Hope Strickland and Jessica El Mal Q&A

Artists Hope Strickland and Jessica El Mal are working together for the first time to create the Push 2021-commissioned film, If I could name you myself (I would hold you forever). They discuss the challenges of the past year and what they hope audiences will take away from the film.

Q: Tell us a bit about your career to date

Hope Strickland & Jessica El Mal: We come from quite different artistic backgrounds: Jessica works as an artist and curator within social and participatory projects, whereas Hope comes from a background in visual anthropology and has recently moved into artist film. We were compelled to work together due to our shared interest in postcolonial ecologies, feminism and herbal resistance.

Q: What does selection for Push mean to you?

HS & JEM: The PUSH commission has been a really fun, encouraging process for us and we’re especially grateful for it given the current pandemic. Despite the challenges it’s been a really rich experience, thanks!

Q: How has the last year affected your practice as artists?

HS & JEM: In some respects, it’s been a really challenging year: financial instability and general precarity have definitely affected our practices. However, we’ve both had the time this year to assess where we’re at and what’s important to us. Working as a duo is not something we would have previously considered, but searching for a nurturing, creative environment during the pandemic has brought us together really organically.  Our divergent backgrounds means we each bring different strengths and perspectives to the project, and we’ve been able to develop a new way of working in collaboration.

Q: What do you hope the audience will take away from your film?

HS & JEM: Common media narratives on slavery and marginalised histories are often glossy, Hollywood-esque dramas of denigration, violence and trauma told through or for a white gaze. With our film we really wanted to emphasise the stories less heard that are valuable in redefining a rich, powerful collective history, made with and for the community it serves through a practice of co-curation. If I Could Name You Myself (I Would Hold You Forever) highlights the small, every-day rebellions of black women in the face of a terrible system – it should highlight these as acts of hope and resistance which we the audience can honour and respect.

Q: What comes next for you after Push?

HS & JEM: This is our first time working together as a duo and we’ve really enjoyed it. Whilst continuing with our own individual projects we’re looking for further opportunities to work together and continue developing the themes of herbal, feminist resistance present in the film for PUSH.