A burst of pink.
A puff of silver.
A general inclination for simultaneously sinking into comfort and floating into orbit.
You did the thing!
I’ve never been to an American salon, but I’m sure it would feel familiar; arriving in the body as a sensorial orchestra lulls the visitor into an almost soporific state. The layout of your salon feels like an amalgamation of places recognisable to me: the brief confusion of encountering a sound that doesn’t match up with the television in the corner of a nail salon; the vivacity of a Casablancan juice bar; and, of course, the cushioned leather swivel chairs of any hairdresser or barbershop, positioned in front of the mirror that will reveal delight or disaster at a new ‘do.
WHAT A FEELING! provides only delight, offering the audience a window into the defiant joy of five Black women—me, Cass, Mele, Sekai, and Alberta.  Though the seated audience member is staring at us, we aren’t really returning their gaze. We’re looking at each other. White audience members have to acknowledge that they’re not the objects of our attention. Adorned with your grooving patterns, we command everyone’s attention all at once. Together, we whisper ‘Look at us. We’re beautiful. We’re strong. We’re safe in these arms we’ve wrapped around ourselves.’ On the radio we’re saying much the same but with real words—snippets of which are caught by the audience as they meander through. Spots of sagacity sprinkle to fill the space before fading into aural background once more. There are fragments of conversation about hardship and struggle—we are all human, after all—but ultimately you were guiding us to revel in our successes, to champion ourselves and to voice the ways in which we practice self-care. This work is a demonstration of our community as a whole—providing space for each other to freely feel and express pain, in order to make space to feel and express joy. And—BOY—are you good at making space for joy!
I was completely gutted to miss the Backyard BBQ you held. Not only did you grace the crowd with your own (impeccable) music taste, you brought along (indelible) DJs, Junglehussi and Gemma Cairney, and made sure no one went hungry with food from the (inimitable) Ugwaboe’s Kitchen. I cry. I did get to experience the night through Instagram stories, however, and even the usual social-media-detatchement-filter wasn’t strong enough to dim the brightness of the night—the joy of everyone there was still palpable through the blue light of my cracked phone screen.
It made sense that you’d host an event that would instigate dancing—you’re SUCH a dancer! Even though your body isn’t physically present in this work, there’s movement and musicality throughout—gestural marks and dancing hands invite visitors to swirl and sashay through the room with awareness of, and reverence for their bodies.
Each portrait conducts the audience’s choreography: spin, sit, look, stand, walk; spin, sit, look, stand, stop; listen to the radio; lean into the print; spot the sparkle; now looooooooouuuuunge.
I still can’t get over the speed with which you created the prints. We’d filmed my ‘getting ready routine’ and I nipped out for five minutes. When I came back you’d already picked a still photograph, positioned my hands lovingly around my neck, and were waiting and ready to know my favourite colour. Green.
I love your palette. The pink adorning the walls has been so carefully selected—a shade off and it wouldn’t have worked. I sometimes feel that multidisciplinary artists don’t get the credit they deserve for seemingly small decisions like that—the kind of decisions that seem more respected in the work of a painter or curator. But it’s so vital to hit the nail on the head with colour, especially when you’re painting a whole room. And the silver! I often find silver cold but there’s nothing unwelcoming about the energetic mural that adorns the gallery’s back wall. I didn’t know at first that it had been a collaboration, but once told, it seemed obvious; there’s a conversation happening in those marks—a friendly rally of compliments between you and Hussein  perhaps.
When we recorded in your studio, you cultivated safety and joy—hugs, snacks, laughs, music and plush furniture. You wrapped me in warm—the air itself steeped in the kindness that emanates from you and your work. It’s like you somehow bundled that up and transported it across cities to spread and share that warmth beyond the walls of the studio.
I’m not sure if I told you already, but the anxiety that lives in my bones spread throughout my skin on the day of the opening and almost stopped me from coming. But the Sister’s Preview and the nourishment I knew it would provide propelled me to get out of bed and onto the train. I’m certain it’s impossible to accurately express that feeling of belonging that comes from being with Our People, but you know what I mean. I always lament the hyper-visibility of being Black at an art opening in Scotland, but you demonstrated something I’d never quite considered possible for us here—that we deserve agency in the spaces we create. Thank you thank you thank you for doing that, for being part of this special group that holds each other down and lifts each other up at every occasion. You know they’re going to write about us.
I can’t wait to see what you do in WHAT A FEELING PART II! Thanks again for extending the summer ;)
Ya girl, Saoirse
Saoirse Amira Anis is a Dundee-based artist and curator whose practice prioritises radical care, informality and empathy. Saoirse’s work is informed primarily by Black queer literature, her personal ancestry, and her own body as it moves through the world. She considers the ways in which the body holds ancestral and lived memories—particularly in relation to feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy.
Recent projects include solo shows at Dundee Contemporary Arts (2023), Cample Line (2022) and a performance for Art Night Dundee (2023).
Christian Noelle Charles is that Black contemplative visual practitioner based between New York and Glasgow, Scotland. A Syracuse, New York Native, Christian’s work is an exploration of Black feminine representation and self-love in a contemporary world.
Christian’s next performance WHAT A FEELING! | ACT II will be performed as part of Take Me Somewhere Festival, Glasgow on Saturday 14 October. Tickets here.
 Cass Ezeji, Mele Broomes, Sekai Machache and Alberta Whittle.
 Hussein Mitha