Reviewed by David Walters
– Fuck Borders
– Fuck Border Guards
Two poems, two stories, by Inua Ellams.
Inua Ellams was once described as the love child of Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and John Keats. Coming at English as a second language gives a person the opportunity to look at the formal and informal quality of language and speak with a sense of authority that spans time. He is a poet, performer, playwright, graphic artist, event creator, and designer, and shared a small portion of his work at The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Series.
The work focused on migration and the journey of the emigrant. Emigration that he experienced in his life coming from Nigeria when he was twelve, and that shared experience garnered from talking and working with other emigrants in his workshops. Having never experienced anything close to this degree in my life, I’ve always been in awe of peoples who have taken the step to leave their country and everything they know and love, fueled by the power of hope.
The story, Dolphins, is this journey of hope. Eighty-eight people climbed aboard a broken-down truck for the journey across the desert and nineteen emerged from the crossing. The taped and water-soluble glued together boat boarded to cross the Mediterranean was only designed to go so far and sink so that the Italian coast guard would have to pick them up. Just know, that for every migrant you see on the news coming waterlogged onto the shore, there are 100 bodies that did not make it.
The strength of his stories aside, Mr. Ellams poems are beautiful, touching, and accessible in their meter, heavily ladened with life experience, a strength of purpose, and insight into aspects of humanity and the human condition that fill a lifetime of living.
He says that his themes are identity, displacement, destiny. Three universal themes that are deep in the experience of humanity, no matter where you sprouted from in life and the anguish you were given to carry. Knowing oneself comes with examing your fears. This presentation is a peek into the soul of an artist, his hopes and his fears. We often look to our artists for guidance into ourselves and Inua Ellam is a lighthouse to steer by.
Both poems and both stories were performed by two wonderful actors, Mylène Gomera and Ṣọpẹ́ Dirisu. They both brought a solidness and an understanding of the material lifting it beyond a Zoom performance.
In remembering those that did not safely make the crossing, “When you sing her story, keep her bright.” They have all become stars in the heavens through Mr. Ellams work.
BORDERS & CROSSINGS
By Inua Ellams (U.K.)
Produced by Fuel
Director: Bijan Sheibani
Through January 10, 2021 free event.
Learn more about Fuel at www.fueltheatre.com and @FuelTheatre