Four Manchester Artists Respond to The Long Goodbye
Riz Ahmed’s The Long Goodbye: Livestream Edition, a 30-minute filmed performance and companion piece to his 2020 album of the same name, is streaming on demand on the MIF website throughout February. With rave reviews pouring in from the national press — the Guardian called it ‘dazzling’ and the i newspaper said it’s ‘unbelievably good, the most original and engaging live performance you will see during the pandemic’ — we are thrilled to present a different type of response from closer to home.
MIF has collaborated with Fuse, a network and platform launched in Manchester to elevate the voices and work of creatives of colour, to commission four artist responses to The Long Goodbye. Urooj Ahmad, Saidul Choudhury, Grace Maisiri and Fuse founder Jaheed Hussain have each shared their personal, creative response to Riz Ahmed’s show, engaging with its perspective and themes to create work that also reflects their viewpoint and creative practice.
Graphic designer Jaheed has used found photography to create a series of collages responding to the theme of belonging and the charged question ‘Where you from?’. Urooj’s graphic illustrations take Ahmed’s lyrics as a jumping off point to explore the deep history of her South Asian roots and the experience of the diaspora. Saidul’s photographic series reflects the difficult emotions that arise from the feeling of being judged for your culture and religion. And Grace takes Ahmed’s line ‘make a home in no man’s land’ to consider the concept of ‘home’ in a photographic collage. View all four responses and read each artist’s statement below.
‘When we support internationally established artists like Riz Ahmed we’re always interested in how the artist and the work can intersect with and inspire the creativity of artists in Manchester and Greater Manchester,’ says Mark Ball, MIF Creative Director. ‘These vivid visual responses to The Long Goodbye from Jaheed Hussain, Urooj Ahmad, Saidul Choudhury and Grace Maisiri speak powerfully to the issues of belonging, migration and identity in Riz’s work and illustrate the depth of creative talent here.’
Make A Home In No-Man’s Land
In The Long Goodbye (TLG), Riz talked about members of his family emigrating to the UK and also emphasised that where someone comes from is ‘not your problem bruv.’ As you can see, my model Brandina Chamiso has a necklace with the outline of the African continent yet half of her face has images of well known features within Manchester.
No matter who you are or where you come from, home is where the heart is. Home is where you feel safe and are able to expand your roots. From Africa to the United Kingdom, this planet is home and it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you are from or what you do as long as you put a stamp on this planet with love in your heart.
Where You From
Riz Ahmed’s TLG heavily reminded me of my own identity. The cultural significance of the project resonated with me massively, being a child of immigrants and being of Asian-British Bangladeshi heritage. I was born in Oldham, Greater Manchester and it’s home. However, my genetic roots are from a whole different country.
Ultimately, my collages represent ‘belonging’ — an overall theme to TLG and a representation of introspective conversations I’ve had with myself about where I’m from — introduced through the use of flowers; how they originate in one place and grow in different locations, merged with surreal imagery to replicate the emphatic imagery in TLG.
TLG talks about feeling unwelcome in the UK, despite being born here, because of our cultural identity. To me, our identities belong in several places at once, despite where we may be right now and where we came from, and that’s what I wanted to capture for this brief.
The Times I Spend Alone
The reason I was interested in doing this project is because living in Manchester with my own community of people I felt safe, but once I had to start travelling out of the area for other commitments and work I started to notice how low my confidence was, this was especially common while commuting. On public transport you begin to notice how much you are a minority after all… I always think about what other people think and especially when something major has happened in the news in the name of my religion. That’s when I felt the most low and judged as though many were confronting me with their eyes, but as I’ve become an adult [I’m] outgrowing my fears. Now I feel normal and I’ll always be part of my city no matter what. However, the same can’t be said if I left my city.
In this project I wanted to tell a visual story about my friend Ebyan who is a Somali Muslim [who] practices modest dressing. Ebyan is a student at the University of Leeds, travelling on public transport from Manchester. She has experienced being stared down on, and felt uncomfortable when travelling alone. When I asked her ‘What is your worst fear?’ she answered ‘My worst fear is being attacked by acid because it happens frequently’.
I wanted to tell a visual story about the time she spends worrying about her own safety when she is travelling. We went into Manchester City Centre to capture Ebyan in different places such as the university, bus stops, etc. One key area I concentrated on is her facial expressions which show her fear wherever she goes.
Growing up South Asian in a Western society was very difficult and the older I got the harder it was to find the balance where I fit in both places. This series of illustrations depicts the deep history embedded within my South Asian roots, portraying the reality of the diaspora and what many of us have to go through on a daily basis. The themes within the illustrations represent Riz Ahmed’s lyrics and I’ve chosen to interpret the issues with a similar tone of voice, visually.
Chai Tea: Riz says ‘See Britain’s where I’m born and I love a cup of tea and that, but tea ain’t from Britain, it’s from where my DNA is at’. The true product of masala chai has been appropriated in the West by such products as a ‘chai tea latte’ — ‘chai tea’ is a misnomer. This piece shows how, although the true product of the tea is masked by big corporate brands, the tea is still derived from the same place: our homeland.
Rose Garden: The heart is where everything is felt and in this case I wanted to emphasise the pain and hard work that our ancestors have been through to build a better future for us in a place where we feel like we aren’t welcome. As Riz says, ‘You did it all to pave the way, sprinkled your blood on us plants, a rose garden but we had to grow with thorns in our hearts. Our roots are your bones, all your sweat, all your graft’.
My Jeans, My Genes: After the recent outcry about supporting garment workers in Bangladesh, I wanted to recreate a piece which reflected on this social issue. Including Riz’s lyrics within the illustration was a straightforward but powerful way to convey the message. Many workers earn far below the minimum requirement to provide family with shelter, food and education. On top of being forced to work 7 days a week for up to 14-16 hours a day, being in such an unsafe environment leads to the workers injuring themselves.
A Penny Per Paisley: To portray the history behind the Paisley pattern in the best way I decided to incorporate it within the Mehndi (henna) design where it’s most prominent and widely seen. As Riz mentions, the pattern and other materials were taken by the British to then be forcibly sold back to India. He then says, ‘My ancestors helped build this country before they’d ever even set foot there, we built this bitch’. Therefore, the cuts and scars in the hands also symbolise the hard work put in to help build the country.