I Want To Make Things …

“I want to make things that are beautiful, seductive, formally challenging and culturally meaningful… I‘m also committed to radical social change… Any form of human injustice moves me deeply… the battle against all forms of oppression keeps me focused.”

Carrie Mae Weems

I’ve just sent out the December Studio Notes. I feel it was an epiphany moment for myself. It happened during the process of writing the newsletter that I realised what’s wrong with me. Why I’m experiencing a bit of a funk. And I’m not fighting it either. I’m allowing myself to feel all the feels because that’s what being human is about but also through the process I learn stuff. True.

I’m experiencing a funk at the moment because I’m exhausted. Bone-tired. I thought I’ve been looking after myself and resting when needed etc. However, what I realised today is that it’s not just the physical tiredness I’m experiencing after a busy November of lectures, presentations and workshops. Nah man! I’m also emotionally and psychologically tired because of the type of practice I’ve been doing lately. It’s been focused around agitating, pushing back against the system, white supremacy culture, through anti-racism teaching, anti-blackness rebellions, and holding space for difficult conversations where my blackness is totally exposed. My vulnerabilities have been out there. I realise I’ve experienced re-trigging of trauma and oppressions. And it’s tiring. The work has to be done but back to back gigs of this kind of work is exhausting and at times soul destroying even though I know I’m doing good work at the same time as protecting myself.

But obviously not well enough.

It was already going to happen, but this epiphany has just reinforced my decision to hibernate this winter. To go within and rest and {BE}. I want to fill my pot with readings, books I’m been wanting to read for ages. Writings, my own, for pleasure and seeking beauty within nature and artworks. I’m going back to the beginning in terms of craft and creativity and embracing everything with curiosity and wonder. I’m centring me.

Let me say the again, I’m centring me.

Taking my inspiration from AfroFuturism, I’m centring me and speculating about the future of Blackness. I’m adding my fuel and energy, though rest first and foremost, to me and my creativity. I’m allowing myself the time and space to go with my flow and letting my practice speak for itself.

The message hasn’t changed that we need to burn down white supremacy culture; that we need a revolution. But the delivery will change. I’m using my voice to seduce my audience through my practice.

This isn’t a new thing for me, but it is in the sense of no longer being prepared to do the singing and dancing routine of making white people comfortable around race. I’m realised that a lot of people think that’s it, that’s doing the work for them. Listening to me talk or present or coming along to a workshop, they think that their task is done. Done and dusted, move on.

I want the thorns, the pricks to the conscience and hearts to last long after my disappearance from their view. I want the truths I’ve whispered or shouted into their ears to riddle them with uncomfortableness. If their eyes have been opened to the state of the world, to the system created to keep whiteness superior, then I want them to stay open. That they have no choice but to keep their eyes open and so do something about it. Like I have to be with my lived experience.

My practice can do this, if I give it the time and space to grow and blossom and stick like the barbed sticky burrs from the Pirri Pirr shrubby plant that carries warning signs on Holy Island. These burrs stick and spread, causing a problem which is expensive and time-consuming to eradicate.

As the Carrie Mae Weems’ quote echoes, I want to make things that are beautiful and centre Blackwomen in all our glory for us, not any white gazer saviour, but for us, for myself.

My Mother was the Moon, the Earth, the Song

As I pull into the roadside drenched in memory, I practice breathing. Cycle through the minutes trying to gain ground.

She was silence behind her smiles. Behind her ample flesh. I burnt down our bonds because she dropped before her time.

I’ve too much fire to ever accept her truth. Too much sense to feel the moon held her fullness.

Late into the night standing by the window, she waited for my return. Without fail. I took her love and joy without a backward glance.

I am dark. Too dark. But meaning comes with the light. My own light, learning to shine from the inside out.

I wish she had her chance. I take her picture sitting in the grass amongst the trees and seal it into memory.

The earth she could not give me. She didn’t know how as she laughed her soul into existence.

