Vasu Sellamuthu invites locals to get involved in her creative writing project
I’m a South Asian artist living and working in Walthamstow since 2016 and I’ve recently been commissioned for ‘The Useful & Beautiful Project’, part of Urban by Nature’s programme to affect civic change through community engagement in arts and cultural activities.
The project will engage local residents, especially in the William Morris and Wood Street wards, in creative work around the theme of their home and being at home both during lockdown and the transition out of lockdown.
My response to the brief emerged from a book I read this year, Species of Spaces by Georges Perec. This short read fascinated me for two reasons; the way in which words and letters sat on the page in unusual formats, and the subject matter, which unpacks banal everyday details of our living spaces. When the world suddenly shrinks to the footprint of our homes, we start to notice space in a different way. The bed, the door, the hallway, the pavement and the street start to reveal remarkable complexity.
I am now inviting residents of Walthamstow to share their observations of home through creative writing and poetry. What has revealed itself in the house to be useful or beautiful, or useless and ugly? To encourage responses, I have developed a series of playful writing prompts. Contributions could range from a Twitter haiku, or list, to a recipe, timetable, or love letter. I am keen on receiving entries in a range of languages, including Tamil, Polish and Urdu, to represent the diversity of languages spoken in our borough.
A selection of entries will be presented in the format of a ‘kavad’, which is a handcrafted portable story-box from Rajasthan, India. The structure of the story-box is such that panels are interchangeable, so its reading could shift and change through different combinations. The piece will be presented at a spoken word event, followed by a travelling exhibition in local venues, accompanied by a zine. The possibility of co-creating a collective narrative and archive of our experiences of home through poetry, text, carpentry and printing excites me!