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31-tiata delights 2019 - photography by Aaron Imuere

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tiata fahodzi feels like homecoming

On the train home from Edinburgh back in August 2017, I had an epiphany. Maybe it was the flipbook-esque landscape whizzing past, blurring together all those grass-greens and sky-blues into a single picture of some countryside somewhere North of home. Or perhaps it was the quiet rhythm of the train tracks going th-thump, th-thump, th-thump beneath my seat, swaying me into some kind of trance, like I could bend time or shapeshift or summon a Magic Genie that would boost me into the hidden luxury of First Class and free tea top-ups with no questions asked. 

It being August, the pinnacle month of the summer, doesn’t mean much to the unpredictability of Scottish weather. I’m wearing an oversized t-shirt and skirt with my umbrella tucked away beside me like an honourable sidekick while I sing Supa Dupa Fly to the raindrops mocking me from the flipside of my window. It’s my fourth year visiting the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and I feel electric. Don’t get me wrong, I am knackered, too, and the adrenaline is pumping through my veins, forcing me to stay awake from a tiredness that could summon a 40-day nap. Still, there is something about this electric feeling that feels different. Edinburgh Fringe Festival always felt like a game of Russian Roulette when it came to navigating the arts-mania city. All that time spent in unofficial meetings, last-minute show bookings, and inevitable hill-climbing, and leaving them all unsure of whether that time spent was worth it.

But this time around,  I had an epiphany. After my time in Edinburgh, it felt like the impossible was possible. That there could be a world that centered voices like mine, and my mum’s, and my neighbours’. And faces that looked like mine, and my friends, and the random girl in the toilets of Prince of Peckham who became my best friend for the 4 minutes we stood next to each other. And the stories of my parents’, and their parents’, and theirs.

This world no longer had to be some magical utopia I could only access in my dreams. The revolution was back like it never left, and there was no time to dilly-dally. I had sat in the auditorium of this, moving with Selina Thompson, clutching onto my gift of salt and not letting go until I got home. I shook my ass to Hot Brown Honeys blending together my two favourite things – decolonising and moisturising. I saw myself in Yolanda Mercy’s Quarter-Life Crisis and my dad in Inua Ellams’ Evening With An Immigrant. 

I needed to tell anyone and everyone that would listen because you don’t get epiphanies often, y’know? So I tweeted about it. What else do you do when you get an epiphany nowadays? Journal? Pray on it? Manifest? Nah, straight to the Twitter Streets I went, in the days before threads were a thing and you had 140 characters to prove yourself.  Sure,  maybe I was being a bit too ‘I Had A Dream’ with the revolutionary Edinburgh experience, but it was rare to see so many Black artists up at the Fringe. And then… ping.

Sliding into my mentions like your friendly neighbourhood R&B singer, a friendship blossomed. Getting to know the work of tiata fahodzi felt like catching up with an old friend. Each moment digging into the deeper meanings beneath our skin, our identities, and our stories found itself wrapped around the tongues of poets, playwrights, directors, musicians, and friends. tiata fahodzi stood at the edge of the mountaintop, looking to the horizon and beyond, saying, “There must be more. Of course, there’s more.”, and it stood as a stark reminder to myself that if the industry as a whole doesn’t understand the stories locked in the throats of my people, maybe it wasn’t for them to know.

The binaries of ‘theatre’ as a sector, as opposed to the natural theatricalities of life, were too rigid, too rusty, too stale. This refocusing on the way we tell stories and who we tell stories to and for pulled me back into line like my ancestors were yanking at my collar, tutting, “rah, finally, you came back” and it felt like everything had aligned. This doesn’t feel like a rebranding, it feels like a homecoming. tiata fahodzi are paving the way and loudly walking in their purpose; we can hear the footsteps from the nooks and crannies of our bedrooms where we pen our deepest feelings, convinced they’re too big for even the biggest stages, but onward we walk with them because where there is trust and friendship in community, there is possibility.

A future birthed by the imaginations of tiata fahodzi and their comrades is a future full of intricacy, joy, nuance, passion, and complexity. And maybe this way, we’ll all get our epiphanies.

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