I am red. All of it. And not at all. But with eyes wide open, body claiming space daily, I listen to her song and bathe in the moonlight.

In the dark with my own sacredness

So I close my eyes. Allow the dark to fill. Feel flaky dust around my ankles and know they are ashes.

Everything has burnt down. To leave fertile ground from which to stand. To rise. But when?

I am indigo. I am not indigo. The stars are not enough. And yet they draw my eyes and heart.

I came close to love reaching from the shadows of a mountainside where women of my family fell.

Memories and pain etched on the skin of my bones, I know what I need and want but I don’t know how or who.

Raw, I cannot dream enough colour to hold me. And yet ripe full of longing, I walk the landscape holding my power with an open heart and listen to the blood rain blooming.

Archive: a Country Journal of a Blackwoman

A Visual Journal Spread from The Country Journal of a Blackwoman (Northumberland), archive

Right now my practice is on display within The BALTIC: Centre for Contemporary Art.

As I was out of the country when the group exhibition, Hinterlands, launched on Friday 22 October, 2022, I managed to get into seeing it after such event the following week.

I really didn’t know what to expect as you visualise the end result, the culmination of months of hard work, dreaming and winging it. But to actually see it all come together in a white cube space is another thing.

I visited my archive last week, with my daughter, excited and nervous and unsure. I got to see The Country Journal of a Blackwoman(Northumberland) exhibited on level 3 of The BALTIC. I was shocked and surprised to see my work out of context within this space. It was an emotional as well as nerve wracking experience.

Because of my absence, I had to leave instructions about the installation as well as extensive notes and labels for each art piece. There are about 50 items if not more within this creative archive. It’s to be expected that things got lost or mislaid in translation. So my focus for this trip was to make sure everything was how I wanted it to be.

After some discussion and sending of correct audio files, everything is now complete and as I want it to be presented to the world.

I’m not sure how I feel that during the launch of the whole exhibition, that things were wrong or missing. But I do know that after seeing everything in terms of my contribution and making things right after my visit, I felt great relief and was able to enjoy the achievement. It was also weird to be there at the same time as seeing peel interacting with my work. I’m not sure I want to have many experiences like that as their reactions did affect my state of mind, pride and achievement. And it would be very unsetting, I feel, to be there and witness someone laughing and disrespecting my work. I think this is something I need to gain a thicker skin for. But right now, my skin is thin for a number of reasons, tat I might explore here in time.

I know I have to return now, to take in the rest of the group show as well as the rest of The BALTIC’s exhibitions for this season, as this is a strong presentation.

I’m honoured to be showing at the same time with them.

Of course more reflection and images to come around this achievement.

HINTERLANDS
22 October 2022 – 30 April 2023, BALTIC: Centre for Contemporary

The Final 100 Days of Writing

My writing year hasn’t gone to plan.

At the back end of 2021, I put in for an Arts Council England, Developing Your Creative Practice grant. I didn’t get one but I made a promise to myself to follow the project plan I had to submit with this application for the first 6 months of 2022.

Things just didn’t go to plan from the very beginning of the year, with family illness and myself getting ill etc. I was knocked off course and never got back on during the year.

Until now. London Writer’s Salon ran a 100 Days of Writing Workshop last night. Then there was 100 days left of 2022. Where has the time gone?

I attended along with over 300 other people, working through the workbook to get recommitted to my Mixmoir. And it worked.

I’ve set myself some goals and targets for the final 100 days of writing for 2022. I figure, I can turn it out for others when I have to or need to, the recent BALTIC commission being a prime example. Well now I want to use this commitment to others and their demands to my own advantage and complete something that is important to me instead.

My goal is to complete the Mixmoir in the final 100 days of 2022. I figure it’s about 3 essays and about 15 poems I need to get it into a completed state by the end of 2022. And I might even place in the word ‘shitty’ first draft of the whole thing there too in order to ease the pressure off for perfection.

