Sufi In The City is a contemporary interdisciplinary arts project gathering influence from Sufi artistic forms. Current interventions focus on the structures and philosophies within music, dance and text. The study of these philosophies and artistic forms acts as a point of departure to ask social and personal questions about spirituality, modernity, dogma, freedom and gender.
Sufi In The City offers audience discourse around Islam and gender, via reflections led by artist Sarah Sayeed on her personal Islamic heritage. Sarah shares a confessional and interior world where women and personal spiritual choices can no longer be side-lined to the margins.
As a storytelling and experiential work, Sufi In The City focuses on reduction, repetition and transformation to bring forward emotion, thought and experience for an audience.
Sufi In The City is currently exploring questions within the subjects of: spirituality within modern constraints and the metropolis, lineages (including spiritual, genetic and geographic), movement repetition creating transformation (including circular and spiral pathways) and the development of scores, as well as artefacts and how these may have significance in tracing lineage or understanding the self in relation to the wider world.
Sarah Sayeed was reading The Machine Stops one day in 2009, the dystopian short novel by E.M Forster. A burning desire to explore technology, it's relationship to modern living and the modes of artistic expression which could be borne from that exploration became ignited. Following three years of development work and research, directing young people and conversations with artists, academics and designers, The Machine Speaks was created. As The Machine Speaks gave voice to young people to explore their own role and space within technology, the artist began her own very personal journey with Sufi In The City. How could the artist as a young working career woman find a sense of peace and connection to the divine?
Sarah and Bridget Fiske had met through mutual friends in 2011 and instantly made a connection. The connection was not only with their combined interest in feminism, technology, wearable devices, but in the power of transformation through art and ritual. Following Bridget’s involvement in The Machine Speaks as choreographic workshop facilitator, Sarah was very keen to work even more closely with Bridget's breadth of knowledge, artistic sensibilities and constant curiosity. Sufi In The City was in it's early stages of creation and the idea that Bridget could bring a strong contemporary dance sensibility to the musical strengths of Sarah's work were a potent combination.
Sarah and Bridget have worked endlessly on the research, creation, design and development of the existing research areas. Joint curators of this work, the various elements of creation and presentation come from studying Sufi literature and music, contemporary movement exploration in the studio, researching the stories of women involved in peace and social change movements, walking the streets of Manchester understanding the story of a city, sharings at New Art Exchange and Contact Theatre and numerous conversations. And yet the work remains in its infancy stage. Current research and development now taking the artists into new terrain and future enquiry through visual art film, publication, exhibition and of course, performance.
Whilst the work remains firmly rooted in the sense of the traditional and classical forms which have inspired Sufi thought, philosophy and literature, contemporary modes of expression are clearly at the forefront. Whilst Sarah ensures the project continues to contain the essence of Sufi forms and structures, Bridget probes existing thought interpreting them and taking them to new contemporary heights.
In the phase following this current research period, Sarah Sayeed invites a number of key artists to join in the creation of new collaborative work. Sarah and Bridget work jointly between 2018-2020 with the current research areas, in addition to pursuing their own personal and family heritage.
AREAS OF ENQUIRY
Six areas of enquiry have emerged that are central to and lead the form of Sufi In The City.
Read more below...
'The Soul of the Prayer' is a new work by Sarah Sayeed with Bridget Fiske, which looks at the 'circular' within prayer movement.
As a storytelling and experiential work, 'Sufi In The City' focuses on reduction, repetition and transformation to bring forward emotion, thought and experience for an audience.
Filmed by Mike Donaghy
Edited by Matt Kowalczuk
Music by Sarah Sayeed and Tariq Emam
Sufi In The City would like to thank current partners New Art Exchange, Whitworth Gallery, Sustained Theatre Up North and Arts Council England.
Sufi In The City would also like to thank artists, venue directors and specialists who have contributed to the research and development period from 2011, and the more recent development across 2017-2018. These include; Skinder Hundal, Sooree Pillay, Omar Qattan, Ed Watts, Poppy Bowers, Tariq Emam, Sabio Janiak, Anne Eltard, Steve Roman, Hannah McClure, Abdul Saboor, Damien Mahoney, Sarah Yaseen, Kanchan Marade, Garfield Allen, Alison Darnborough and Anthony Ekundanyo Lennon.
Web design: Bridget Fiske.
Video and photographic editing: Matt Kowalczuk.
Video banner and photography: Mike Donaghy.
Realism in Rawiya response performance photography: Ekua Bayunu.
Additional photography by: Bridget Fiske and Sarah Sayeed.