SALAAM! An interview with Michael Barnes-Wynters

Absolutely Cultured and Humber Street Gallery present Thursday LatesSALAAM! from 7 pm on 8 June.

SALAAM! makes its home in Baa’s House for the evening, as Michael Barnes-Wynters and partner Emma Diamond respond to the work by Hetain Patel by welcoming all to enjoy the preparation, cooking and offering of a Dhal.

In the run up to the event, we interviewed MBW to learn a little more about him, his work and the performance, giving you a taste of what to expect.

Listen to the SALAAM! playlist while you read.

You can also download the evenings ‘takeaway’ mind food Curry Empire: a handout consisting of the Dhal recipe, information about curry and an editorial about UK curry houses.


Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your creative background and current work?

Originating from Bristol and of Jamaican parentage, my long-term artist collaborations broadcast at the intersections of immersive experiential film installations, provocative durational action performances and an ambidextrous user of analogue and digital technologies to explore childhood sensory experiences. With works that examine my communal and personal heritage – in particular, the intersection between popular culture and the residues of colonisation, I am an eternal crate-digger of the vaults of history. These investigations examine constructions of ‘the self’ through the activity of splicing the audible and visual materials of personal and interpersonal archives, always remixing to offer multiple perspectives that reveal the deeply entrenched inequalities in contemporary society.

As a cultural connector and enabler, working with people from all walks of life and abilities is at the heart of my practice as I continue to use socially engaged, performance and participatory-based strategies to make work that explores historical narratives and omissions, especially from my African diaspora, working class communities and migrant experiences in the UK.

As an advisor for Radical Arts Fund, Future’s Venture and co-chair for Yorkshire & Humber Visual Arts Network (YVAN), my arts activities ask blunt, relevant and meaningful questions that tackle human suffrage and injustice, climate racism, gender exploitation, control and the hyper normalisation of humanity.

What are the origins of SALAAM!, and why was it chosen for this performance?

Salaam! was born in 2006 as an ongoing exploration of ‘otherness’ which began with a group of young Muslim men in Greater Manchester. This culminated into an immersive audio-visual performance by the dozen young men at Contact.

The following fifteen years, Salaam! has explored otherness through the lens of city architecture and landscape as a street-based series of interventions in Manchester, London and Hull.

Thursday Lates: Salaam! is a welcome of PEACE to all who make the effort to come visit our home for the evening with the upmost respects to our friend Hetain and his family. We are blessed to have all of our senses and so the evening aims to nourish our souls.

The evening and your performance revolve around the preparation and making of a Dhal with chapatti. Could you offer some insight into the selection of this particular dish and how you feel food can be used to make connections between people, cultures, and places, similar to how Hetain explores and depicts his own heritage through the language of pop culture and film?

We offer an intervention which is accessible and nourishing. Our Takar Dhal recipe is an economical and simple one which we share in our Curry Empires mini publication given to all attendees. The recipe is vegan, gluten free (except chapattis) and can be modified to one’s own tastes and requirements.

Coming from first generation Jamaican heritage, I experienced communal spaces being created for the making and sharing of familiar flavours from the homelands. This is essential for migrant communities to retain their cultural identity.

Salaam! is a sensual experience as we encourage all to please wash hands and enjoy our sharing of music and food within Hetain’s “Baa’s House”.

To give audiences a taste of SALAAM! and its performance, you and your collaborator Emma Diamond put together a playlist. How was the playlist put together? Was there a specific mood or atmosphere you wanted to capture for people to experience?

We chose music that was joyful, welcoming, uplifting and a reflection of the feeling of family as we welcome all into our shared home for the evening. Salaam!

What would you say are your top 3 songs from the playlist and why?

1.  Trash (Robin Gibb) 1978

I was blessed with a childhood where my street was a wonderful melting pot of characters like that of sesame street. This track in particular, released in conjunction with Saturday Night Fever which became a significant moment in our family’s life.

2. Lament 1, ‘Bird’s Lament’ (Moondog) 1969

This track connects both of us as it was reinterpreted by Mr Scruff’s seminal track ‘Get a Move on’ in 1999. Whilst I collaboratively instigated the early development years and brand of Mr Scruff, ‘Get a Move On’ became a signature tune for Emma’s opening DJ sets. Meanwhile, I’m a lover of the genius that is Moondog!

3. Judge Not (Ray Mang Disco Mix) 2018

This track shared by Emma is one of a beautiful production quality, lyrically inspirational as well as utterly uplifting & joyous!

We’d be happy to shout about what’s to follow SALAAM! Can you offer a bit about its importance in your ongoing series of peaceful interventions and what’s might be on the horizon for your work?

My >afrosheen< series can be viewed at the windows of Shirethorn House on Prospect Street, Hull city centre. Whilst >afrosheen #007< can be seen at Feren’s Open Exhibition 2023: Friday 21 July – Sunday 01 October.

Follow Michael Barnes-Wynters on Instagram @doodlebugnuggets to see more of his work.