Art into words: the event
Campaigner Ben Du Preez joined Freedom from Torture's Write to Life group for a spoken word performance of Tate Britain.
On the 20 June, the Tate Britain Millbank was left positively humming with excitement after two engrossing live readings of poetry and writing produced and showcased by members of Write to Life, the writing group based at Freedom from Torture.
Penned in direct response to artworks from the Tate's collections and its current Migrations exhibition, the performances proved a fascinating mix of storytelling and interpretation. Drawing on their own experiences as survivors of torture, members of the group re-imagined famous pieces, personalising them in order to express their own pasts.
Whilst the ever-swelling audience numbers and the various calls for encores probably would have gone to most performers' heads, the Write to Life artists on show were eager to stress to their audience the wider pertinence of the project at hand.
Hasani, (whose poem 'The Land' was met with several raucous volleys of applause), admitted to some initial nerves but specifically highlighted the importance of public performance as an extension of the release regular Write to Life workshops provide him in general.
When I interact with the public like this, I can feel confidence slowly flow through me. It makes me feel stronger. Then when the public accepts your performance, it feels like they are accepting you – you feel more part of this society.
For other performers like Yamikani (who turned The Lady of Shallott into an allegory of her own terrifying journey via canoe across the Limpopo River), the project was vital for several reasons:
Not only did the writing help free me from my memories, but because I feel stronger I am able to turn my pain into a beautiful tool – this is a chance to campaign against torture everywhere and to speak for all survivors of torture.
Read all the powerful works from Write to Life members.