Hello and welcome. Displayed here are a selection of artworks, photographs, mixed-media and collages created by Sheree Angela Matthews; artist + teacher + creativity enthusiast. Visit the store to find out how to buy.
It’s nearly been a couple of weeks now since we, Olwen Wilson and myself, completed facilitating our online visual journaling retreat called Honouring Our Wholeness. For three sessions spread over six weeks, we created space for a self-care visual journaling retreat for women, feminine and non-binary people who are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour.
This was a unique and well-needed safe space for us to come together and just be. To let down our loads and know that we weren’t going to be judged but held. It was such a nourishing and nurturing space that without it, I feel a bit remiss. This space came along at the right time when I needed to take things slow and lean back into my visual journaling practice. What I need now is to remember what I learned from this experience and continue the journey; this healing journey I’ve been on for over six years now.
Six years ago, I started my visual journaling practice through a virtual course run by Lisa Sonora called Dreaming on Paper, at that point. It came into my life when I needed to explore my voice. When I needed time and space to get in touch, probably for the first time, with my true self. It provided me with an anchor when everything around me was disappearing, had been destroyed. Visual journaling kept me afloat, when I could have easily drown.
These are the things I need to remember when I do get a bit lost because of outside demands, or when I’m being far too critical on my own arse. Self-compassion. self-care and self-love are waiting for me when I open my journal and just play. Just try. Just turn up for me.
It was such an honour to be gather with these beautiful and generous people during Honouring Our Wholeness because that’s what we did for each other and ourselves, we showed up and offered ourselves compassion, care, grace and love.
‘It’s hard to be calm in a world made for whiteness. ‘ Austin Channing Brown
My last post, Black Fatigue, was written in a moment of anger, hence all the mistakes. Not mistakes in the argument or feelings but in the spellings and grammar. But I make no apologies. Sometimes it’s good for the soul, or good for me to let the anger out that I’m carrying around, moment to moment, daily.
It’s probably one of the rare occasions, I’ve allowed myself to vent as I have learned through years and experiences being an angry Black woman gets me nowhere. But the flip side, where has being an amicable and amenable Black woman got me? Probably well down the road of mental health issues and questionable wellbeing.
A week on, and I’m still sick and tired of the things playing out in my life as I move through this world in the body of a Black woman but still not recognised or treated as a fellow human being. I could even say that things have gotten worse as with time, more slights and ignorance and lack of awareness of their actions and inactions accumulate. Continue to accumulate as I get older but also as I attempt and fight to be met eye to eye with others as a human being deserving of living and striving within this world.
I oscillate between exhaustion and anger. Being depleted and fired up. And the worse thing of all is those that cause this suffering are oblivious to it. And even when I take the time and energy to point it out to them, how their actions are being unfair, unjust, unreasonable, and not seeing the situation in it’s totality they get on the defensive, do not engage with the issue, but deflect it away with comments like, ‘ I won’t engage with you when you’re being so aggressive.’
I stand by my post Black Fatigue. I just wish I’d mentioned emotional labour too. I can see now, as I reach 50 years old this year, that I have spent my lifetime trying to fit in. That means trying to be white. That is the only way to be let / given an inch in this game/ society/ life. I’m expected to be white because this is the cultural way of being. White people believe being white is right and good. Anything ‘other’ is wrong and should do everything right to become more white.
Now as I continue to question this standard, the way of operating in society, in the world, I’m going to become more and more angry and exhausted because I’m constantly being judged for being a Black female in a world made for whiteness. Everywhere I turn, in the street, on social media, on the TV, my self-esteem is being chipped away while living with the disparities in job opportunities, health care, education, and in the justice system. And I’m supposed to be happy and grateful when someone white talks about diversity and offers a crumb as if it’s taking a risk. And then if I have the audacity to ask for more, there’s tears.
I’ve taken a break from social media as I was falling into the comparison spiral trap as well as putting pressure on myself to produce. But I see now what I was doing was performing. This is my pain and this is my joy. I was striving for the viewer, for you, to see me, treat me, like a fellow human being. It appears it’s the only dance I know. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to be white at the same time as trying to convince/explain/ argue that I’m worthy, that I’m a fully functioning and feeling human being who deserves to be here for your discarded crumb. Fuck that for a game of soldiers.
