RICH MIX: Access All Areas - Zinzi Minott

Zinzi Minott is visibly brimming with ideas and passion. Modest, but quietly confident, her work is clearly inherent to who she is as a person. Born in Manchester, and raised in South London, she is a dancer, and has become somewhat of a regular at Rich Mix. She is set to perform her new work ‘What Kind of Slave Would I Be? (WKOSWIB?)’ at Rich Mix on the 22nd of April, 2017, with workshops and discussions on the 23rd of April. With so much in the pipeline for Zinzi this coming year, I was keen to catch up with her and find out more... 

In your own words…who are you, and how would you describe you work?

I identify very strongly as a dancer, not just because of what I do, but because more recently I’ve started to understand and articulate that that’s how I see the world. It’s how I gobble the world up and put the world back out. Some of us interpret and put the world out in different ways. Some people write, some people paint, and for me it’s dance. So even if I’m writing or painting, it’s usually as a way to facilitate me dancing. Also, it’s important to me because it’s not about speaking – I don’t think anyone would describe me as quiet, but I actually get quite exhausted by speaking, and I’d just rather dance all the time.

I think my work is about me and my life, and my communities and communities lives, and things that I see and things that I don’t want to see. I don’t turn my ideas down – I make the work I get - and that’s often why I find my work quite difficult, because it’s not necessarily always about doing what I want, it’s about doing what I thought, and it’s not easy to deal with that voice in my head.

That’s quite a brave way to work?

People have said that me before, but I don’t feel like I have another way. I feel like if there was another option, and I chose this, then it would be brave, but the fact that I haven’t found or been given another option, it doesn’t really feel so brave... it just is what it is.

Why Rich Mix?

I love Rich Mix, I really do. I think Rich Mix is the best theatre in London - I like to come here whenever I can.  Rich Mix commissioned one of my earliest pieces of work and was the first place with a name to give me a space, and I’ve always really appreciated that. I’ve performed here 3 or 4 times now, and it felt like a really good place to premier this work (What Kind of Slave Would I Be (WKOSWIB ) 22nd April & 23rd for workshops and discussions.) I had this piece and Rich Mix felt like the most obvious place that I would talk to, and that’s the kind of relationship we have.

What’s your favourite part of working at Rich Mix?

Everyone talks about diversity, and it’s such a lazy word for what’s actually a huge problem. The thing about Rich Mix for me is this: every time I get an email from them, and I see how hard they’re working to get everybody here, it’s phenomenal. If there’s a place in the world that has a nuanced film festival representing them, their people and their identity, and if it’s going to be in a theatre in London, it’s going be here. I really rate that. It doesn’t ever feel trite. Whenever I get those emails, it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to do something for their portfolio. As a black artist, I know when I’m being used, and something that is talked about a lot is when diverse artists get invited into a space, it can feel really horrible if it’s just about their NPOs. But there’s something about Rich Mix, every time I see it I believe it. There’s a lot of integrity and I like being here.

What was your favourite song of 2016 and why?

Oh, there’s quite a few in my head. I’m definitely going pick a Grime song for sure – I’ve closed the door to any Americans in my mind for this question. It’s going to have to be a toss-up between Stormzy’s ‘Shut up’…or maybe Giggs…no no…Giggs I’m so sorry! I’m going to go with Stormzy because we’re from the same place. Ok. Actually, it’s going to be between Nadia Rose’s ‘Skwod’ and Stormzy’s ‘Shut up’. The video for ‘Skwod’ was shot at a market near my house where I shopped with my mum, and Stormzy is from Thornton Heath, where I grew up. I cannot explain what it is like to see Grime blow up. I’ve seen those artists around, I’ve been at those raves for 15 years. I remember when the clubs got shut down, and you could only hear it on pirate radio stations. I feel immensely proud, I feel like they’re my family and they’ve made a music scene that’s about us and our lives. It is the scene where I danced. I’ve had the best musical year ever, I’ve been so excited about the London sound. Of course there’s people like Bugzy  from Manchester and Lady Leshurr from Birmingham, who are both doing amazing things as well. I saw Nadia Rose perform, she was wicked, and she also gave me her Adidas jacket, which I was very pleased about…so I think it’s going to have to be ‘Skwod’ ‘cause I wanna dance for her too I wanna dance for them ALLLLLL!

What was your favourite film of 2016 and why?

I’m not really a film person, but I’m friends with a lot of film-makers, and so they actually keep me going [to see films], because otherwise I wouldn’t which is great. It’s probably going be a bit cliché, because everyone’s talking about it, but for me it really is the best film I’ve ever seen - ‘Moonlight’. My friend, director and producer Joy GharoroAkpojotor had told me about a screening, and it was basically me and loads of industry buffs there. I felt like no-one “normal” knew about it. The director was there, and the lead actress was there, and it was really cool. I will definitely see it again.

Why has that one stood out for you?

It’s aesthetically beautiful. The director called it ‘the palette of the film’ – it’s really gorgeous. But actually the other reason why it’s so beautiful is because it’s a film about black men - black gay men. I feel like the images of black men are so stereotypical, and the images of gay men are so stereotypical, so to see them come together and be absolutely none of that…it was really tender, and really beautiful. You really root for the characters. It’s kind of a genre defying film.

What was your favourite event of 2016?

The ‘Gal-dem’ event at the V&A. They did something that I’d never seen before, and I felt like I was in a historic moment, which has happened to me before, but not related to being me, or to being a black woman. I’ve seen it in other contexts, but I’m really happy I was there even with all the difficulties and histories around that space- I had a great night.

Personally, I got my work funded, and that feels like a big deal, a nice culmination of a long bit of work. I got some stable housing in London, that’s always a treat, don’t know how long it’s going to last but it’s here…so that’s nice.

What are you looking forward to in 2017?

I definitely feel like there’s been a shift, like a gear change in my career, and I’m having a lot of weird feelings about it. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with this piece of work, ‘What Kind of Slave Would I Be’ (WKOSWIB?) generally. I’m definitely looking forward to performing it. I am also terrified of this piece. It’s hard, you want to do things but you’re overwhelmed by the things you want to do, but you do them anyway….

I’m looking forward to seeing what my residency at Tate yields, and to see if some applications that I put in materialise. I really want to dance in the tunnels at Tate, desperately. I’ve wanted to for about 5 years so I’m going to have to see if I can make that happen before they kick me out. I think that’s it really – I’m looking forward to not panicking, about my work, my life…I’m just trying to be about my work. Last year was difficult, but the one consistent thing was my work and I was grateful for that, it anchored me, and now that things have settled, I’m looking forward to have time to dedicate to my work. I’ve never had the ability to dedicate all my time to my work until this past September, and that feels like a big deal, and a massive privilege. I’m intimidated by it and I enjoy it. I’m looking forward to the people I’m working with, and I’m really excited about the scene, and my friends - so many of them are blowing my mind, the things they think and make. I’m really excited by the people I’m around, and I’m hoping some of it leaks on to me via osmosis…I’m really aware that this could all not be here in a year, and I could go back to working in a coffee shop. I just have to run with it and see what happens. My friend said to me the other day, you‘ve been banging at a door for so long, and then it opens, and you’re caught unaware…and you walk in, and you’re sweaty and your hands are bruised….I’ve been really grateful that people have been so supportive, they’ve vouched for me, people and institutions, they’ve pulled me up, they’ve told me ‘no that idea’s rubbish’, and when you feel a shift, whatever that shift is, you can’t help but think about the collective of people that made that shift happen.

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