here, even as you watch a video on the performance. 

Through these narratives, YCAT hopes to centre Black history, putting it where it deserves to be, high on the ladder of history. “We hope this performance attracts new audiences, generates debate and increases awareness around African Diaspora  history. Hopefully, more schools and local communities will also be interested in using the curriculum to connect the missing gaps in history,” states Luxmoore.


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