Performance: Prologue

16 Jul 2021

7 - 7:30pm, 8 - 8:30pm

Jerwood Space , London

An operatic performance devised in collaboration by artists Emii Alrai, Sulaïman Majali with singer and composer Merit Ariane, using the sculptural installation Passing of the Lilies, Emii Alrai’s commission for Jerwood Solo Presentations 2021, as a theatrical backdrop where the artists bring together their collective research around lament, collapse, collision, fugitivity and the tomb space.

About the artists

Emii Alrai uses sculpture and installation to interrogate ideas of inherited nostalgia, geographical identity and post-colonial museum practices of collecting and display. Rooted in her Iraqi heritage, her work draws on museum collections, ancient writing from the Middle East and oral histories to navigate an understanding of displacement and cultural collision.

Emii was born in Blackpool and is based in Leeds. She graduated from the University of Leeds with an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies in 2018. Alrai recently completed the Triangle Astérides Residency in Marseille. In 2020 she received the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Artist Award and was part of the Yorkshire Sculpture International Sculpture Network. She was selected for the Arab British Centre Making Marks Project in Kuwait in 2019 and the Tetley Artist Associate Programme in 2018. Recent solo exhibitions include: The High Dam, The Tetley, Leeds (2020); Tutelaries, VITRINE, London (2019); House of Teeming Cattle, Two Queens, Leicester (2019); and An Ancient Quiver, GLOAM, Sheffield (2018). Notable group and duo exhibitions include: Fallow, Rectory Projects, London (2019); The Hum, Caustic Coastal, Salford (2017); and Limbo Lambada, Hutt Collective, Nottingham (2017). In 2022 she will be exhibiting new work at Eastside Projects, Birmingham, and in a two-person exhibition with Eve Tagny at Visual Arts Centre of Clarington in Canada.

Sulaïman Majali is an artist-poet who brings into play rupturing, grieving and dreaming as methodologies of disruption. They also practice under the alias strange saracen. Considering art as an already thinking and speaking thing, the artists agitate/incite/perform towards poetic and conceptual strategies for evading empire. At issue in the play is the liberatory or otherwise. Exhibitions and events include: assembly of the dispersed, part of The Internet of Things, Darat al-Funun, Amman, Jordan/online (2020). strange winds, a sound commission for The Common Guild’s In The Open (2020). a dream for scheherazade, EVERYTHING HAPPENED SO MUCH, 66th International Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany (2020). WHAT’S AHEAD, WHAT’S KNOWN, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland (2020). saracen go home, a solo exhibition at Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (2019). something vague and irrational, Celine Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland (2019). assembly of the poets, a reading as part of EARTH HOLD, Qalandiya International Biennial, Serpentine Galleries, London, England (2018). Mene Mene Tekel Parsin, Wysing Arts Centre (2017). Towards an archive, 8th Cairo Video Festival (2017). Majali was shortlisted for the Margaret Tait Award 2020/21, a LUX Scotland commission delivered in partnership with Glasgow Film and recently finished a 2-year research residency at Talbot Rice Gallery/Edinburgh College of Art. An upcoming solo exhibition false dawn will show as part of the postponed Glasgow International Biennial 2021.

Merit Ariane is a singer and composer whose work explores the fluid boundaries between music and theatre, cultures and languages. Her storytelling through songs is inspired by her German–Egyptian heritage, and draws on Arab and Western contemporary classical influences.

Merit performs in her own unique theatrical one-woman-show Thumbelina, featuring music by Gershwin, Darwish and Montsalvage. Other works include storytelling project The Daughter of the Pomegranate Tree and Zanubia, a performance of rarely-heard ancient Arab Christian chants. Recent projects include Woman at Point Zero with composer Bushra El-Turk, writer Sabrina Mahfouz and movement director Maria Koripas, an operatic adaptation of the novel by Egyptian activist Nawal El Saadawi, supported by Abu Dhabi Festival, Shubbak Festival, Snape Maltings, Arts Council England, Jerwood Foundation and the Royal Opera House, and Birdsongs and Borders, a multimedia performance created with artist Jessie Rodger and writer Octavia Bright, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and supported by Help Musicians UK. Merit has performed at Shakespeare’s Globe and collaborated with major UK opera houses such as the Royal Opera House and Opera North; she has recorded for BBC, Channel 4 and lectured at the British Museum. Merit is a professor at the Royal College of Music, was a tutor at Dartington Summer School for 4 years holds a PhD in performance from the University of York.


There are two booking slots for this performance, 7pm and 8pm, each performance will last up to 20 minutes. There will be the option to experience the performance standing or seated indoors at Jerwood Space. We request that visitors wear masks inside the building for this event unless they are exempt. There is limited capacity at this event to allow social distancing seating, so we ask that you let us know as soon as possible if you are no longer able to attend. We will run a waiting list for tickets if they sell out and will be in touch if tickets become available in the run up to the event.

We want to make sure that our events programme is welcoming and accessible. Please contact us if you would like to discuss how we can support you to attend and enjoy this event or if you have any feedback on the accessibility of our work. You can contact us via email at [email protected] or telephone +44 (0)7944 903 882. Learn more about the access support available, here.

This event is free to attend:

Emii Alrai, Passing of the Lilies, 2021. Commissioned for Jerwood Solo Presentations 2021, supported by Jerwood Arts. Installation view at Jerwood Space. Photo: Anna Arca.
Emii Alrai, Passing of the Lilies, 2021. Commissioned for Jerwood Solo Presentations 2021, supported by Jerwood Arts. Installation view at Jerwood Space. Photo: Anna Arca.Emii Alrai, Passing of the Lilies, 2021. Commissioned for Jerwood Solo Presentations 2021, supported by Jerwood Arts. Installation view at Jerwood Space. Photo: Anna Arca.