Live and Now: Ashanti Harris

In this episode of Live and Now, Steve talks with multi-disciplinary artist, researcher and facilitator, Ashanti Harris. Working with dance, performance, sculpture and installation, Ashanti’s practice often focuses on recontextualising historical narratives – offering an exploration of the social, cultural and historical implications of the movement of people, ideas and things. Based in Scotland, Ashanti is co-director of the dance company Project X, lecturer in Contemporary Performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and co-facilitates the British Art Network research group The Re-Action of Black Performance alongside artist and curator, Sabrina Henry.

In this excerpt from a longer interview recorded for the Live Art in Scotland project, we touch on the origins of Project X as an organisation platforming dance and performance from the African and Caribbean diaspora in Scotland, and explore the creative works which emerged from archival research into Les Ballet Nègres, known as the first British black dance company, as well as Ashanti’s wider explorations of diasporic knowledge and experience through performance.

Contexts and documents:

  • Ashanti’s website,
  • The Re-Action of Black Performance, a research group exploring ‘how the state of being re-active is used as a theme in Black British performance art, not only as an act of agency and resistance but as a creative catalyst in the form, process, intention and legacy of the works created’.
  • Project X,  a multi-disciplinary collectively run organisation working to platform dance of the African and Caribbean diaspora in Scotland and further afield.
  • A conversation between Ashanti Harris and Dr Ranjana Thapalyal to accompany Dancing a Peripheral Quadrille, a new commission for the Edinburgh Art Festival 2022.
  • Review of An Exercise in Exorcism, staged at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA): ‘Built in 1778 for a tobacco merchant who made his fortune through the transatlantic slave trade, GoMA’s site is one of a number of neoclassical piles dispersed across the city that were constructed on the profits of the Caribbean plantations. […] An Exercise in Exorcism is one of a number of works devised by Harris on the theme of Guyanese Jumbies, malign ghosts that often inhabit particular locations’.