SPIT KIT: An invitation to salivate, talk about identity markers and consider what we might know and think about our ancestry via the medium of spit.

What is your national identity? Your cultural identity? Your ethnicity? Race?… Do these questions make you feel uncomfortable? Yes? No? Prefer not to say? Other? (Please specify)

Last year, I took a DNA test to see what I might discover about my identity through tracing unknown ancestry. If you were to take one, what do you think it would reveal or confirm?

Your saliva contains genetic code, within it clues to centuries of human migration – perhaps a more reliable source than aural family histories or your physical appearance. We are regularly asked to affirm our identity, but what do we really know? Who is it for and why is it so important to be classified?

In this one-to-one performance, enter a lab for a DIY DNA test. You will be asked to donate some saliva. Untested, it will become part of a collection, displayed alongside your self-identification, with the labels you choose for yourself.




This work is part of a wider body of research and performance, titled The Genetic Body, a project supported by Arts Council England. SPIT KIT was performed at Fierce Festival 2016Steakhouse Live as part of the Hackney WickED Festival 2014  and at InIVA Contemporary Rites Programme 


Inspired by Women who run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

‘Women have died a thousand deaths before they are twenty years old. They have gone in this direction or that, and have been cut off. They have hopes and dreams that have been cut off also. Anyone who says otherwise is still asleep. All the grist for the mill of descansos […] A body who has lived a long time collects debris. It cannot be avoided. But if a woman will return to the instinctual nature instead of sinking into bitterness, she will be revived, reborn.

To make descansos means taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths, las muertes chicitas, and the big deaths, las muertes grandotas, have taken place.

I like to make a time-line of a woman’s life on a big long sheet of paper, and to mark with a cross the places along the graph, starting with her infancy, all the way to the present where parts and pieces of herself and her life have died. We mark where there were roads not taken, paths that were cut off, ambushes, betrayals and deaths. I put a little cross along the time-line at the places that should have been mourned, or still need to be mourned. And then I write in the background “forgotten” for those things that the woman senses but has not yet surfaced. I also write “forgiven” over those things that the woman has for the most part released.

Descansos mark the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering. They are transformative. There is a lot to be said for pinning things to the earth so they don’t follow us around. There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest.

I encourage you to make descansos, to sit down with a time-line of your life and say “where are the crosses? where are the places that must be remembered, must be blessed? ‘(Estes, 2008: 365-366)

Matilda and Me

Matilda and Me is a dubtheatre, biomyth (biographical mythology) performed solo by Ria Hartley and devised through extensive training in the s.o.r.p.l.u.s.i methodology at the YEMOYA international artist residency (Jamaica) by internationally acclaimed dub poet, monodramatist and educator d’bi young anitafrika, performed by Ria Hartley.

A woman makes a decision that will change her family’s history and the course of their future. Five decades later this performance considers the eminence and consequence of that choice voiced through the third generation granddaughter who is speaking from both perspectives of herself and Matilda. Reflecting on the history of the two islands, Great Britain and Jamaica, the storyteller is faced with contradictions in her in-betweeness as she contemplates the slave trade and the expansion of the British Empire.

This colourful and challenging performance weaves together storytelling, spoken word, dubpoetry, live art, autobiography, and reggae music charged with political content surrounding migration, colonialism, racism, and the crucial shifts needed in the perception of our British cultural identity.

MATILDA AND ME – Touring pack

The initial creation and development of Matilda and Me was supported by the Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund, YEMOYA international artists’ residency, and Solo Contemporary Performance Forum.