Artist Blog: Ria Hartley on Matilda and Me


I work with different mediums and forms of practice and much of my work stems from my body – lived experience – autoknowledge’s. I consider how my body, as a starting point, can extend outward and relate to others, to audiences.

I am particularly drawn to questions surrounding the human experience, how we relate and communicate to each other, how we construct our realities, how we interpret, interact, remember and disseminate our experiences, and how this relates to the phenomena of identity.


It was in 1962 when my Grandparents Hubert and Matilda Douglas migrated from Jamaica to Manchester, UK. I am a first generation British Born English Jamaican, I have dual heritage and identify as both. In 2011 Matilda was diagnosed with Dementia and rapidly began to lose her memory and subsequently she lost the family home and its contents, which acted as an archive of our family’s history. In the years leading up to Matilda’s condition she spent time recounting her memories and telling them to me.

Through her words, her home and presence I felt a strong sense of identity and connection to my Jamaican heritage, with the loss of her voice, her home and the bridge she maintained between our family here and our family there, I felt a loss greater than I could have anticipated.

In responding to this, I shifted my focus and attention to the many questions I have carried within my body concerning my other home, heritage and identity.

These immediate questions later raised larger socio- political, cultural and economical questions surrounding creolisation, colonialism, racism, ethical responsibilities and the long history between the two islands, Britain and Jamaica.

This history after all is not only stemming from the mass migrations of post-war Britain but from a deeper colonial history which I feel still needs to be addressed so long as tensions arise with the presence of diverse communities.

We all have cultural identities; although we might all understand them in different ways.

The ways in which we understand our own, may inform the way we understand others, and each other. In order to address some of these questions I returned to Jamaica and spent time with my family there. I was also drawn to work with dub-poetry as historically this form of practice derives from Jamaican culture, and is used as a form of emancipation.

Daddies Dreadlocks

I trained in Jamaica for three weeks in December 2012 at the YEMOYA international artist’s residency under the guidance of d’bi young anitafrika in the s.o.r.p.l.u.s.i methodology. This became the working method for the writing and devising of Matilda and Me. s.o.r.p.l.u.s.i is an acronym for 8 principles which are self-knowledge, orality, rhythm, political content and context, language of communication, urgency, sacredness, and integrity. These 8 principles create a framework to produce a biomyth monodrama, which is a mythologized autobiographical play told and performed by the stories creator. Poetry, music, magic, ritual, monologue and dialogue (primarily with the audience) are bi-products of the s.o.r.p.l.u.s.i method and are crucial to stylistic, aesthetic and technical considerations. A Western theatrical fourth wall is rarely present as the performer erases the divide between audience and storyteller. The methodology derives from dub-poetry, which was theorized by Anita Stewart and later developed by d’bi young.

Matilda and Me 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. I will be presenting a 30min section of Matilda and Me at Ausform accompanied by a post-show Q & A which invites, you the audience, to critique, question, reflect and discuss the themes presented, and your relationship to them. I am particularly interested in creating a space for openness in dialogue in a way in which an audience or group of people may not often (enough) encounter.

“It has made me think about where I came from and how infinite my trace can be” – Audience member comment

Matilda and Me


The Parlour Showrooms

as part of a Double Bill with Dance Play by Ana Mendes


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: