Home Announcement Illinois SOMI: IN THE ABSENCE OF THINGS | Dec 1-8


A Short Film Written and Performed by Somi
Directed by Mariona Lloreta
Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at 7pm CT/8pm ET
Presented also in partnership with National Black Theatre and Salon Africana

Urbana, IL—Vocalist-composer and writer Somi Kakoma, forges new ground with an experimental short film about the spiritual consequence of the global pandemic on creative practice. COVID-19 hit while Somi was on the road, so instead of returning to her residence in New York City, she decided to head to Illinois to shelter in place with her mother in the Midwestern town where she grew up. That town is also home to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and its Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Like most people, Somi’s professional life and plans were dramatically interrupted by the pandemic and she found herself reflecting on the deep sense of personal vacancy she was feeling in the absence of live performance.  

In exploring this theme, commissioners from Krannert CenterBaryshnikov Arts Center (New York, NY), and ArtsEmerson (Boston, MA ), have joined forces to support the creation of in the absence of thingsPartially narrated by Somi’s mother, this meditative film registers what Somi calls “the emotional vibration and undemocratic fragility of cultural space and the living stage.” The piece also aims to frame the disruption of otherwise quieted cultural spaces as a larger metaphor for the work most American arts institutions still need to do in service of Black storytelling.  

Over the course of an intensive three-day workshop in Krannert Center for the Performing Arts’ renowned Foellinger Great Hall in the fall of 2020, Somi and her collaborators, carefully adhering to all established Covid health and safety protocols, wrote and filmed an experimental piece that blends spoken word, art song, and movement with deconstructed concert recordings from Somi’s new live album, Holy Room—Live at Alte Oper with Frankfurt Radio Big Band.

Together, Krannert Center, Baryshnikov Arts Center, and ArtsEmerson will present a free, virtual, first look at in the absence of things on Tuesday, December 1, at 7pm CT/8pm ET. Following the exclusive screening, Somi and the director of the film, Mariona Lloreta, will be joined by Obie Award-winning Artistic Director of New York City’s National Black Theatre (NBT), Jonathan McCrory, for a live conversation about the meaning of the film, the collaborators’ creative process, and the role of Black artists during and beyond COVID-19. This event is also presented in partnership with NBT and Salon Africana.

Film Screening and Conversation Details

Somi: in the absence of things

Tuesday, December 1, at 7pm CT/8pm ET

Virtual performance information: https://krannertcenter.com/events/somi-absence-things

Closed captioning will be available for this performance.

This performance and conversation will last approximately one hour.

The performance and conversation will be available for viewing from Tuesday, December 1 at 7pm through Tuesday, December 8 at 4pm.

About Somi

Somi Kakoma was born in Illinois to immigrants from Uganda and Rwanda and has built a career of transatlantic storytelling. Known simply as ‘Somi’ in the jazz world, her last studio album, Petite Afrique, is a song cycle about African immigrants in the midst of a gentrified Harlem in New York City, won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. It was also the highly anticipated follow-up to Somi’s widely acclaimed major label debut The Lagos Music Salon, which was inspired by an 18-month creative sabbatical in Lagos, Nigeria. Both albums earned her ECHO Jazz Award nominations for Best International Jazz Vocalist.  Most recently, Somi released Holy Room – Live at Alte Oper with Frankfurt Radio Big Band.

She is a Sundance Theatre Fellow, a Soros Equality Fellow, USA Doris Duke Fellow, and TED Senior Fellow. In her heart of hearts, she is an East African Midwestern girl who loves family, poetry, and freedom. 

For more information on Somi, please visit www.somimusic.com

About Mariona Lloreta

Mariona Lloreta is a Spanish-American interdisciplinary artist working internationally in film, painting and dance. Mariona’s work celebrates the universal thread that binds our human experience as it examines the fine line between presence and absence, wholesomeness and brokenness, past, present and future. Her work dives into themes of identity, spirituality and collective memory, while reflecting upon the beauty and vulnerability of human existence.

Recent projects include writing, directing and co-producing narrative film A lua nunca morre in Rio de Janeiro which has so far won the Best Experimental Film award and Best Cinematography at Oscar-Qualifying festival Reel Sisters in New York City, and has been selected by Oscar-Qualifying Edmonton International Film Festival, acclaimed New York Latino Film Festival, NALIP’s Latino Media Fest, San Francisco Independent Film Festival and Miami Film Festival, among others. Her previous film, Amenze, in between worlds, which she wrote, directed and filmed, won Best Cinematography, received a Best International Film nomination and was selected by dozens of film festivals, including Oscar-qualifying Zinebi in Bilbao, Spain. Mariona also edited award-winning feature film The Ghost and the House of Truth (2019) in South Africa and produced narrative short film On Monday of Last Week (2018). She has directed and produced several documentary films, including ReSignifications, commissioned by New York University and Living Together commissioned by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in Boston.

Mariona is currently working on her first feature film and she is also producing several female-led, international projects. Mariona currently serves as Affiliate Professor of Screenwriting at Emerson College in Boston and as instructor at creative writing agency GrubStreet.



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