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Public Projects Upcoming

les ongles noirs

Residency: Ban Workshop, Dakar, Senegal, 27 May – 1 June,
Exhibition: Eastside Projects, Birmingham, UK, 7 June – 27 July,

les ongles noirs (dirty nails) is a sticky experimental thing happening between Dakar, Senegal and Birmingham, UK. This is an invitation to: play, grieve, hum; throw soil on white walls; dance, pray, touch and be moved by the unknown.

Stewards of the land (visitors, clay, little ones, microscopic insects, artists, soil, ancestors…) compose a space of transmutation, where spirit is summoned through sonic, embodied, and imagined yearnings. As we re-invest in the present with what we have how do we form alternative ways to call in freedom?

The residency in Dakar and exhibition in Birmingham are emerging through rehearsals of non-verbal incantations, re-enactments of degenerative rituals, and gatherings.

les ongles noirs is infused by an intoxicating ‘i don’t know’ which punctuates the ana-choreography of the ever unfolding experiment.

A chain of invitations led us to invite you …

It started with Eastside Projects inviting melissandre varin who in turn invited artistic crushes:

– Maria Muehombo aka M I M I, offering sonic vibrations
– Sym Mendez aka Sym Stellium, offering spiritual care coordination and performance arts
– Ban Workshop, offering hospitality in Dakar, performance instructions, and ceramics
– Jade Blackstock, offering performance arts
– Carmen Wong, offering food ceremonies
– Ayesha Jones, offering still and moving images
– Bronwyn Katz, offering moving images
– Bousebik (6yrs) and Eole (5yrs), offering instructions on how to throw soil on white walls
– Chandos Primary School, offering destruction skills
– Manoj Yoga, offering a special sound bath evening
– Wutangu, offering astrology readings


melissandre varin used dream work and a four month sabbatical to conceptualise this thing. Sym Mendez and Eastside Projects are meticulously driving this vessel with their respective talents and generosity so we can come closer to this assemblage of transformative experiences.

melissandre has been inspired by Combien de Solitudes by Véronique Kanor; the work of Thich Nhat Hanh; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; Grada Kilomba; their local public parks and their inhabitants; Nina Simone; the joy felt returning to Dani’s grave after 19 years; Period Power by Maisie Hill; witnessing the wind; Rébecca Chaillon’s Carte Noire Nommée Désir; Olafur Arnalds; the act of wild swimming; heartbreak and faith in faith.

Gratitude to the ashes carrying me/us to the non-human, more than human, and human beings co-choreographing this mess of an experiment.


melissandre varin is an undisciplined atmosphere maker investigating love, intimacy, and tenderness from an Afro and Caribbean diasporic context. Relation, displacement, multiplicity, interdependency, and language emerge from their work.⁠ Commissioned across borders, melissandre co-parents 4 year old Eole. They are based in Birmingham.

They are co-founder of two collectives, B.O.O.K (Building Our Own Knowledge) and Papaya (cross-border afro-feminist collective), contributing in various ways including as working group member, artist-curator, writer and performer. They also programme Open Call, a re-distribution vehicle for performance artist-researchers as part of Studies in Theatre and Performance journal.

melissandre is someone who is in love (too).

melissandre is working with Eastside Projects as an Incidental Artist


Supported by