Download: Samra Mayanja: Letter to Ray.pdf

8th October 

Dear Ray, 

I started writing you a letter addressed to ‘a rant! a reel!’1  before I knew that the letter would become part of your show’s public programme. 2 I often write fan-mail to artists and artworks that I never send. 

I started writing you the letter, like a fan-girl. 

I wrote it, standing within your exhibition, as footnotes in my mind, on the margins of your interview and with an automatic hand to notebook page with a fixed eye. 

This letter is an assembling of all those scribbles over the course of a few days and I’ve been imagining it as a kind of documentary letter. I’m enjoying writing poetry for myself in this way, following something over a period of time; a fledgling in the garden, new stretch marks on my thighs or a thought. 

I’m conscious that this text is available to others to read and I’m trying as best as I can to write to you and the exhibition, giving space in between each text for parts of my dad3 day to fold in.

Morbid, slightly, but I thought of the last time I saw him when looking at your pictures on the ground. The precise placement of these romantic, rolling hillsides in peach love - cherubin air, golden, silky bumps. And of course, the ‘GOD perspective’ - as in, if the eye were able to, it would have to stretch, curve, roll, in order to see that entire landscape. I love the precise placement of every piece in the show, it stills the body readying us for an invitation to move; to slice the eyes across the room and to shift through the kind of choreography of the eye that reveals and is knowledge in the same moment. 

Like the side eye, the eye roll, cutting eye, double blink, hard blink (which differs from the prolonged blink), the staggered eye lash roll, the one eye open, a peak/peep/pop of the eyelid and of course the glare, squint stare, open eyed stare, double/triple/quadruple take, half-eyed/crescent moon stare and the stare through closed lids (a lament, a prayer, a silent look). The scan, the slice, the flutter, the speedy room scan left-to-right, up, anticlockwise turn and then down, the raised forehead slow scan with a punctuating blink. 


This choreography of yours, is both a rehearsal of subversion (done daily) and one of the ways that we are invited to encounter, observe and talk to the work. A covert, hush hush discussion with it, and our movements show us the ways in which we see through the body. And so, the word “eye” is less about the physical eye and more about maneuvering sight.

11th October 2021

Hiya Ray, 

I’ve just taken a moment after Ebun Sodipo’s deeply moving performance, my body reminds us of water iii, to write yet another fan-girl scribble to Ebun and you. Her performance made me feel as though we, the audience, were beneath an upturned swimming pool just above our heads. The water moves as though gravity were right despite it being above us. And I’m thinking now about how light moves as it travels through water and folds itself - jointless, landing onto surfaces. And I’m thinking especially about how we feel in that moment, in the dazzle between light and water. 

Those black shiny surfaces come to mind. 

And the liquid gold.

And the dance between the front and back face of things.

In your show I wasn’t able to spend so much time with what I thought of as the back and front face of the image. The projection slides. 

People were gathered there. Two. So I looked to the branding on the rum. The green, and maybe yellow, and the swirls of antiquity, and I thought of roads.4 Later, when I read your interview, I thought of canals and the history of canals in relation to the Industrial Revolution. At university I studied theories that attempted to explain the rise and decline of the Industrial Revolution. The narrative that’s stayed with me about the rise, is that the expansion of the canal system across Britain was one of the central factors contributing to the Industrial Revolution. These water roads facilitated the transportation of primary and secondary goods in and out of ports at speeds never reached. My FAVOURITE theory concerning the decline is that the generation that followed the rampant industrialists5 (the children of the rampant industrialists), were unable to self-motivate, to strive, to hustle, to work the way their parents had. Sometimes I try to imagine this generation, the “post-rampant industrialist” as the ones who, perhaps, could not keep the beast fed and refused to steal. That instead, their lives were spent on the wide banks of the water roads, rolling in an out of silk pillows and clouds for beds, being tender and soft, loving and fucking, holding and hugging on their parents’ dime until the wars came and blew them and their children away. I think of Victoria and Edward, my maternal grandfather and his children. The mistransmission of dreams, values, work ethic, ethics and mannerism. 

S                           I                           L                          

S      E      D      I      M      E      N      T

10th October 2021

Hey Ray, 

I’m on the bus heading back to Bradford from London. I’m orientated towards Scotland, towards you and away from the exhibition. 

How are you doing? I remember you saying something at the opening about approaching this exhibition differently to others. Smoothly you said something about, willing ease and play into the process of exhibition making and resisting the temptation to throw everything at it.

I’ve been carrying that with me. As well as the ongoing tangents of your thinking, like threads of silt around my ankles, a tendril-esque walk. 

When they meet you in the future, they’ll be thankful for you and the people and moments that make up your sentences. Thank you for your deep generosity.6

1 And the letter to the show.
2 Who does the programme belong to? Us, the artworks, you and in what corner of time?

3 I meant to write ‘day’ instead I wrote ‘dad’ here. Which reminds me of his encouragement. He said, “Africa doesn’t need anymore doctors, lawyers and engineers. We need artists, people who can think.”

4 Reminding me of a line from a scribble poem I wrote whilst working as door-bitch at a club a few years ago:

in his image,

all the world was arranged nothing else is

5 The word ‘rampant’ reminds me of “Warren-and-his-Fuckpole” the leader of Ramrod in ‘The Faggots and their Friends between Revolutions’.

6 Thank you.