Long strips of material, some white, some with colourful paint stripes, hang from the ceiling of 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space.

Divination Palace


Jim Parris with Xumo Nunjio, Olu Taiwo and Joseph Cocles

November 2019

Nominated by Manchester International Festival.

Musicians Jim Parris and Xumo Nunjio spent a couple of days at 101 in early 2019, exploring how they could develop their idea for a Divination Palace. This resulted in a week-long residency later that year, joined by visual artist Josephe Cocles, and director and academic Dr. Olu Taiwo.

The artists behind Divination Palace wanted to create a large scale installation to convey a feeling of communion and sharing, inspired by an African aesthetic, specifically the Ifa divination process. Practised by the Yoruba, the Ifa divination system relies on a complex system of signs that are interpreted by the diviner through reference to a literary text, to guide important personal or collective decisions.

The idea for the project had been developing over some years, born out of Jim’s lifelong interest in African art and music, which is reflected in his own creativity. He discussed the ideas with Xumo Nunjio, a performer, composer, and singer from Cameroon, who he has known for many years.

He was then further inspired by seeing an exhibition of the work of Josephe Cocles, from Martinique, at the Chuck Gallery in Manchester. Olu Taiwo also came on board to help realise the project.

It was important to them to have a large space where they could experiment with the hangings – using giant pieces of fabric, painted by Josephe, as banners. The fabrics would be randomly discovered by each audience member.

The piece is a hybrid of personal self-reflection and divination, and a group occasion of joint ritual. As they worked at 101 it became apparent that music would be an important functional element to create the sense of occasion – a shared moment.

A sharing at the end of the week explored the participation dynamic dictated by the rolling of nuts, the allocation of the banners and then the raising of these by participants to a live score created by Xumo. Extensive discussion ensued, exploring aspects of the work including rigging, music, interaction and live performance.

Work is underway to realise the project in Manchester, and to involve other festivals.

A paint splattered wooden craft table with three paintings on. All three paintings have a red background, each with a different symbol.
Two long wooden tables, one with a selection of craft items on, and one with a long strip of fabric painted in strips of red, yellow, black, blue and green.
Images copyright Jim Parris