Nima Sene’s show Beige B*tch, which is part of Contact in Manchester’s season, explores black identity and belonging in a world dominated by celebrity culture. Sene explains to Giverny Masso why she chose to make her own work instead of trying to conform to existing categories…
Tell me about Beige B*tch…
My university degree show was when I first thought about Beige B*tch. I wanted to have a concert originally. Other people focus on one medium but I don’t work like that, I think: ‘What do I need to explore and what’s the best way to do it?’ Having grown up in Berlin and being German, but not being seen as that in my home country, this work focuses on the frustration and confusion I get from my identity. There’s something about people being fixated on what they see and being more overpowering than what they listen to. I realised I was never going to pass as white, which allowed me to embrace black identity. I’ve never felt as though I had the best of both worlds, I’ve always felt in-between. That’s the idea of the show.
What made you want to make your own work?
I’m not really that palatable. I never wanted to do acting or singing or dancing alone, I just want to express myself creatively. Going to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland meant I didn’t have to squeeze into some category, but left it for other people to decide. I don’t have an accent that can be placed, that’s what I mean about not being palatable. Mixed people who are on TV are usually from London. I always have people asking me where I am from. I thought: ‘Either I’m going to have to learn to do this everyone else’s way or be comfortable with being complex and show people there isn’t just one way to be.’
Who are your inspirations?
My mother, who is an anthropologist, and my grandmother who lives in a Bauhaus house my grandfather built, filled with a beige 1960s-1970s aesthetic. Grace Jones of course is a mega inspiration, as well as Solange, Michelle Wright’s book Becoming Black and Derrais Carter’s lecture Blackness: Undone. Also my long-term collaborator, film-maker Daniel Hughes – I am so blessed to have such a fruitful working relationship and friendship with him.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m interested in doing short films. Daniel and I have another short film we are working on, so I want to edit that. I’m going to be a performer with Wonder Fools for their show The Coolidge Effect and I’m also working on a dance show called The Afflicted with Vicki Manderson, which is about a twitch epidemic that happened with young girls in the US. I love to work with and perform in other people’s work. I am not an artist who only needs to make their own work.
Training: Foundation degree in performance skills and theatre studies at Goldsmiths University of London (2011); Contemporary Performance Practice at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (2012-16)
First professional role: How to Be a Fucking F@&*£$st, Tron Theatre, Glasgow (2013)
Beige B*tch runs at Stun Studio in Manchester on October 26 and 27