Singer SUTRA talks about her visual narrative film Waves/The Water

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London based Ghanaian soul/jazz singer SUTRA, on Friday (10th March) released visuals for her songs Waves/The Water to critical commendation. Waves/The Water (#W) is a visual narrative or film that merges two songs off her 2016 mixtape The Art of Being (listen here).

Shot in Ghana, specifically Aburi Botanical Gardens, the aesthetically endowed film is laden with both cultural (death, dance) and spiritual (growth, womanhood, newness) references which reflect certain identity traits within the Ghanaian society especially as espoused in Akan culture.

Directed by SUTRA and Edem Dotse, the video, just like the songs carry a very solemn yet gaudy appeal; reflecting moments of feminine strength (the Earth has weight; as seen in the beginning of the video) and rebirth (reconciliation (with the past) preceding the video for ‘The Waters’).

Two days after the release of #W, SUTRA was on twitter to answer questions from fans about her narrative film. The questions bothered on the inspiration for the film, the symbolism reflected and the challenges she encountered working on the film.

Below are some of the questions and her responses to them. Since the responses were sometimes in short hand and in pieces (twitter and its 140 character rule), we have merged the responses together for easy read and also rewritten in full, some of the shorthand writings.

Thanks for this. The idea of telling two contrasting stories/narratives in one – it isn’t something that has been done before in my opinion. I felt the need to show everyone else what I saw in my head when I created Waves and The Water: different ends of a spectrum of pain. I couldn’t imagine telling the story of one song without contrasting it w/ the other.  There are references to a lot that is important to me: Ghanaian culture (adinkra/funeral dances/colour), water (healing, duality) + womanhood (so yeah!) Also, I wanted to create a living masterpiece that brought different forms of art/creation together. Music, film, photography, dance.

It was super exciting and scary to be vulnerable in new ways to what I was used to. Challenges were present but not many. I think this was because I had 3 conditions: i.e. to work with people I felt I could trust, who were passionate and unashamedly creative. Also, to add that this was why I knew I had to reach out to my friend David Dotse (@DavidEdem_). We’ve worked together before on music. We make a good team because of what we each bring to the table, and seem to have a similar drive and seriousness to what we do when we do it. There were logistical challenges but family and my friends came through. Main challenge was with self and again, choosing vulnerability.

To understand that, the question is ‘what do the flowers represent’? The child represents the cycle of womanhood. The same flower she sees being buried is one she will carry herself as a woman. The flowers mean whatever pain/struggle each of the women has faced. The loss of a child; loss of innocence; of freedom; of love and loss of sanity, even. It was important to me that attention was paid to the pains women carry, and also to the importance of reconciling by burying and moving on. Last thing: the idea of burial isn’t a new one. Burial and healing go in hand. I’ll tell you that this is why when a woman loses an unborn child for example, she’s encouraged to have a burial for it, to mourn and make peace for her spirit. Burial matters.

sutt

Ah, good thought. No, Waves and The Water are two separate stories with a common main character: me. Costume changes because song, mood and story do. First video (Waves) is dark. The Waters is light. Put together show the ends of a spectrum and their relation. Women wear white in to imply the sanctity of burial. I wanted to convey that idea of burial as also holy, necessary and healing.

I think that people do not talk enough about their stories. But our stories are valid and important, what heal and bring community and save. Pain is a major part of the reason people do not share their stories. By demonstrating that sharing heals, the power of pain is dismantled. This is literally chanted in waves “The agony no more has won.” I think the realisation that we can rise from our experiences is freeing. Our ancestors would gather round a fire to share stories, lessons. There was a power in that, not present at all now. I use creativity as a means to tell stories and encourage others to do the same. Storytellers can change the dynamic, if they don’t fear pain.

 The story of acknowledging pain and rising despite it, becoming enlightened by it. I want to leave you to interpret, but these will help. In Waves, a community/family of people invite you to listen to a story they are telling i.e. first group shot (which returns at end). The video then progresses to tell you the story of how one of their own was separated from them & taken on a journey (hence me walking). The family/tribe become the story in order to share it with you.We move from them narrating to becoming. Cue dance, visual triggers. But the central story is of one of them breaking away (“captured by the chains” i.e. pulled away by a force and finding herself becoming who she was created to be. Hence the showing of that symbol on her back at the end which was hidden before.

The symbols give a clue. The ladder on the men’s chests is what she wears around her neck. It translates to “ladder of death”. The symbol at the beginning translates to “the earth has weight” this is a saying that is wise, about the gravity of being rooted. The character is taken from where she does not truly belong and that is painful at first, but then finds meaning + identity. The characters at the end represent wise beings – supernatural, if you’d like. Pain taught the character wisdom. This is the summary.

by Swaye Kidd (@swayekidd) aka SwayeSutra

 

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