OMOS is a moving image project that pays homage to Scottish Black history at and celebrates Black and Black LGBTQ excellence and performance in Scotland.
The artwork is filmed in Puck’s Glen and Stirling Castle and created collaboratively by a group of award-winning artists; cabaret performer Rhys Hollis (also known as Rhys’ Pieces), mezzo soprano Andrea Baker, dancer Divine Tasinda and pole artist Kheanna Walker. The film partly follows the format of queer cabaret and each artist has used their unique skills and perspective to create a solo performance for the film.
OMOS is inspired by connections between Puck’s Glen, Stirling Castle and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is also connected to a historical performance given to King James VI of Scotland. At Stirling Castle in 1594, a feared lion was replaced by an unnamed Black man, who pulled a chariot through the castle’s Great Hall. He was one of a number of Black people who appeared in performances at the Scottish court throughout Scottish history. This film is an homage to those people and a celebration of Black performance in Scotland today.
The name OMOS was originally an acronym for the phrase ‘O monstrous! O strange!’, a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As the project developed, this phrase has been morphed to stand for ‘Our Movement, Our Stories’. The film has an ambiguous title of solely OMOS.
In OMOS, the artists occupy space as they both draw on the past and look to the future.
Divine Tasinda is a dancer and choreographer trained in hip hop, afro, dancehall, commercial and experimental. Divine presents a dance piece that is rooted in the natural environment, responding to the vibrations of the forest and showcasing an inner journey of both turbulence and tenaciousness.
‘My method is to understand the stories of the people the project explores, and then use this inspiration to create an emotional movement style to tell a story with my body, and celebrate performance today.’
Rhys Hollis (also known as Rhys’s Pieces) is described as a one-person cabaret troupe; they are a performance artist, dancer, rapper, lipsyncer, cabaret host and genderbending drag artist. As well as directing the project, Rhys performs a drag spoken word act that interrogates the oppressive conditions that Black people continue to endure, and defiantly shines a light on the magic that can flourish despite this.
‘I see this project as a form of taking back power by highlighting the Black excellence of performers in Scotland. The performers take up space on their own terms, celebrating the lineage of Black people in the UK, and our brilliance and creativity.’
Kheanna Walker is a pole dancer, choreographer and trainer and hosts her own podcast Queens of Hustle. Kheanna presents a pole performance with a magical fairy-like quality echoing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, inspired by how pole dance has helped Kheanna become more confident in her own skin. Her piece is a celebration of Blackness, femininity and being ‘unapologetic for who we are.’
‘Representation of Black artists in spaces is essential, because we have been misrepresented and silenced far too much in history, so it’s important that our artistry and talents are seen.’
Andrea Baker is a mezzo soprano internationally renowned for her ‘enchantingly powerful’ performances (Das Orchester) and is the creator and producer of the award-winning, one-woman show Sing Sistah Sing! Andrea presents an acapella performance of a song about Black joy. Performed in the Great Hall of Stirling Castle, where the historical performance to which OMOS pays homage took place, the song reclaims the site and occupies it with the power of Black expression. Following the song, all the performers join together to mark this reclamation. These moments of joy are powerful, but throughout there is a sense of pain beneath the surface.
OMOS is produced by Pollyanna and funded by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland and National Lottery Heritage Fund. It is also funded by Historic Environment Scotland. Partners include Historic Environment Scotland, Forestry and Land Scotland, Scene Stirling, Macrobert Arts Centre, University of Stirling, Dunoon Burgh Hall, Royal Scottish Academy, Cultural Heritage and Arts Assembly Argyll & Isles (CHARTS), Argyll & Bute Council, Fruitmarket and Transmission. This exhibition is funded by Transmission.