As part of this year’s Outburst Arts Festival one play will highlight issues that transgender people face.
Running tomorrow (Friday, November 11) and Saturday (November 12) at the MAC, Belfast, O Evangelho Segundo Jesus, Rainha do Céu is Argentinian Producer Natalia Mallo’s reimagining of Jo Clifford’s Jesus Queen of Heaven, which was performed at Outburst in 2015.
With more transgender people murdered in Brazil each year than in any other country in the world, this piece depicts Jesus as a travesti woman – a term akin to trans but particular to Brazilian culture – played by Renata Carvalho.
Trans actress Renata, having previously performed the piece in Brazil’s favelas, asks in the performance why we still persecute the outsider.
Speaking about the play, producer Natalia Mallo said: “This performance is not only a breakthrough for Renata and Outburst, but it also brings a positive perception to press and audiences. It enables a shift in the idea of travesti women always being excluded from public life, politics, and the arts.
“With the support of British Council and Outburst the performance in Belfast is of great value for Renata, for the LGBTQ artistic community in Brazil, and for both our societies to bring stigmatised identities to the spotlight and provide a proper world-class context for their artistic expression.”
The play, which is performed in Portuguese, with English subtitles, is a result of an 18-month UK-Brazilian collaboration. In 2015, Outburst’s Artistic Director, Ruth McCarthy, visited the Americas through the British Council; to learn, share and develop LGBTQ experiences, particularly in Brazil and the Caribbean.
Speaking about the production, Ruth said: “This performance is an incredibly beautiful and moving piece. By using a familiar story that we all know, our audiences can identify with real issues that LGBTQ people still face.
“It is particularly poignant that the performance is here as we approach Transgender Awareness Week on Nov 14-20 which aims to raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues the community faces.”
The performance ties in to the festival’s 10th anniversary theme of Home, and what it means to you if you are a person who is LGBTQ in Northern Ireland or across the world, with the festival boasting participants from over 15 countries, through Outburst’s partnership with the British Council.
The festival opens today (Thursday, November 10) with the world premiere of Small Axe: Caribbean Queer Visualities at the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast.
This exciting new group exhibition of queer work includes artists from Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and examines queer developments in the Caribbean and its diaspora over the past two decades.
Then on Friday, (November 11) Outburst will host an international symposium on queer arts, welcoming artists, performers, producers and activists from Brazil, Venezuela, Trinidad, UK, Ireland, Jamaica, Colombia, USA, Canada and Argentina. Another part of the collaboration with the British Council, this event will pursue issues such as how to develop global queer arts partnerships and how best to nurture queer arts creativity.
As well as the Americas connection, Outburst and the British Council will explore online (https://nireland.britishcouncil.org/programmes/outburst-queer-arts-festival) the idea of home through a series of digital commissions. They’ve asked some of the most interesting UK artists – including Omagh poet Cat Brogan, Le Gateau Chocolat, David Hoyle, Gerry Potter, and Robert Softley, most of whom will be performing at this year’s festival – to create short films exploring the question: What does ‘home’ mean to us as queer people?
Speaking about the collaboration, Graham Sheffield, Director of Arts for British Council, said:
“We are excited about the work that Outburst Queer Arts Festival has been developing over the past year with British Council Americas and British Council Northern Ireland, to celebrate their 10th Anniversary.
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Outburst, one of this city's most exciting festivals, on the discussions and presentations on queer arts practice and the role and development of queer arts as a global catalyst for change, themes that are so important to our work across the world.”
Outburst Arts Festival runs from November 10-19. To find out more about the programme, and buy tickets – visit http://outburstarts.com/.
For more information on their collaboration with the British Council and the online digital project, visit https://nireland.britishcouncil.org/programmes/outburst-queer-arts-festival.