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Incan hallucinogens meet Bauhaus in Swansea

The other night I saw an extraordinary performance at Elysium Bar here in Swansea as part of the Express Yourself festival:

Peruvian/ Ecuadoran dance group PUCP Danza were performing a section from Laberinto – a frenetic dance-depiction evoking ancient Mochichan Inca rituals alongside 30’s style avant-garde:

The performance space was tiny and it felt like the dancers were about to leap over our heads:
I got my sketch book out and captured what I could; you may just be able to make out the black and white body-suits/ head-dresses these feline beings were wrapped in:

(choreographed by ex Cholmondoleys maverick Lea Anderson):

Afterwards there was an informal Q & A with the dancers:

Catch this troupe if you can!

Start saving now

Here in Swansea (where I do art, music and support work with
excluded people) I see at first –hand the everyday horror meted out through Conservative policies. In this case their ‘hostile environment’ policy:

My latest speed-sketch is of two women – asylum-seekers trying to get basic care from a doctor’s surgery. They wait until everyone else has been seen (15 + people) and in the interim are asked various questions / are singled out as ‘lacking the correct paperwork’ and sit for an interminable period. When I returned to check they were finally in with the doctor.

I also see an increasing reliance on the good- will of volunteers to keep services which should be provided by the state going:

This is a sketch of members of Share Tawe in the rain the other night, carol – singing around Mumbles to raise funds. N.B. Share Tawe is a unique, independent scheme that offers accommodation, meals, welcome and solidarity to destitute asylum seekers in Swansea (most of whom have to wait for their application to be processed for months without any food or shelter).This is done through volunteers who either offer a room in their home, or fundraise to support the scheme. Their contact is:
People need saving from Boris Johnston’s ironically named ‘Golden Age’. Let’s resist the Con’s blatant efforts to chop and sell our humanity.

Can you hear us this time Trump?

I was down in London for some training this week and decided to drop in on a choir practice at Sidings Community centre as they prepared to sing at the Trump demo on Tuesday evening:

They had prepped some great songs, including one whose message “Get back on your plane and go home” could not surely be missed by this very unwelcome visitor ( They are called Green and Red Choir and appeared on the 6.00 news coverage of the demo that night!).

Precious difference

‘Dragons Heart & Dragons Soul’ are a capacity -diverse group of
Young performers, shown here doing their piece T4 at the wonderful Welfare, Ystradgynnlais recently:

Dancing to Phillip Glass’s Different Trains (written to evoke both his train -journeys in the 40’s between divorced parents in New York & Los Angeles and simultaneous trips to their death by Jews), the subject matter melds with Glass’s as they explore
the heartlessly -systematic annihilation of disabled people during the Third Reich.

A reminder in these oppressive times that we must look out for each other.

Chango & Snooker

Whilst I’ve been house-bound with the flu I’ve resorted to drawing things and people around me. We got a second- hand snooker table recently and I tried drawing one of my sons and his friend as they had a game:

Snooker match the boys

I was just looking back at it (thinking how my need to draw it fast had reduced people almost to cartoons) when I noticed I’d sketched in the wooden mask on the wall. This is a large ceremonial mask – picked up in a second hand shop in Kentish Town when we lived in Hampstead over 15 years ago. This is Chango – one of the gods of the Cuban Santeria pantheon (taken there by slaves captured from Nigeria, the ceremonies are still held in Yoruban). Shocked at how this glorious object had somehow blended into the background, I decided to paint it:

Shango Mask

Chango is the god of fire, lightening, thunder and war but also patron of dance and drumming (and ‘unbridled sexuality’). He was syncretised with Saint Barbara from the Christian pantheon as she was thought to have similar attributes. N.B. between 1820 and 1860 approx 275,000 Yoruban speaking people were forcibly brought to Cuba. They disguised their gods as Christian versions in order to continue worshipping secretly (Celina Gonzalez’s song ‘Santa Barbara’ refers to this syncretization).

In my 30’s I travelled to Cuba and started to learn about Cuban devotional music (the singing and percussion). More on that next time.


The World in a Swansea Barber Shop

I took out my sketchbook as usual whilst waiting for a
friend to have a haircut in Swansea yesterday. There was so much to draw; in this case I concentrated on the barbers and the physical-
relationship between barber & client – of necessity tender and trusting:

I didn’t have my watercolours with me so I can only describe the dramatic -contrast between the scarlet -silk of the towels against the slate-grey of the walls and floor….

Talking to one of the 3 smart young barbers I realised they were Kurds -from Iraq but clearly concerned for their Syrian compatriots under fire from Turkey right now ( please see my previous blog ‘Another Look at a Face’ 20.11.2016). Just as the barber I spoke to was explaining how often the Kurds who fought I.S. had had poor equipment (and sometimes fought in sandals), a ‘customer’ came in and demanded a trim for £3. The barbers calmly pointed to the extremely reasonable price list and he went off swearing at them. They grinned at me and said this doesn’t happen often…

I am proud to report that these entrepreneurs were helped in their journey to refugee status – with the consequent right to work it bestows- by the fantastic ‘Homestay Swansea’. This is a group without funding who offer asylum – seekers a room, food and spending money for an indefinite period whilst their asylum case is being considered.  (they have a fundraiser this Sunday evening show-casing the work of Kurdish composer Montaz Arian on 13th of Oct in All Saints Church Mumbles. Tickets available from Cover to Cover Bookshop, Swansea).

The irresponsible and stupid action of the Western allies has jeopardised the very existence of the Kurds in Turkey;  used by America to subdue I.S.I.S.they have now been dumped by Trump.

Muralists at work

Passing through the Art College at Dynefor today, I sketched these two artists (in the cafe), painting in a complex  line drawing encapsulating cultural aspects of Swansea:

They were both using what is technically called a ‘Mahl’ stick. This is held diagonally across the surface being painted so that the hand holding the brush can be steady- as seen here: