On my radar: the cultural highlights of Courttia Newland | Culture

VSourttia Newland was born in 1973 and raised in West London. After an early start in music, he turned to writing fiction and published his first novel, The scholar, 23 years. Eight other books followed, including A river called time, which came out earlier this year. Newland wrote eight plays, starting with States of mind, which was first directed in 1998, and together with Steve McQueen he wrote two episodes of the television series Small Ax, released last year. His new collection of speculative news, Cosmogram, is published by Canongate on October 28.

Photograph: Graywolf Press

1. Book

Percival Everett’s Trees

I’ve read loads of stuff about foreclosure, and one of the most remarkable is this really cool mix of satire, surrealism, and literary crime thriller from my favorite writer at the moment. When a series of murders take place in Mississippi, police are intrigued to find a second body at each crime scene – a boy resembling Emmett Till. But every time they get to the morgue, the body is gone, only to come back to the next murder. Everett is really good at tackling big ideas and making them fantastic. It gives me courage and makes me feel a little less alone with all the crazy ideas I have.

2. Concert

Thundercat at We Out Here party

Thunder Cat.
“Makes you think of Jimi Hendrix”: Thundercat. Photography: Naomi Omokhua

My wife and I went to We Out Here, the festival run by Gilles Peterson, and there were so many highlights, including a lot from the British jazz scene – and this big one from the United States. No one knew Thundercat was coming, but it was mind-blowing, one of the most amazing live performances I’ve seen in years. Now that I’ve seen him live I think he’s a musical genius. The way he plays bass – flawlessly and even faster than on record – reminds of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar. His fingers were right.

3. Art

Lubna Chowdhary

Work by Lubna Chowdhary.
Work by Lubna Chowdhary. Photography: Copyright the artist

I discovered Lubna Chowdhary’s work just a few weeks ago, when I went to her exhibition at the Peer Gallery in Hoxton. I was absolutely blown away. She works a lot with ceramics, making it almost look like textiles. I love the colors – very bright reds, blues and yellows. They are beautifully designed, full of vibrancy, life and emotion, and you really want to touch them. Everything feels organic, like alive, which I found really strange – I’ve never had that feeling with art before.

4. Play

The seven methods to kill Kylie Jenner

Leanne Henlon and Tia Bannon in Seven Methods Of Killing Kylie Jenner at Royal Court.
Leanne Henlon (left) and Tia Bannon in Seven Methods Of Killing Kylie Jenner at the Royal Court. Photograph: Tristram Kenton / The Guardian

This Jasmine Lee-Jones play at the Royal Court Theater in London was just awesome. A truly surreal and dark story, it follows Cleo, who has cut off contact with the world but has a lot to say about Kylie Jenner, the cultural appropriation of black women’s beauty, and the trials of having dark skin. It was really from a contemporary black London perspective. I started out writing this sort of thing, but I could never do it now – I’m too old and overwhelmed. But I love that Jasmine Lee-Jones can do it so authentically.

5. Exhibition

Inna Babylon War, ICA

War Inna Babylon: The Community's Struggle for Truth and Rights at ICA, London.
War Inna Babylon: The Community’s Struggle for Truth and Rights at ICA, London. Photography: Tim P Whitby / Getty Images for the Institute of Contemporary Arts

It was a very comprehensive overview of the British black community’s fight for truth and justice, organized by [the racial advocacy and community organisation] Tottenham Rights. It contained numerous archival films, the highlight of which was a detailed analysis of Mark Duggan’s independent investigation. And there was really detailed information about the history of the Broadwater farm and the riot in the 1980s. There was so much information about the history of black Britons that I had never encountered before. I went there shortly before it closed and it is one of the best things that I have seen in ages. I think it needs to be made permanent.

6. Film

Ballad of a white cow (real Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moqadam)

In Edinburgh for the book festival in August, I took the opportunity to go to the film festival, where I saw the UK premiere of this Iranian film. It’s about a woman whose husband is executed for murder, and how she tries to clear her name and rebuild her life afterwards. She has a deaf child and no money, so she is just trying to survive too. It’s a beautiful story of family, love and heartbreak, and there are some impressive performances by Maryam Moqadam (who also co-directs) and Alireza Sani Far. It’s an understated masterpiece and I can’t help but think about it.

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