Interview With Tolu Agbelusi, Writer of Ilé La Wà (We Are Home)

Posted on 3rd April 2019

Ilé La Wà was developed as part of the Home Is… Project — an exploration of home and displacement through poetry-led collaborations with various visual arts including illustration, animation, dance and theatre.

The play itself is the story of four characters, thrown together after being unable to produce the required identification during a random spot check,. What follows is an exploration of home, identity and self as they wait without answers, and they all begin to unravel.

We spoke with writer and founder of the wider project Tolu Agbelusi, about how the project started and the converstions that this play can start within communities.

We are really excited to bring Ilé La Wà to Basingstoke! Tolu, can you tell us a bit about how the show was created?

The show very much like the exhibition, has come out of out the Home Is… Project. Home Is…  is a series of conversations with people about home and displacement and how one shapes the other.

How it all started was that I interviewed a whole bunch of people around the country, including London and Manchester and those stories either became poems, which then became artwork – currently being exhibited in the Creation Space Gallery, and/ or, they fed in to the play which is coming here (to the Creation Space on 10th April).

So the play is called Ile La Wa which mean’s ‘We are Home’ in Yoruba- a Nigerian language. And it’s very timely although I didn’t think about that when I wrote it that it would be so relevant to now – because I couldn’t predict the future!

What in particular makes it so timely and important right now?

There was a time I did think that it would no longer be of the moment by the time I had finished creating, which seems stupid when you think about it now!

But it is very much about the fact that there are so many people feeling displaced or out of place and the Government isn’t helping the situation. And as time goes on the number of those people increases. So we have the Wind rush scandal that happened at the beginning of last year and now we have Brexit and all the people that have lived here 20 or 30 years who are concerned that they have to apply for settling status and what that means for them.

This is such a period of unrest, so many people must be feeling this. They can’t make plans for the future. Although we have mentioned issues that are currently affecting Britain, these are also that are echoed around the world…

I’ve also been doing a bunch of workshops on this theme at Kings College over the last week. What people are saying is that Brexit is just another name for what is happening around the world. That is just the name of it here. And so we need to start having conversation about how we work together beyond nation states, beyond borders.

It’s a human story…

It is a human story, it’s a bunch of human stories. And lle la Wa in particular is about stories that we think we know, we think we know ‘the immigration story’ as if there is ‘an immigration story’ – but there are many.

The play deals with people who were born in England, who know only England, but, who are made to feel this is not home for them and feeling lost because of the identity that has been imposed on you, and where do you go after that. There are also those who are immigrants in the sense that they have come here and made this place their home and what is that like to always have to prove yourself and what does that do to you mentally? How do you survive it? So one of the questions that runs through the play is, how do you belong to a place that doesn’t see you?

And it’s as much a question that requires an answer, as a rhetorical question. So that’s been one of the interesting things about performing the play and seeing people’s reactions to the play and being able to have conversations we wouldn’t normally have.

We want to invite Basingstoke communities, to come and watch this play and open up and have those conversations in a really opening welcoming space to come and do that. Talking to Tolu, viewing the exhibition and finding out more about the Home Is project, for me it really hit home that these are people who are our friends, colleague’s maybe even members of our family who have experienced some of these issues or felt this way. It really is for everyone – we are all touched in some way by this.

What I hoped it would be is not only for the audiences who feel like they don’t have a voice, their stories are not reflected and so there is that carthesis of seeing yourself reflected, but it is also for those people who feel that they may not have these exact experiences but we all know what displacement is, being bullied, feeling like you don’t fit in in some way.

So it’s about how do I get to a place where I can always see myself in the next person, empathy, we are human beings, beyond the race, beyond everything else. It’s about the humanity, how do we see each other.

Ilé La Wà will be coming to the Creation Space on Thursday 10th April at 7.30pm

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