Blog: Najia Bagi

Home's resident artist (pictured right) on making work out of her loves and losses

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I have been making work about love, loss and transition since I can remember really. When I was really young, the songs that meant something to me were about love, hope and disappointment. I think these ideas really inspire me because they’re so imaginative. The way we emotionally experience something affects our realities and, for me at least, seriously impacts on my sense of self.

I began delving into the exploration of sense of self through transition and love in 2016 when I was commissioned by Home, Manchester, to become resident artist. What Would Billie Do? was a yearlong project which asked “what parts of ourselves do we lose when a relationship ends?” Like all of my work, this project was very strongly linked to my own current experience. I was heartbroken following the end of a long-term relationship and found myself writing a list of all the things I had lost – people, places, beliefs and ideas of myself which had shifted and changed. I wanted to talk to other people about these feelings, so I started collecting accounts, ideas, experiences and objects which reflected people’s experiences of loss. I wrote some music which was performed live, and made a short film which I co-directed with Mario Popham. Heartbreak, the film, was then shown at Home on the cinema screens in December last year, which was ace!

For my current project, Move Me, I wanted to explore who we are when we are looking for love. Again this project was closely linked to my own life, because I had recently entered into a relationship. I was in transition again and wanted to talk to others who were in a different type of transition and compare our experiences. Had I found what they were looking for? Had I lost the freedom they were enjoying? I found three people who wanted to take part and we agreed that they would write to me every week about being single. I would sit with a cup of coffee and be transported into someone else’s story every time I received a letter. Sometimes I would laugh, sometimes cry, and I always felt very lucky that these people trusted me to listen to them.

I decided to reflect all of this with performance because I wanted the audience to feel a human connection. I wanted to work with a choir because I felt that the collective voice would really reflect what I wanted to say, which was that we all experience transition in different but universal ways. I also wanted to introduce more elements to the performance so I decided to work with a choreographer to help make it more immersive for the audience. I found Elisa and Sal and we got to work! I have been working with the Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir, who have been absolutely brilliant. They have chosen lines from letters which they care about, and we’re using those in our performance.

Move Me will come to a climax with a performance on 3 March at Home, as part of Club Big (artist John Hyatt has turned Home’s art gallery into a fully kitted-out music and performance club with live events every Friday until Fri 17 March). The evening begins at 6pm and we perform at 7pm. The performance will feature the Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir, Ruby-Ann Patterson and myself and will last for around 40 minutes. We’re all really excited to share the work with everyone! It won’t be a polished, theatre-type performance. It’s more like a set of artistic responses to the letters, the way they made me feel and what they taught me. I really hope people who come along will feel that and take something precious away with them.

Move Me will take place on Fri 3 March at Home from 6pm, presented as part of Club Big by John Hyatt, whose current exhibition, Rock Art, will run at Home until Wed 29 March. Club BIG presents live music and performance events every Friday evening until 17 March (18:00-21:00)

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