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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Rumsby

Being Human 2020 | New Worlds | 12-22 November

The Being Human Festival feels even more poignant this year. A year where the arts and humanities have felt closed off. Museum doors have shut, only to temporarily open. The excellent performances found in theatres, big and small, have been put on pause. Covid has taught us many things; for me I have been reminded of the deep need to connect, express and explore. The Being Human Festival offers us a chance to do just that.

Throughout the festival you can: connect global and local histories through objects such as the cotton reel,[1] and Wedgwood medallions;[2] explore the connection between soil and the soul; and indigenous creation stories. There are many opportunities to express yourself, whether that is drinking tea in a virtual Being Human Café discussing William Blake’s (1757-1827) ‘Albion Rose’ (1793) or a Turkish ‘Kahvehane’ (think virtual Turkish coffee house) to discuss art and experiences of living or working abroad in the cultural sector. If current events are more your thing well, you can attend a virtual event discussing the #USElection2020 and the role of racial politics and Black Lives Matter, gender politics and white suburban women, and the future of American democracy - the incredible variety of stuff on offer is enriching.

1788 Wedgwood medallion: depicts a kneeling African who asks: ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’

If I lived in London I would make a special effort to participate in an audio enhanced walking tour entitled ‘On the Trail of Refugees in 1930s Bloomsbury’. I studied at SOAS and know Bloomsbury quite well consequently. At least how to navigate the area! I do not know the history of 1930s refugees from Nazi Europe in Bloomsbury. On this tour you can find out how support for refugees was coordinated from Bloomsbury, how exiles contributed to Britain’s anti-Nazi propaganda war, and how activists plotting the Nazis’ downfall were spied on by MI5 agents.

Bloomsbury Housing

It’s not all Pol Pot!: Cambodian arts in the 21st century.

Looking at all these great events I wish I had the spare time to attend all the above. One event I have marked in my calendar takes place this Friday 13th entitled It’s not all Pol Pot!: Cambodian arts in the 21st century. As you know the research presented in this website amplifies my work in Cambodia. Living and working in Cambodia over the last 8 years or so I have been struck by Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage. I love Khmer rock and roll and through the awesome work of Amanda Roger have learnt something about Cambodian traditional and contemporary dance which is why I am particularly excited about Friday’s special event on contemporary dance in Cambodia. Here’s a blurb about the event: Discover how contemporary Cambodian dance is being used by a young generation of artists to showcase new identities, expressions and experiences beyond the narrative of the Killing Fields. The event will include a pre-recorded dance performance screened as part of CLA's Cultural Season. DARK by Choung Veasna and THE PILLAR by Sok Nalys and a Q&A with the artists involved. Register here

Illustrating Anthropology I am delighted to say that my collaborative work with illustrator Ben Thomas will also be featured during the festival alongside some other brilliant anthropological works.

The illustrating anthropology online exhibition will be taken to the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool 12-15 November and the Bloc Projects Sheffield 8-12 December.

Illustrating Anthropology is an exhibition that explores human lives around the world through comics, drawings, and paintings of anthropological research. From researchers who use illustration as a method to capture their experiences of fieldwork, to those who put pens into the hands of the people they are researching to better understand their world view, this exhibition draws together a wide range of contemporary illustration as research practice. Drawing has long been part of anthropological research and communication, in the form of maps, field-note sketches, and kinship diagrams. But now anthropologists are increasingly recognising the phenomenal story-telling power of narrative-driven illustration as a way to return their research to the communities they work with, and to share their findings far and wide.

Illustrating Anthropology is produced with support from the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland and is curated by Jennifer Cearns and Laura Haapio-Kirk (RAI Public Anthropology Fellows), and Dr Benjamin Dix (Founding Director of PositiveNegatives who produce comics, animations, and podcasts about social and humanitarian issues).

In times of crisis, do we really need the humanities? The Being Human festival demonstrates the many wonderful ways in which we do.

[1] What can a cotton reel tell us about Derbyshire’s relationship to slavery? [2] Connect Wedgwood and Britian’s popular abolitionist movement

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