“I am in the business of narrative and storytelling that counters violent dehumanisation, that builds community. My medium for this rehumanisation is the arts – as a space for dialogue, for envisioning, re-imagining, and focus.”
Zena Edwards is a multifaceted artist and cultural producer involved in writing and performance for over 25 years, touring globally.
Cooked in natural time
Zena Edwards remembers her school career advisor’s inability to make connections for her and looks forward to a future outside of the literary establishment.
Why I write
Constellations of humans on a page.
Belonging and a sense of place
Conjuring images of bloodlines, trees and forests as metaphors for Caribbean homes.
Zena Edwards in conversation with Trish Cooke
Zena Edwards talks to Trish Cooke about becoming a unique and compelling theatre performance poet, her way of ensuring she takes care of herself throughout this process, as well as her favourite authors and her tips for budding writers.
Zena Edwards was born in Hackney and raised in Tottenham. She has been described as one the most unique voices of performance poetry to come out of London and was nominated for the first ever Arts Foundation Award for Performance Poetry in 2007. She won the Hidden Creatives Economics Award in 2012 and the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship Award in 2017.
Zena is a multifaceted artist and cultural producer involved in writing and performance for over 25 years, touring globally. She graduated from Middlesex university in drama, stage-management, media and communications skills and also studied at London International School of Performance Art.
As a poet, her writing for performance explores deep immersion in examining collective and personal revolution – “staying human” – in the midst of social injustice and all its intersections, as well as re-membering that which has been dismembered in communities and our humanity.
Zena’s work has been described as “deep and sensuous, rhythmic and startling,” (Joelle Taylor) and her performance as “superb” (Lyn Gardner).
She is an avid blogger documenting her experiences as a freelance artist and educator advocating for young people, women’s issues, diversity and power, and the role of culture in the climate and environmental justice movement. As an artist activist, she has collaborated with Platform London and Julie’s Bicycle, two of the UK’s prominent climate and environmental justice and culture organisations.
As a multidisciplinary collaborator, Zena has worked with internationally acclaimed choreographer and dancer Akram Khan, visual artist Theaster Gates, radical film maker Fahim Alam, and The Last Poets. She has been a theatre director for a number of British Council projects, for Manchester Contact Theatre and for Redbridge Drama Centre.
Her music collaborations include The Last Poets, composer and guitarist, Femi Temowo, saxophonist and historian Soweto Kinch, musician and anthropological musicologist, Pops Mohamed. She has also supported Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis as part of the London Jazz Festival and collaborated with World musician and activist, Babaa Maal, for Africa Utopia at the Royal Festival Hall.