One Woman and her Sledgehammer, Coming to PuSh Fest in Vancouver

By Rachel Rosenberg

Selina Thompson’s critically acclaimed salt. will be making its way from Leeds, UK to Vancouver for the PuSh festival this January. Thompson’s work plays with the notions of identity and how it affects our lives and being, and this work is about her experience of being a part of the African diaspora. The show is emotional, taking the audience on a journey to understand the continuing affects of slavery and about how cultural groups must take time to properly grieve historical atrocities. We spoke to Thompson about her upcoming show in Vancouver.

Can you explain what inspired salt.?

“Inspiration feels like a very strange way to speak about salt. It makes it sound like there was a flash of light and then it came to me, whereas salt. felt very much like a creeping despair that needed an outlet – hah! Cheery. The Black Lives Matter Movement, the Exhibit B debate, online discourse around Afropessimism and the afterlife of slavery, the 2014 Stuart Hall Conference, Saidiyah Hartman’s Lose Your Mother, Audre Lorde, Ria Hartley, and the music video for Never Catch Me by Flying Lotus – all of those things are connected by the same thread of race, of diaspora, of the door of no return.”

How would you describe it to someone who isn’t familiar with your work?

“salt. is a one woman show – with video and sound and ritual and a sledgehammer – that recounts a journey in which I sailed from Belgium, to Ghana and then from there to Jamaica.

The following people should come to see it:

People who know what it is to be part of a diaspora.
People with white privilege who are not too fragile to have it challenged.
People with white privilege who are too fragile to have it challenged, and don’t email me or tweet me afterwards.
My mum and dad.
Fans of Himalayan rock salt, crystals and incense.
Saidiyah Hartman super fans.
People with the time.
People that have seen my other shows or installations and liked them.
People who look at buildings built with colonial wealth and want to tear them to the ground.

And people who maybe struggle to get out of bed sometimes because of what they’ve seen on the news.”

For those who aren’t familiar with performance art but who want to explore it further after watching salt., where should they begin?

“An anthology called ‘Out from Under’, edited by Lenora Champagne. Project O, Bobby Baker, Demi Nandhra, Scottee, Bryony Kimmings, Ria Hartley, Dana Michel and the programmes for Spill Festival, In Between Time and Fierce Festival.”

In the past you’ve spoken about diversity being used as a buzzword. Do you feel that there’s been any true change in that?

“No! Sorry. Diversity is a word used to justify funding decisions. And funding decisions always move in waves and that means change centred around that word is precarious and brittle. These words are more compelling and important to me: liberation, dismantling, systemic change, correcting historic imbalance, accountability, rigour, responsibility.”

What do you hope people are talking about after they have seen salt.?

“I hope they are bigging up the work of my collaborators – Tanuja Amarasuriya on sound, Katherina Radeva on design and Cassie Mitchell’s lights – as the show has a beautiful, clean aesthetic that it doesn’t get anywhere near enough kudos for. Mostly, I hope that the show creates space for them to reflect and contemplate.”

Have you been to Vancouver before? Is there anywhere that you are looking forward to visiting on this trip?

“I was here last year for PuSh and pitched my show, the missy elliott project. I am looking forward to eating loads of food, especially in your Chinatown. I want them to have to roll me across to Toronto for the rest of the tour. I can’t wait to do some long walks in Stanley Park, that was my favourite bit last year. I also loved stumbling across the The Sam Kee building last year, with that light show at night! I’d like to see more of the festival than last year – I was quite ill and missed a lot. It would be great to do some proper nights out… What’s the aquarium like? I want to see a sea otter.”

For further information, Selina has created a reading list:

salt. runs January 24 – 26 at Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation (750 Hamilton Street). Visit PuSh for tickets ($39).


Rachel Rosenberg is a writer and library technician who is a proud member of the LGBTQ2+ community. She writes for Book Riot and can be found on Instagram @penandmitten 

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