Guest post by Stuart Haggas
Foreign travel is not without its drawbacks at this moment in time, which is why so many of us have spent this summer at home. For those yearning for a bit of international colour and culture, the month-long CASA Festival brings a whole lot of Latinx passion, energy and artistry to London throughout September. And a festival highlight is three days of free pop-up activity in Brixton Village in south London, including an opening party.
Curated by Cordelia Grierson and Cecilia Kuska, CASA Festival is a true celebration of the artistic and cultural exchanges between Latin America and the UK. Now in its 11th year, CASA showcases artists and performers across different disciplines. And this year’s edition includes a series of special events taking place across Brixton Village markets Thursday 16 – Saturday 18 September that everyone can enjoy for FREE.
As one of London’s most vibrant and culturally diverse districts, and the heart of a significant Latin American community, Brixton Village markets is an ideal location for CASA Festival’s first ever public art installation. Set to take over shop windows within the markets, CASA’s video art installation comprises five works by established and up-and-coming Latinx artists from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the UK.
Video artworks available to watch for free include “Synchronized Serpent” by regarded Argentinian artist Cecilia Bengolea, who works in a range of media including dance, video and sculpture. This piece sees her collaborate with the Jamaican national synchronised swimming team, resulting in a dreamlike flow of swimmers and sea-creatures juxtaposed with the sound of jet skis. “Casa Comun” (Common Home) is a multicultural and multimedia collaboration between British organization SDNA and Brazilian organisation RR Produções Artísticas, featuring 10 multidisciplinary indigenous artists from the riverside communities and jungles of the Amazon. Another video installation exploring traditional culture, “La Copla in the Amphitheatre of Quebrada de las Conchas” by Argentinian collective G.R.A.pa celebrates the music of the indigenous Diaguitas people, who are shown playing their songs in a canyon in the stunning Calchaquí Valley in north-western Argentina, resulting in a haunting echo of sound. Video installation “Les Revenants” (The Returned) by Argentinian directors Luciana Acuña and Alejo Moguillansky comprises solo performances of six Chilean dancers, each one filmed in empty and atmospheric old buildings in Santiago, Chile’s capital city. Co-presented with the Chilean Department of Culture, “They Gave Me A Map (and I drew them a line)” by UK-based Chilean/Indian artist Shalini Andani is a moving image installation that explores land, loss and displacement with its artistic mix of Google Earth satellite images contrasted with images of mourning women.
There’ll be a party in Brixton Village courtyard on Thursday 16 September (6-11pm, free entry) with special guests to celebrate the launch of CASA’s art installation. As well as an opportunity to meet some of the artists and see these video installations for the first time, everyone will be able to enjoy live music by Brixton Village Lates, food from some of the markets’ popular restaurants, and special CASA Festival drinks made for the occasion by Jim AND Tonic.
Another free highlight is CASA Festival’s promenade performance “A Minute To Celebrate Our Dead” (Saturday 18 September, 3pm). Starting from the Brixton Village courtyard, Argentinian director, playwright, and visual artist Fernando Rubio will lead this collective performance. Each participant will be invited to reconstruct the memory of a loved one or a person they miss, celebrating them through a ritual act.
With the festival continuing till the end of the month, there’s also an opportunity to catch the final two films from the CASA Cinema film programme, both playing at the Prince Charles, London’s renowned and affordable repertory cinema located just off Leicester Square. Films include ethnographic documentary Lapü (dir: Juan Pablo Polanco & César Alejandro Jaimes | Sept 22 at Prince Charles) documenting a young Wayuú woman who dreams of a reunion with her deceased cousin. Finally, there’s a rare opportunity to see on a cinema screen the iconic 1993 Oscar-nominated Cuban LGBTQ+ comedy Strawberry and Chocolate (dir: Tomás Gutiérrez & Juan Carlos Tabío | Sept 29 at Prince Charles). Last screened in London in 2009, it tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a heterosexual communist and a gay counter-revolutionary, set against a backdrop of political struggles, love and betrayal.
You’ll find full details of CASA Festival 2021 here: www.casafestival.org.uk
What: CASA Festival
When: Thursday 16 – Saturday 18 September
Where: Brixton Village – Coldharbour Ln, London SW9 8PS, UK