Beneath the surface

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Many stories tell of things appearing one way on the surface, with something else happening behind the scenes.

Seeing the joins or inner workings of such situations can often be an intellectual exercise. Coming into contact with what these situations might entail, even to a minor extent, can make all the difference.

Several months ago, I was involved in a series of events in Leeds to commemorate the sad demise of David Oluwale, a man who left Nigeria to live in Britain in the 1940s. I had heard his story many years before, through my involvement with West Yorkshire Playhouse (as it was known in those days).

I was moved enough by what I learnt about Oluwale’s experiences to create a music theatre piece which was performed at Pegasus Theatre, Oxford. We did our best to tell what we knew of his story at the time.

Then I attended an exhibition by Rasheed Araeen that was based a collection of information from various sources about what the man went through. Reading newspaper cuttings from the time about the sheer nastiness of the way Oluwale was treated were a revelation that brought his suffering into focus in ways that I wasn’t prepared for.

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