How did you first hear about Central Saint Martins?
I have a degree in Ballet and Contemporary Dance and a friend was looking into MA Performance Design and Practice – he didn’t apply, but recommended it to me. So I went to the open day and realised it would be a good course for me.
What appealed to you about MA Performance Design and Practice?
Since graduating I’ve been meddling with choreography but I’ve always had an interest beyond dance and the dance world is sort of limiting for me, I wanted to explore fashion, with lighting with video and photography. I thought the course would be perfect for that because as an MA it gives you the facilities and the guidance to do whatever you want to do. It’s almost like Fine Art, but primarily focusing on the performance aspect.
How would you describe MA Performance Design and Practice?
We get introduced to different practices, so there are some artists that focus on site-specific work and there are others who are designers for theatre work. Some are much more avant-garde - they do work in obscure areas that perhaps may not be permitted, where they haven’t asked for permission to do a performance. It’s incredibly independent, but I’m quite an independent person so it worked out fine for me. How would I describe it in one word? Exploratory.
What sort of a person do you think you need to be?
I would say it wouldn't be ideal for people who want one-to-one guidance, who want people to hold their hand, but it does provide facilities for any aspiring performance artist or artists in general to explore their ideas. You need to be a team player. You also need to be mature, and I don’t mean in terms of age but in terms of ideas and aspirations. That surprised me. Sometimes there are personality clashes, which I think is the same on any course.
What do you love about Central Saint Martins?
I love the building. I’m quite a sociable person as well, and if you’re an open person you get to meet different people from different courses. I’ve met people from Fine Art, Fashion Communication, Fashion. It’s definitely a hub for meeting other creative minds. And obviously I love the reputation it has.
Does that help you with your own work, being able to integrate with other creatives?
Yeah it does, it helps me in terms of collaborating without needing to post an advert or add people on Facebook just so I can work with them. I can actually approach the people I think are interesting.
What have the highlights of the course been?
I did a presentation of a film I was working on called 'Bleach', which was looking at racial issues from a very non-directive way. Often I feel issues to do with identity are plastered on us, and I wanted to deal with it in a very subtle way. I got feedback from my colleagues, which really boosted my confidence because it was a subject that is dear to me, and it’s obviously sensitive. Their feedback really helped me in terms of how I can develop the work instead of just telling me it was lovely because I don't care about that, I care about what they got from it.
Tell us a bit about your recent show 'Niyizi' at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green
All my work deals with identity, in all forms - religious identity, racial, gender. It was an hour-long piece, and it looked at how religion has played into our idea of gender. It was quite autobiographical; when I was younger my mum used to allow me to wear dresses and I strongly believe that because she allowed me to do that I never thought that being different was something to be looked down on, I always embraced it. So the show very much deals with that, I change into different very fabulous costumes. I wear Geisha makeup and I play with the word geisha, so instead of the word “geisha” it’s “gay-sha”. I’m in drag but I'm playing gospel music, which is interesting because everyone had their preconceived ideas. I love breaking down people’s existing stereotypes.
Do you have any other shows coming up?
I have another show called 'Sirens' in January, which looks at the Greek mythical creatures versus the sirens that we hear from the police. It’s merging the two together. Police nowadays are given this authority as people who are there to save protect us, and Sirens were also given authority as people who are beautiful and seductive. And I see similarities within that; they’re both seen as dangerous but people desire both. I’m playing with the idea of polysemy.
Visit Ishimwa's website