This first practice-as-research project by CCA Research Associate Chinasa Vivian Ezugha seeks to examine the question: ‘What kind of documentation can be derived from glossolalic speech and its presentation?’ It does so through the development and creation of an audio performance, realised in collaboration with the artists’ sisters recorded in everyday mundane spaces such as the kitchen or bedroom. This project examines the practice of glossolalia within family relationships and the everyday, and the way in which spoken glossolalia can be used to further discussions around our relationship to the voice as a form of connection to our bodies and others.
The piece approaches glossolalia as a summoning speech that began with audio recordings made during prayer sessions while in Covid-19 lockdown and with her family. The piece plays with rhythm and repetition to present a poetic rendering of glossolalic utterances.
In this, Vivian seeks to investigate, through practice, the interconnected dialogues developed in communal utterances of glossolalia. She aims to engage with glossolalia as method of disruption, while becoming aware of the environments in which it occurs. This notion forced the artist to focus on the transmission of this type of speech and how the environmental context shifts the meaning of the speech. By this, she is alluding to the removal of the speech from a religious setting in to the everyday spaces like the kitchen.
As the name suggests, the subject of the performance is ‘tongues’, which is derived from the translation of ‘glossolalia’ – the Greek word for ‘speaking in tongues’. Using repetition, spoken and sung glossolalia, the project aimed to provide new perspectives, responding to the prayer dialogues developed between the artist and her two sisters during the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.
Most of the recordings and prayer exchanges between the sisters were documented using a portable sound box in their rooms or over the phone while we engaged in activities such as driving or cooking. The duration reflects the essence of the artist’s experience of speaking in tongues, which often was one of repetition, interruptions and non-linear communication.
This audio work can be considered as the first of many other future iterations, that use glossolalia as a material for creating new performances that are performed both digitally and live. The mundanity of the environments and activities used for Tongues allows for the deconstruction of the religious conventions that have for so long dictated that worship is a church bound activity. The artist is continuing to develop this research project, exploring glossolalia and the differences in speech and sound between the diasporic Nigerians in the UK and the Pentecostal Nigerians across Nigeria.