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  • Writer's pictureJamal Gerald

Provocation @ COVID-19 Recovery, Leeds 2023

Throughout my career, I felt like I haven’t been taken seriously as a young Black artist. I’ve been making performance work since 2014, and it seems like people only started to get interested once they saw that I was a part of Transform festival last year. And people seemed shocked at me making something of that scale. And I’m like yeah, this is what happens when you invest in Black artists. But it’s bittersweet, because I don’t like the fact that I’ve been making work for quite some time and people only started to care because of Transform. 

If it wasn’t for things like CLAY, Transform, The Sunday Practise, I probably would’ve left Leeds by now. And it’s funny because the support I get in Leeds, is usually from small organisations. And these small organisations seem to care more than big institutions. 

Half of my Idol tour has been cancelled due to COVID-19. But I still have been working and researching for future projects, one called ‘Jumbie’, which is a Caribbean term for spirit/ghost.  I’m going to be resurrecting ‘The Jumbie Dance’. It died out due to the impact of the Church and colonialism. So, bringing that back to life should be a lot fun. I also want to make it more contemporary and queer. 

The Jumbie dance was an African-derived folk religion on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. Traditionally, it was a trance ritual for divining, curing sickness, solving personal problems and redress of social injustice. The ceremonies were also the feast of food, music, and dance that reinforced bonds with living and ancestral kin, and often functioned as a healing ritual. I feel like the idea for this piece is very timely. 

So, that’s what I’ve been up to. I don’t have much time, so I’ll get to my solutions. 


- HAND OUT MONEY! Transform is a small organisation and it’s the only organisation in Leeds that has said to me, “Here’s some money, go and make something!” There needs to be way more commission opportunities in this city. 

- I’ve said this before, but be genuine about wanting to make a change. Because I find it insulting that it took footage of George Floyd dying and a global pandemic in order for people to care. However, Black artists and people have been talking about injustices for such a long time. It’s important to keep listening to the people that have been doing the work. 

- Take more risks on artists, don’t wait until they become successful. Give them the chance to dream and think big. Learn how to grow with artists. Keep supporting their practice, don’t make it a one off thing and then forget about them. 

- Pay artists for their time. Don’t expect me or any other artists to help with your ‘research for change’ and then not pay them or me. Please do and be better. 

- If you’re a person in a position of power, and you’ve been in that position for a while and you feel a change should be made, I suggest you step down. Burn it down and start again. That's probably a bit radical for some people, but I do believe that will make a change. Or else we’re going to keep having these same conversations over and over. Sitting and wondering when a change will come. 

- I’m creating my own Black queer enterprise, that will go on to produce my work. And I want to also commission and support other Black queer artists. Because I’m bored of sitting and waiting for all of you to get it right. So, give me and others the resources to make real change. 

And that’s all I have to say. Thank you!

J xxx

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