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Up In Arms

Anna Maria Nabirye and Annie Saunders



A live-cinema documentary performance where the two artists live-sync edited audio and visuals from their archive and appear between the audience and the screen, reacting and responding physically to the footage in real time, illuminating themes in the work of scrutiny, projection, connection and disconnecting, understanding and misunderstanding, both the meeting places and the missed connections of intersectionality. 

Up In Arms is a multidisciplinary live-documentary artwork, by Anna Maria Nabirye and Annie Saunders, which creates space for intimate conversation and radical social change. Merging cinema technology with live performance to create an experiential, interactive and immersive artwork, it offers new perspectives to the traditional relationship between art,  technology and audience. An antidote to cancel culture with its unexpected, vulnerable and spontaneous form, the artists create space for conversations centred on anti- racism, activism, intersectionality and friendships between women.

The initial phase of the project involves an invitation to two audience-participants – a Black woman and a friend of her choice – to re-embody and re-create Dan Wynn’s iconic portrait of Dorothy Pitman-Hughes and Gloria Steinem. The participants re-create this photo and talk to each other and the artists about female friendship, feminism, and racism. The re-creation of this image is a portal for uncomfortable, challenging, transformative conversation.

Our proposed engagement for the festival is a multimedia performance developed from the content and the audio and film documentation recorded during the live interaction described above. Anna Maria and Annie will edit the audio and visual material separate from each other which will then be played back together for the first time   into the performance space to a live audience. The two artist- performers appear in front of the screen, creating shadows and silhouettes, both physically and verbally responding to the film moments capturing moments of synchronicity and discord in real time. The 45 minutes long  performance-screening is followed by a conversation with the audience.


Anna Maria Nabirye is a multidisciplinary artist with projects across theatre, film, visual arts & fashion. Her work is focused on the narratives of Black women within the African Diaspora. She is currently on commission for a solo show for Whitstable Biennale 2022 and a Jerwood Artist on Attachment. She recently performed the leading role of Dez in Adeyemi Michael’s The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be, which was part of the official selection of Black Star Festival & TIFF (2021).  She co-performance directed Ruptures alongside Noor Afshan Mirza and Brad Butler (London Film Fest /Home/ Delfina Foundation). She performed and co-devised Hold Your Ground (Film & Video Umbrella), Everything For Everyone And Nothing For Us (Mirror City Hayward Gallery), The Paper Man (Improbable Theatre). Her own works include Motherhoody (with Jess Mabel Jones- commissioned by The Albany Theatre-London), One Prick At A Time- experimental documentary (with Jess Mabel Jones commissioned by Kings College London). With The De La Warr Pavilion No Word For A Pier in Lusoga (Short Film), Coming to Our Census? (Social Practice Project). Anna Maria co founded ethical fashion brand AFRORETRO which explores identity & culture through upcycled fashion & textiles and sister company Afri-Co-Lab which curates creative interventions, workshops and events, commissions include The Black Cultural Archives, Royal Court, V&A, South Bank Centre, Brighton Museum, Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects. As an actor Anna Maria has worked with BBC1, BBC2, Channel 4, Netflix,The National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe. As an educator Anna Maria has lectured at LAMDA, Mountview Academy, National Theater Institute (USA), YALE school of Drama (USA) and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Collaborations incl; Half Moon YPT, Imogen Knight, METIS and Mirza & Butler. 

Annie Saunders is a multidisciplinary creator and director. She has created award-winning unique large-scale experiences and multiplatform projects for MasterCard, Santander, Hewlitt-Packard, Dos Equis, Bulleit Bourbon and ASICS Worldwide, as well as The Los Angeles Philharmonic and other major arts institutions. Her installation The Home, a headphone-based experience for one audience member at a time for Santander Bank/Domestic Violence Awareness Month, won the D&AD Yellow Pencil (“Creative Excellence”) for Spatial Design and Installation Design, was shortlisted in three other categories, won the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) Next Award in the Experiential category, won three awards for Merit in Storytelling, Art Direction and Installations at the One Show, and won two Advertising Producers Association (APA) Ideas Awards in the UK: Best Experiential Project and Best Use of Technology for Good. The work in archives in the Department of Film at MOMA NYC. Her work for HP’s ‘Family Portraits’ campaign won a Shorty award for Diversity and Inclusion and Ogilvy Awards for Tech, Telecommunications and Data Innovation. She is a member of the inaugural ONX Studio, an invited accelerator for artists working in extended reality to develop significant works for the public realm through NEW INC, the New Museum and the Onassis Foundation, and an alumnus of the Devised Theater Working Group for next-generation performance-makers at the Public Theater. Saunders is the founder and artistic director of site-specific performance company Wilderness, and has created experimental theatre and live experiences around the world. She is a core collaborator and performer with Lars Jan on Holoscenes, and her experimental project The Wreck for Opera Omaha was called ‘ingenious…a persuasive expression of complex female feeling,’ by the Wall Street Journal.

Filmography/Exhibition List

Anna Maria Nabirye:
Whitstable Biennale Solo show untitled (2022)
Black Joy Matters-  Artist Moving Image Short- Director- Hasting Museum & Art Gallery (2020)
One Prick At A Time – Experimental Documentary-Director-King’s College London (2020)
Ruptures- Artist Moving Image Feature- Co-Performance Director-Film London/ HOME/ Delfina Foundation (2019)
No Word For Pier in Lusoga- Artist Moving Image Short- Director- De La Warr Pavilion (2017)
Everything For Everyone And Nothing For Us -Artist Moving Image – Co-deviser-  Mirror City Hayward Gallery
Hold Your Ground -Artist Moving Image – Co-deviser- Film & Video Umbrella