I’m taking back control and my power so I can control my rage. Not to protect others but myself. I’ve got to make sure now that my anger doesn’t destroy me. I’m putting in emotional labour with me, for me now.
It’s been one hell of a week. And it isn’t over yet. I just feel exhausted, drained and a bit bruised and a battered with the world. Can I say the system?
No. I’ve stopped using these kind of non-descriptive terms along with the likes of ‘institutional racism’. As these are terms used to conceal the truth, to deflect attention away from the people who create racist policies and practices. Who act on their racists attitudes and ideas. Who internalise racism and reflect it outwards against others that look like them.
I’m so sick and tired of being made to feel grateful for the crumbs that are thrown my way. That I should shut up and put up and a smile sweetly if I’m invited to the table. That I shouldn’t rock the boat, that I should be shamed or struck by fear into silence. Smile sweetly and just nod my head.
I’ve played the game and helped others tick their boxes as at the time I believed it would bring about change. That once I’d convinced them of my humanity, explained my existence and displayed my intelligence and worth then they would have to listen to me and take me seriously.
I’m sick and tired of this being played out again and again. All I can do is speak up. All I can do is work hard to create opportunities and experiences that weren’t there before for others and myself.
All I can do is call out injustices and imbalances in power and access where I see them. To not stand on the sidelines bickering but creating change on my own terms to make society a more equitable place.
I’m no longer gonna allow others to be putting their labels, insecurities and lenses on me. I know what my intentions are and I know they come from my heart. And I’m not sure everyone can say that when we live in a world which celebrates the achievements of one over the many and rewards the ones who are amenable saying the words that others want to to hear rather than speak their truth.
Guilty was the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial for another bad apple. This is hardly justice if the murders of Black and People of Colour by the Police, through state sponsored terror continues. There needs to be more accountability, there needs to be a cutting down of the whole rotten tree, there needs to be a redistribution of power.
I’m so sick and tired of the infighting, of the lack of listening, of the personal agendas and vested interests. Why are we living as if everything is scarcity, therefore everyone’s in cut-throat competition. Instead of embracing the reality of abundance. There is more than enough to go around except a few insist on hoarding a majority share. If everyone was given the right conditions, their rightful share/ place/ space to thrive, we would each fulfil our own potential.
Just like nature displays. Just as she sets the example. Today on International Earth Day, I just wish more individuals connected with nature, and therefore themselves and each other. The most powerful energy is love. But too many people continue to feed and act on hate.
And I’m just sick and tired of this being the case.
‘i said to trauma, “i am so much more than you.” ‘ – Kai Chen’s Thom, I Hope We Choose Love
The final prompt last night in Honouring Our Wholeness with @olwen.wilson had us wondering about what seeds we could plant if we consider how we are so much more than our trauma. This is what I created. ‘Discovering New Landscapes.’ Trauma is a very familiar territory for me. I’ve been carrying around these fragmented pieces of land in my body for years ever since I was 9 years old and my dad died of leukaemia. Then my sister died. Then my mum died. One traumatic experience after another builds up layers of scar tissue, thick and hardening, from the bones out. Me thinking I can protect myself from pain hiding within the rolls of fat around my body. My whole body is a landscape of accumulated pain, suffering, abuse, self-abuse, rejection, hate and cruelty. And yet, last night in this gathering of women, feminine and non-binary people who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, I traced golden lines around my trauma. I remembered my mother and her body, like the pomegranate, full of seeds, but who’s garnet juice ran out as she miscarried after having me, which reminded me of my miscarriage before Miss Ella came along. But from these seeds within and without, new life, new power can be nurtured and brought to fruition. New landscapes of grasses and wild flowers can be tended. In time. In space. In body and mind and soul.
That’s me. The smaller one in the photograph, looking off to someone outside the frame and smiling with no teeth.
I think I might be four or five and this is when I probably loved myself completely. Loved how I looked and talked and walked. Loved my whole being. This little girl is long gone. But searching for that love she held for herself is not over yet. It can be reclaimed and this is what I’m practicing now as I try to heal; to fall in love with myself again.
Step one involves positive affirmation. Saying and repeatedly saying nice things, good positive things about myself daily. What donI like about myself? I’ll share share 10 with you now:
1. I am a smiler
2. I like my energy and spirit
3. I am determined
4. I am creative
5. I am resourceful
6. I like my generosity
7. I am powerful
8. I empower others
9. I am funny
10. I am love