“Dancehall is often condemned for its dramatic, violent and sexual expressions, ignoring the political implications of some acts and its value as a cultural manifestation,” says Lua Ribeira, whose series exploring British dancehall rituals, Noises in the Blood, opens at London’s Fishbar Gallery tomorrow. A book of the same name, published by Fishbar, will also be launched at the PV.
Dancehall originally comes from Jamaica and in shooting its British offshoot in Birmingham, Riberia was part-inspired by Caroline Cooper, Professor in Cultural Studies at the University of West Indies, and her book Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender, and the”Vulgar” Body of Jamaican Popular Culture. “I was very influenced by Cooper’s ideology about the dancehall and her successful efforts to discuss it within the academia,” Ribeira explains.
“She questions the apparent sexism within the culture, the female role and the women’s transformations, and the Western morals and ethics under whose lens things seem to be looked at.”
Wearing clothes and accessories they have often made themselves, the women involved in dancehall find it a creative outlet, says Riberia, which comes with a sense of empowerment. “The outfits will not be worn twice, and there is always this sort of great expectation to see how girls are coming to the parties,” she says.
Initially attracted to the music, whose lyrics somehow mix very explicit, open sexual metaphors with the idea of love and marriage, she drew on fashion, films, painting, sculpture and social media to shoot her work, as she became interested in the women’s self-presentation. Her work is documentary, she says, but she uses her subjects “almost as an excuse to make the images I want to make.”
In this series, she believes there’s a gap between her research, what she discovered about the dancehall, and the images she shot, she explains, which is down to “something that happens between me and the person I photograph”. “It’s mainly about those moments and a very personal search that remains a mystery to me,” she says.
Born in 1986 in Spain, Ribeira graduated from the Documentary Photography BA at the University of South Wales, Newport in 2016, and is now based in London. For her, another aspect of the project is the intermingling of British and Jamaican culture in UK dancehall – and the growth of sub-cultures beyond the norms.
“I am interested in the number of cultures that co-exist in the UK and how they are sterilised to be consumed, like Disney World or something like Tastes of the World,” she says. “But underneath that, there are many things happening outside the common circuits or routes we all share in an urban space.”
Noises in the Blood” will be on show at Fishbar Gallery from 12 to 21st May 11am-7pm Thursday to Sunday. The Private View takes place on 11 May, and the book Noises in the Blood, which costs £22 will also be launched that night. https://fishbar.ph/ https://www.luaribeira.com/