Not Today’s Yesterday

Patrick Centre

Birmingham Hippodrome


Seeta Patel’s is an award-winning Bharatanatyam artist and her new solo work Not Today’s Yesterday is an emotional and visually stunning performance.

In 55 minutes it tells the story of how history is either being ignored or revised to the benefit of Western democracies. It focuses particularly on how global trade was and still is the excuse for violence and wars and the ongoing marginalisation of indigenous populations.

Seeta, has developed this work with Australian Director and choreographer Lena Limsani and it, begins with an ambient soundtrack and a childlike Fairy Tale voice over. The voice tells of a time long ago on a some far away tropical island. Its people live peacefully and simply and during this section Patel fuses the graceful movements of multicultural dance with the strength of strong tribal ceremonies.  

As the story progresses she involves Perspex props that represent the arrival of sailing ships to the island with traders, who, to the supposed benefit of the islanders, mutually exchange their gifts.

However greed becomes a part of that relationship and Patel’s movements become more military and aggressive in their representation of the ensuing violence that breaks out in the name of profit and the so called implementation of civilization.

During this section the soundtrack becomes more classical with extracts of Strauss and suggests a more imposed formality over the islanders and this is overlaid with vocal exerts of politicians like Kennedy and Churchill talking about memorable days in history.

It reflects issues such as the British Empire and other countries who have aggressively either stolen or unfairly traded the resources and people of countries across the world.

The second half of the performance features a large Perspex screen onto which is poured white paint from behind which runs down the screen symbolising the whitewashing threads of history.

Patel then creates a stunning piece of visual art whilst standing behind, blending the paint to a solid surface. She then clears a tiny viewing window looking out towards the audience and with the stark backlighting skilfully creates evil shadows through the use of her body and hands onto the paint smeared surface. It’s a simple but incredibly dynamic way of visualising the manipulation of History into the political confusion we now have and the dark figures that prey on individual liberties.

Eventually Patel’s character becomes overwhelmed by the cacophony of sound and sadly represents the plight of those migrant communities who have now being marginalised. Symbolically throughout the work it is the Black hair of the people which is used as their strength and protection and in the final scene Patel sits defeated holding the now the separated white locks of those it has been taken from.

Not today’s yesterday is a valid an important work as it seems politics are now more about trade than about people. With Brexit still undecided and Trump in America tearing up international trading standards it’s easy for people to forget where many of the world’s resources come from.

Worse still is the distancing and poor education of the bloodshed and ruthless power that has been wielded for profit and all for our so called benefit.

Jeff Grant


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