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Amerah Saleh Explores How Affinity to Geographical Locations Can Shape Identity

The latest Commonwealth Games, the Gold Coast Games, drew to a close last weekend. But before the athletes either went home to count their medals or redouble their training efforts, the official flag was passed to Birmingham who will host the 2022 edition.

The closing ceremony, designed to celebrate the success and achievements of all who took part in the event and reaffirm the values that it was founded upon, was a bit boring tbh. Sure, they had fireworks, people stood on certain spots so from an aerial view it spelt out ‘BRUM’ and a performance from Lady Sanity who’s a pretty sick emcee from the Midlands. Fine, that stuff was actually pretty cool. But they also had lengthy, rambling speeches delivered by politicians and dignitaries (yawn) that risked putting just about everyone to sleep.

Having said that, we are really glad they also included the work of Amerah Saleh – otherwise parts of it might have ended up being approximately as exciting as a mock GCSE in geography or a dentist check-up. Saleh, a spoken word artist and intrepid human rights supporter with Muslim Yemeni roots, burst onto Birmingham’s creative poetry circuit six years ago. Since she started sharing her words (focusing largely on identity, feminism and religion) that scene has never quite been the same.

Since her creative inception she has performed all over the country and has had work commissioned by the likes of Channel 4, Eastern Electronic Festival, TEDx, the Library of Birmingham and the University of Birmingham. At the closing ceremony last weekend, the 25-year-old literacy ace performed a poem – called ‘Tourist in My City’ – which explores her relationship with her city and how it has shaped her identity as a woman.

“I was commissioned to write a poem and I’ll be sharing it [during the closing ceremony],” Saleh told IAmBirmingham in a video interview before the big night. “The poem that I have written encapsulates what I think of Birmingham and what it means to me.”

“Poetry to me speaks the language of the whole world – it’s universal. It gives me a chance to be vulnerable and it gives an audience a chance to go ‘I relate to that in some way’. That’s really important for spoken word poetry.”

How did she feel in the lead up to the huge moment? “The Commonwealth Games is international and will be streamed to a lot of different cultures, religions and languages,” she says. “Even if they don’t understand the language that I’m reading it in, hopefully through my emotions and the way that I’m saying it, people can understand.”

She added: “The Commonwealth Games coming to Birmingham shows us to the world. We get to celebrate what we are about; the culture, the art, the energy and – most importantly – it’s shines a light on our sports.”

You can check out part of the poem here…

And, for good measure, here’s some more 🔥🔥🔥 from Saleh…

Featured image credit: callum bate via YouTube

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