Searching for identity, through art and dance

Akram Khan’s solo dance production “Desh” has to be one of the most beautiful and moving pieces I have ever seen. It is a visceral exploration of and search for identity; an attempt to bridge the gulf between two vastly differing cultures – Bangladesh and the UK – and a personal quest by Khan to find resolution within his own family and indeed himself. (


Akram Khan in Desh, Sadler’s Wells, 2013

I had a triple hit of identity issues on Friday. It all started with my being rudely awoken by unexpectedly urgent and slightly panicked questions into who I am and what on earth my life is about.

These thoughts nagged at me all the way to London where I thankfully became distracted by my role as judge for the pastels category of the annual Koestler Exhibition of prisoners art. ( The building, where I used to work, was once again crammed from floor to ceiling with over 8000 multi-media entries from prisoners in the UK and beyond. Regardless of the level of technical ability, much of the work surprises with its raw and forceful intensity. With their formal identities concealed, anonymous faces with unwavering eyes speak all the louder; they become the language by which these otherwise voiceless people can speak to us on the outside about their situation and themselves.


Door – Colnbrook IRC, Zelda Cheatle Gold Koestler Award 2011, Photography

Finally, in the evening, Khan’s body transformed the Sadler’s Wells stage into an arena for a hugely emotional pursuit of identity, something we can surely all identify with judging by the snivels and soaked tissues of the audience (not least me).

I too long to find a way of translating my own jolty journey with all its cul-de-sacs and pot-holed tracks, into such a visually stunning portrayal of the conflicts that can arise from a mixed cultural heritage. I have already used all sorts of materials from mud to cake, even my own body, to explore and resolve the questions of who I am.  Judging by my morning’s episode, however, my journey is clearly not yet finished.

low res FH_sequence1


 From the Born and Bound series, collaboration with John Heseltine (

2 thoughts on “Searching for identity, through art and dance

  1. Well done Angela, I see no problem taking detours around cul-de-sacs and opting for rough tracks; otherwise we travel along the rapid smooth highways and miss out on half the scenery and fail to engage with the terrain

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