THE WORK WE SHARE: A Prayer Before Birth at Modern Art Oxford

IN-PERSON SCREENING: 27 APRIL 2022,

6.30PM at Modern Art Oxford

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We’re delighted to present the next event of The Work We Share programme in partnership with Modern Art Oxford. This one-off screening presents the newly digitised A Prayer Before Birth (1991) by feminist filmmaker Jacqui Duckworth, a drama which chronicles the director’s own experience of coming to terms with multiple sclerosis, and a new response commission by Nat Raha. 

Following the film screening the poet, and queer / trans* activist-scholar Nat Raha will lead a discussion with the audience in response to the film.

Addressing Jacqui Duckworth’s short, final film ‘A Prayer Before Birth’ (1991), Nat Raha’s text takes the form of interwoven commentary and dialogues. The film is a harrowing, surreal visioning in which a Black queer woman charts the onset of a physically debilitating health condition – refracting the director’s own experiences. Thinking through the film as presenting ableism as a horror story, the author speaks with artists, curators, activists and scholars. They discuss anti-Black racism in Britain; representations, politics and aesthetics of disability and ableism; interracial queer desires; care and self-care; and the work of attending to this film now, thirty years after it’s production, and after the passing of the director. The dialogues themselves emerge out of friendships, in the knowledge that intimacy can create a space for deep conversation, which in turn work to hold the film itself.

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A PRAYER BEFORE BIRTH, Jacqui Duckworth, (United Kingdom, 1991, 20mins) 

A Prayer Before Birth is a drama which chronicles the director’s own experience of coming to terms with multiple sclerosis.

Jacqui Duckworth was an independent filmmaker, born in Warrington in 1948. All of Duckworth’s film and photography work arose from an instinctive and original cleverness rather than a traditional academic approach and she made several searching films before the MS diagnosis in her early 30s prevented her carrying on with her plans for further film projects. These included: An Invitation to Marilyn C, Home Made Melodrama and A Prayer before Birth, the latter shown on Channel 4 as part of a series exploring the relationship between mind and body.

Dr Nat Raha is a poet, and queer / trans* activist-scholar, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her research addresses sexuality and gender, critical theory and Marxism, contemporary poetry and poetics, through creative and critical methods. She is a postdoctoral researcher on the ‘Life Support’ project at University of St Andrews, and was a postdoctoral researcher on the ‘Cruising the Seventies: Unearthing pre-HIV/AIDS queer sexual cultures’ project at the Edinburgh College of Art. In 2018, she completed her PhD thesis ‘Queer Capital: Marxism in queer theory and post-1950 poetics’ at the University of Sussex. Her current research also investigates radical transfeminism, race in UK poetry and poetics, and queer and trans print cultures.

She is the author of three collections and numerous pamphlets of poetry – her third book, ‘of sirens, body & faultlines’, was published by Boiler House Press in November 2018. She has performed her work internationally and her writing has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies.

Nat is co-editor of the Radical Transfeminism zine.

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This event is presented in partnership with Modern Art Oxford, and supported by Arts Council England. It forms part of a new Cinenova programme titled The Work We Share – a programme of 10 newly digitised films from the Cinenova collection, captioned by Collective Text alongside 10 new artist response commissions, touring the UK throughout 2021-22.