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Review: OommoO at Summerhall – Red Lecture Theatre - Ed Fringe

Review by Kate Gaul

Habesha by way of London, artist Lula Mebrahtu aka LULA.XYZ, is a multidisciplinary artist at the intersection of art, music, and technology. She is a recent recipient of the prestigious Oram Award for innovation in music. A pioneering practitioner of the MiMu Gloves (midi gestrule instrument), her practice is to create an all-encompassing (visually and sonically) experience. She can control various sound and visual signals from her hands and it’s quite interesting to watch how this happens. And, completely baffling!

“OommoO” is best described as tales of ancestral voyages told through spoken word, music, and this cutting-edge technology. As a performer Lula Mebrahtu uses a dance and physical approach with both speaking and singing. There are projections of faces behind her – activated by her gestures and the gloves. Instead of manual loop pedals, waves of her hands layer her voice. Tapping her fingers together conjures piano notes. This subtle choreography makes Mebrahtu seem magical and otherworldly, like an ancient god or healer. Being a legal alien is a superpower, she says.

“OommoO” depicts the lived experience of 1st generation immigrant as she navigates the duality of two cultures, her Habesha (Eritrean/Ethiopian) heritage and British identity. An acronym for One-of-many-many-of-One, “OommoO” examines the effects of memory loss on a displaced community. It asks what happens when you’ve left everything behind for the promise of something better, and the something ‘better’ isn’t ‘better’? When you have nothing, but memories and memory is fading, what do you have? The blurb tells us this is “a poetic reflection of an emotionally visceral experience unpacked through an Afro-Futuristic East African lens.”

The whole thing is very dreamy, and I found the presentation extremely hard to connect with. I couldn’t hear most of it. I don’t think there is any story – just snippets of ideas. Phone calls from her mother ground the piece in the here and now but it all felt like a work in progress. It certainly pushes at the boundaries between theatre, music, and technology – to explore new forms of storytelling that more effectively captures intersectional and cross-cultural identities. The work is supported by the Eclipse Award which aims to develop UK-based Black and Global Majority trailblazing artists by supporting them to undertake a season of work at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Image Supplied


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