Ahead of his performance at St Patrick’s Festival next week, spoken word poet and artist Adam Mohamed discusses being a young black kid in a predominantly white society and how we should start celebrating class, race, and religion in society.
How are you feeling about your performance, alongside Pillow Queens and Gemma Dunleavy, in the Guinness Storehouse for St Patrick’s Festival? Can you tell us what you are planning? Will there be a collaborative aspect to the event?
It was an honour to be included in St Patrick’s Festival and to perform at the Guinness storehouse. I could feel it’s significance and hope you feel that come through in the show you see at home. I performed Untitled with two new pieces of work. One of which Me, Myself and I is a rap with some singing! We worked intensely to get it ready for the performance and so hearing it back and feeling the sounds had us all buzzing! To be in the same show as both Gemma and the Pillow Queens was humbling as they are making serious noise right now and I’d be a fan of their work.
Your spoken-word piece, ‘untitled’, which formed part of the POD’s Festival of Now project seemed to mark a breakthrough in terms of wider awareness. Is it fair to say this? Can you talk about who collaborated with you on the video? How significant are visuals to elevate the spoken-word message?
It was great to have Untitled in the Festival of Now among so many other talented artists. I felt it really stood-out because of the style in which it was shot and produced. It was my debut as an artist and that was amazing. I think the piece really broke through when we released it as a stand alone. I had a great team behind me to make it. My sister Nadia Mohamed worked on it as a creative director with Mark Logan as director from Collective Films, Conor Hayes as DOP, Jack O Donoghue made the music with Dean Scurry producing and Coleen Elsofany did the choreography.
For Untitled, having a visual element that was true and captivated was crucial. I also made sure that the video was shot mostly in Ballymun with places of huge significance to me like my old school, my youth club and my martial arts gym. I am so grateful that my team shared the vision I had for it, and really understood the words.
You’ve spoken about the feeling of ‘trying hard to fit in’ as a youngster. Is the need to feel this in the first place the real issue? What has changed in recent times concerning discussions around race and identity in Irish society? Do you feel this will become less and less relevant for younger generations?
That is true, but as a young black kid in a predominantly white society these are things that will be on your mind no matter what. When I was a youngster there were little to no black or mixed-race families around, so I felt like I had to carry a burden at first. Luckily Ireland is more diverse these days, and we live in a world where education and information is easily accessible, so hopefully black or mixed kids won’t feel the same as I did back in the day. In terms of what has changed, I feel like some of the old Irish scars of shame and inferiority complexes have died and we have a new Ireland where topics like class, race, and religion can not just be discussed but celebrated! This is directly influenced by music and arts and in Ireland now these are blooming with so many diverse artists emerging every week.
“In terms of what has changed, I feel like some of the old Irish scars of shame and inferiority complexes have died and we have a new Ireland where topics like class, race, and religion can not just be discussed but celebrated!”
Who are the voices talking about race and society which inform and excite you most these days?
There are so many artists around doing their thing. The music industry is in the best shape its ever been in. I keep up to date on all the new release and I find inspiration and excitement from that.
You mention the ‘Spirit of Khartoum’ in Untitled. How much of your Sudanese heritage and its cultural scene have you explored?
I travelled there when I was 18, it was a huge part of my journey. I get my humility, stoicism, and honour from Sudan. There is a great sense of community, hospitality, and generosity there, as there is here in Dublin too. They are very much God fearing, as I am, only I don’t attach that to a particular religion. I can’t wait to travel back when I can, I keep in regular contact with my family there.
What does progressive politics look like to you in Irish society? What does it need to deliver?
Progressive politics in Ireland is something that will allow every person here to thrive no what matter their socio-economic background is. We have a lot of work to do!
You can catch Adam’s performance along with Pillow Queens and Gemma Dunleavy on SPTV on Saturday March 13 at 8pm and Wednesday March 17 at 6.30pm.