Siana caught up with Dillion S. Phiri of South African publication, Creative Nestlings, to discuss the release of her new short film, ‘Denim’, exploring gentrification in South East London; as well as discuss her love of writing, how her art intersects with her activism, and what exactly makes Siana’s fire burn so brightly.
On the publishing experience:
“It was a very cathartic process. I had a lot to share and get off my chest, which I’m glad I did. I was lucky enough to have the support of my mentor, Daniella Blechner, throughout the entire process. She championed the idea all the way. I am very proud of what I learnt and how I handled the project from beginning to end from putting the book together, to holding two launch events, to creating an online series around the book to releasing visuals and audio to support the work. The entire project is multidisciplinary – I want to show that poetry can live beyond the page and feed into other disciplines. Some of my poems are performed with music, such as ‘He is painfully pragmatic’, ‘Many’ and ‘Elephant’. I’ve also curated an exhibition inspired by my poem, ‘I, The Angry Black Woman’, and I’m releasing a short film called ‘Denim’ on May 19th, inspired by my poem of the same name, exploring gentrification in South East London and the consequences of the city changing and leaving those who built it behind.
I don’t think poetry and spoken word get the respect they deserve in most cases because people don’t appreciate how much skill is required to tell a story and perform it powerfully for an audience to connect with it. I take my work very seriously because my art is another way I spread my message as an activist too.”
“‘Denim’ is a poetic short film exploring gentrification in South East London and its effects on those who are essentially discarded and disposed of to make room for others deemed more worthy of living in these areas. It’s also a very personal trip down memory lane as we tour all the places that moulded me such as my old primary and secondary schools and the council flats I grew up in.
Gentrification, social cleansing and the changing face of the city are increasingly more urgent conversations we need to be having. Filmmakers like Shola Amoo are inviting us to do that as well as activist groups but I still feel lots of us aren’t sure what to make of it. When I was growing up it was disguised as ‘regeneration’ and they made us feel like we were going to benefit from the process but we didn’t. I now don’t live in South East London because I was pushed out of London – my family could no longer afford to live there.
“I explore the bitterness and rawness of these feelings and the realities of it all. There are people asking me what’s wrong with change. I say nothing is wrong, but what is wrong is pushing people out – the very people who made the place vibrant and desirable in the first place. The very people who turned those hell holes into communities. Then those communities are destroyed along with local businesses.
‘Denim’ asks the question ‘where were you?’”