Women and Wetlands

Last night I was part of a panel discussion which tackled the subject of women and wetlands.

Crag Lough, seen from Peel Crags, Hadrian’s Wall

I was asked by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett at Northumbria University to be part of this event and share my work around my residence at Northumberland National Park and my explorations of peat bogs.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect about this event or what I was going to share. But on reflection now, I’m so glad that I was invited to take part because I learned so much about peatlands within the UK, around the world and the special place they hold within the global climate crisis.

So much of my language around nature and the environment has been formed through white supremacy culture which has been biased on colonialism and imperialism and capitalist consumption. And of which I am at great pains now to unlearn and find a new language or it is just a re-memory of the language of my ancestors where there is no separation between us and nature.

Something that was raised last night by Khairani Barokka, which was totally new to my knowledge and way of thinking was that within indigenous communities gender was much more fluid and diverse. The binary system of male and female/ he and she which we take as a given now, as the norm, is a construction and part of the colonist program.

That the idea of “the coloniality of gender,” which might have seen the binary gender system in Europe but was not the case for indigenous populations around the world who were brutalised, moved off the lands and eliminated through genocide. This is going to require more reading on my part but it will be completed eagerly as it’s more evidence of how this system to live and breathe is a construct of power for a few white people over the rest of us all.

I share an extract of my presentation here.

“Femme Noire” de Léopold Sédar Senghor / “Black Woman” by Léopold Sédar Senghor

Léopold Sédar Senghor I would like to share with you this poem of the late president of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor. This poem is an ode to the…

“Femme Noire” de Léopold Sédar Senghor / “Black Woman” by Léopold Sédar Senghor

I reblog this post African Heritage here as a marker. As a tag. As a note to follow up in conjunction with a project/commission I’m working on. All will become clear when I create a new project page within my portfolio.

But for now, enjoy this beautiful poem from Léopold Sédar Senghor, which speaks of the Black Woman which can also be read as the country, Senegal. Enjoy. More details coming soon.

Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu

Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu

I received a scholarship from Lighthouse Writers to complete a four week course Reading as a Writer – Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu. It’s taught by Angelique Steven who is another brilliant memoir writer.

I really hadn’t heard of the book before this course but I was drawn to it as what I’d read from The New York Times review was that Pilate Dead from Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon is mentioned and her missing navel.

In Song of Solomon Pilate’s “cut off from her people early” left without a trace of her physical connection to her mother. Pilate spends her life adrift not making any real connections with other people and places rootless and unrooted. But the flips side of this is independence and freedom.

Nadia Owusu, through Afershocks, explores through her memoir her own rootlessness. What does it mean to be rooted? A daughter of an Armenian-American and a Ghanaian UN agency worker, Nadia is born into movement, travel diversity and trauma. She’s becomes fascinated with place because no place belonged to her.

Aftershocks takes it premise and structure from earthquakes, with shakes, rumbles foreshocks and upheaval affecting the narrative as it moves backwards and forwards in time. The present is marked by Nadia spending a week in a blue chair just rocking as she suffers a breakdown, after her whole world is devastated when she learns a different reason for her father’s death. A father she idolised since her mother abandoned her at the age of two and was fleeting in and out of her life since then.

I’m so enjoying reading this book as a reader but also as a writer as this means I’m carried along with the narrative, the shakes and rumbles along fault lines, at the same time as deconstructing it, exploring underneath the lines to find out how Nadia put this beauty together.

This is all helping me think about my own hybrid memoir and how this will be structured but also it’s giving me permission to put in stories and experiences that maybe I was shying away from before.

In the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, Nadia states, “I write towards truth, but my memory is prone to bouts of imaginations. Other’s remember events differently. I can only tell my version.” This so hit a chord with me. A disclaimer at the beginning to let the read know this is the truth, but how one individual feels it and it might be embellished a bit.

And then when someone in the course group mentioned how they find Nadia so narcissistic in her writing, only focusing on her thoughts and feelings. I was like ‘HELLO!” This is her memoir, her story to tell, because who else is going to tell it?

Angelique, the course tutor said, while writing a memoir you walk a fine line. The line between narcissism and humility. When you can create the balance between the two extremes then you have yourself a brilliant memoir.

I can only say I’m working on it. And that brings me joy to say that, I’m working on it.

I would recommending this book, Aftershocks, as it’s so well written and even though details an individual’s life experiences up to the age of 28, there are still universal themes and episodes within this text that will not only draw you in with wonder and awe, but will also get you wandering down your own path of memories and natural disasters to try understand your own nuanced neurosis and make-up and sense of self.

An Alternative Narrative

As mentioned in my last post, we have the Black Nature In Residence Showcase coming up on the evening of 28 October.

This is the first event in a series that identity on tyne through their Earth Sea Love project are collaborating with Northumberland National Park to host.

Other events offered as an alternative to the Future Landscape Programme that will run at the same tine at COP26 in Glasgow, will provide diverse voices to the environmental and conservation movement and makes those all important links between the local and global in terms of the climate crisis.

Starting on 11 November, 7.30-8.30pm – Decolonising the Environmental Movement

I’ll be hosting a conversation with Sarah Hussain and Serayna Solanki

Through their projects and research, both Sarah Hussain and Serayna
Solanki are providing spaces for marginalised communities and people of
colour to engage with nature as a means of changing the narrative around
who has a say in the Climate Change Movement. They are working within
education and research, community and organisational partnerships, to create
and highlight dialogue around climate justice through personal and community
storytelling.

Then 18 November, 7-8pm, Nature Writing Reading

Join me , as host again, with Jo Clement and Zakiya McKenzie for a reading and discussion of literature which explores place, environment, belonging and identity as both writers read from and talk about their recent collections.

Then on 22 November, 7-8pm – A keynote lecture with Grace Hull, Holistic Sustainability

What is holistic sustainability?

Grace Hull created Green Grace Soul to share her journey to living sustainably in a holistic way. Grace attempts to balance the food she eats, the products she uses and the things she buys with the most beneficial outcomes for her health, the health of the planet, and the others living on it.

Sustainable living and Climate Change activism have many faces, and by centring holistic sustainability Grace engages with intersectionality and the social and historical context of climate change through the reflections of her journey that she shares on her website, podcast and DIY projects.

This will be a keynote lecture followed by a Q and A.

When the wife leaves Without closing the door

In the shape of a tree,

my scar is painted with code.

Through the letting of blood, I wait

for the sound of my screams.

But what I do not plan for

is the mashed up sycamore spinners,

the trampled copper conkers

and the singed bramble bushes.

Graceless and broken,

I get high on the thoughts

of owning myself; the plumage

of starlings embroidered

on an intimate mind. 

Sticky sparks

when the wind moves                    

between the seasons                                     on a moonlit night

there’s just enough       space                       for you        to lie down 

too narrow rooms and too narrow 

                                           thoughts 

keep you trapped beneath       glass      

ground      you     ( like a freak of …)

it draws blood from your hips to stay

everything in this world                           you’ve touched                                       you’ve tried to love 

yet your sticky sparks                    dare 

anyone to come close

Soulspeak

My heart is clear

listening to my gut

allowing space for my mind

to catch up

the sea is air-force blue

and glassy

and speaks to my soul

in a hushed whisper

the same sound and softness

from my clear heart

running free

Climbing trees, juicy mangoes

pliant flesh and ashy elbows

to be running free through the long grass

and burrs sticking to legs, gaze widening

no thought for shiny brown skin

causing hate, no thought for others

just green