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Faces of Fulham Palace: Adisa

My name is Adisa and I’m an African Caribbean performance poet with over 25 years of experience in performance and workshop facilitation.

I was introduced to Fulham Palace’s research project exploring the historical links between the Bishops of London, colonialism and transatlantic slavery by chief executive, Siân Harrington. I was instantly excited by the nature of the research and the bravery of the Palace in bringing this information to the public’s attention in an artistic and accessible way.

One of the methods of resistance that we are exploring is Obeah. As part of the wider project, and working alongside the work of the Palace’s outreach and participation practitioner Bimpe, I am leading a series of workshops from the perspective of African resistance during enslavement on the plantations.

Obeah is a catchall term applied to the use of African spiritual traditions by the enslaved in British slave societies. As well as being used in active resistance, Obeah was feared by the planter societies. This African spiritual system empowered the enslaved to rise up and fearlessly take their freedom.

I am looking forward to running workshops that explore the Palace research from four different areas of resistance that support the importance of Obeah:

  • The power of hair – how enslaved women’s hair was used as a as a vehicle of liberation.
  • Dance and martial arts – fighting systems like Capoeira and Kalinda, and seeing how these skills were secretly practiced and infused into dance movements.
  • Songs of resistance and carnival – the secret codes and messages hidden in songs, designed to uplift, but also inform the enslaved on the time in place of an uprising.
  • African masks – an important conduit between the living and their ancestors. Masks allowed the wearers to transcend their reality, tap into a greater force and energy, whilst at the same time helped the enslaved reconnect with their culture and identity.
Recent mask making workshop

I believe poetry has the ability to empower the writer and the performer and enable them to understand and appreciate the need to develop emotional intelligence. When we explore this kind of work through language, we become more grounded in our own identity and more empathetic to others’ stories.

Our creative writing workshops will look at African masks and the narratives behind them, and how they were used to empower those who wore them. Inspired by these stories and the images that come from these masks, we will create poetry that becomes the dialogue for a short drama performed by participants at the end of the session.

These four key areas of resistance will produce meaningful creative writing in the form of poetry and song. An artistic and engaging way of bringing the project to the public’s attention.

Adisa’s work is part of the Palace’s project working with community groups and schools on the subject of the Bishop of London’s historic involvement in colonialism and transatlantic slavery. This will result in an exhibition in early 2023.

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