Arts Arts Reviews Muse

Think Equal Through a Multilingual Experience

Emily Mellows takes a look at the Norman Rea Gallery's latest showcase of York talent in aid of 'Think Equal'

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Image Credit: Klára Šimonová

Think Equal Through a Multilingual Experience was a collaboration of musicians, artists, rappers, singers, poets,and self-professed ‘ranters’, aiming to respond and highlight ‘the recent cases of sexual violence across the globe’ and raise money for Think Equal. The event acknowledged that often university life protects and blinds us to the issues of the real world, arguing that although it is easy to enjoy the privileges that university life entails, we should refrain from living in a little ‘York Bubble’. If the event showcased anything, it was the fact that the students of the University of York are anything but unwilling to face the problems that lay outside of university walls.

Hannah Young’s cover of Jazmine Sullivan’s ‘Masterpiece’ and Wignii Mtopo’s performance of Billie Eilish’s ‘idontwannabeyouanymore’ set both the tone and the standard of the evening. Later in the night, we saw Writer’s Rain, whose original songs left the audience collectively holding their breath until the very last note. Writer’s Rain’s original pieces ‘Breathe’ and ‘Molasses’ had a softness and warmth, beautifully contrasting the more serious lyrics and issues of body image and mental health. The Shamble, a Yorkshire-based band, and Tom Gulliver also played brilliant original songs with a confidence and charm which showed their obvious passion and experience. Saif Imran’s original poetry, inspired by his Palestinian grandfather were also incredibly thought-provoking. His poetry had a lovely musicality and was evidently deeply inspired and rooted in sensory experience and familial bonds. AsImran performed, the audience were wrapped up in what felt like a hazy childhood memory.

It was evident that this event show cased a talented collection of poets, songwriters and artists. However, it became increasingly obvious as the night progressed that there was nothing to tie these acts together. It was less a cohesive ‘experience’ united in conveying and exploring the complexity of a single idea or theme, and more of an open mic night.

Perhaps the artwork was slightly more bound together by an overarching theme; the censorship of female bodies in mass media. Tazmin Adam’s two oil paintings,Exposure and Exposure II, were the pieces which stood out, purely because they reflected the nuances and complexities of the issue of censorship. As Adams wrote, the pieces recognise that “on one level censorship on the naked form helps protect against exploitation and unwanted harmful attention”, while still acknowledging that such censorship leads to the suppression of female identity and sexuality.

One issue with the event was perhaps that its advertising was incredibly misleading. The event was branded as a‘multilingual experience’, but there was little emphasis throughout the event on exploring or celebrating different languages. Two of the poets who performed spoke in another language;Urdu and German, however there wasn’t a single singer or rapper who performed on the night in another language. Neither of the two poets who elected to perform their pieces in another language performed an original piece, although they performed with an infectious enthusiasm for the foreign languages they tackled.Perhaps if the event is continued next year,the organisers could encourage more artists to undertake creating and performing pieces n other languages, or encouraging their artists to explore language, culture or equality in their work. Alternatively, the event could simply be re-branded as a celebration of University student artists, poets,musicians and creators.

Another issue with the event was that throughout the event at least five different causes and human rights issues were discussed by various poets, singers and speakers. These topics ranged from sexual vioence, gay rights,the mental health of university students and the Israeli-Palestinian debate. The audience were presented with a dizzying number of charities and ideas, meaning they left slightly dazed, half wondering which of the causes they had actually donated to. The organisers’ attempt to give voice to so many societies and organisations was admirable, but perhaps focusing in on a single issue would have left a more lasting impression

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