My guiding words for this process are fun and play and experimentation. I want to enjoy the process and I figure these values with help me a lot with this task.

I’ve been wanting to write this Mixmoir now for about 5 years and I think I’ve just been taking it and myself far too seriously. So I’m inviting in the fun and joy and excitement about the project again.

And I’ve got the last 100 days of 2022 to crack on with it. And these final days of the year are not empty. I’ve got plenty of outside commitments, family responsibilities and travel plans to keep me busy. But this might be the kick up the arse I need to just finish the damn thing.

This Mixmoir is an important step in establishing myself as an expert in the field of Black Nature. I want to use this text as the basis of the Earth Sea Live CIC business. As a speaker and facilitator and expedition leader. But it’s doing nothing to further the cause if it’s not finished or published yet.

So here I am biting the bullet, getting my head down and ploughing on through.

No hold up! I said fun and play and experimentation in order to enjoy the process.

So my shoulders are back, my head is facing the light and I’m skipping off into writing pleasureland for the final 100 days of 2022.

Let’s see what I create.

Fiery Autumn Love

“The woman who is willing to make that change must become pregnant with herself, at last. She must bear herself, her third self, her old age.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

I love Autumn. I always have but it’s just now, in the last few years, that I’ve really embraced this love. Confessed this love to anyone who would listen. Maybe it’s because I was born during this season. Maybe it’s the feeling of beginnings I have for the season with the return to school. Or maybe it’s the array of fiery colours.

There is something about the light during this season which touches my soul and brings me hope with a tinge of sorrow. Each year, during this season, we used to travel to Barcelona for a week or so. And there, the light at this time of year, is even more pronounced. The nights are drawing in and the temperatures are lowering but when you get that light, that golden, warm light during an Autumn day, well the world doesn’t seem such an awful place. You can see and appreciate its beauty.

Many moons ago, I created a writing retreat in the mountains surrounding Rome, Italy, taking inspiration from the changing seasons within the landscape. The landscape’s on the change during Autumn and I wanted to explore this through creative means with others hence the retreat amongst the olive groves and rich colourful berries. Again there was a certain kind of light that would progress down the mountain through the day and rest into the evening with a creamy glow.

There’s hope during this season but also a necessity of letting go. We see this with the falling leaves, the flowers drooping , turning brown and crumpling into dust at the touch of a hand. There’s the ending of growth, death even, to make room for the next stage of development and growth and life.

I’m entering ( or could I already be there?) the Autumn of my life. In all honesty, I have been for the last few years. Since the pandemic, if not before, when there has been a great shedding of things, people, relationships, and responsibilities. I refuse to carry on, carrying the burdens of the world on my shoulders, trying to do it all instead of acknowledging the changes and entering this next phase of my life with grace.

This is what I’ll be exploring during this Autumn season. The beauty and grace and changes of the season. Within nature but also within myself. During Autumn, there’s a letting go, a surrender to what is, letting go of what was and a tenderness as there’s a slow progression into the next phase.

I’m not turning my back on my ageing process but I’m probably grieving the loss of youth, attention and usefulness. But this is the time, in that golden light, to embrace my condition of changing woman. Greet the transformations that are happening inside and outside of me with love. Like my love for Autumn. Autumn is here. She is beautiful and fiery. And definitely not silent.

The Art of Slow Writing

Collaborative anti-racism broadsides collaborative project with Theresa Easton

I started my Patreon Page in April 2018 with the focus on Slow Writing.

I stated:

The Art of Slow Writing

“When our lives change, when the world changes, we must reinvent ourselves as writers.” – Louise DeSalvo.

Taking inspiration from Louise DeSalvo’s book, The Art of Slow Writing, I’m choosing to create fine writing; writing of quality and writing of worth. I believe in order for this to happen, I need to find my way back to slow writing.

Slow writing is a meditative practice, creating time and space for understanding my relationship to my writing, the writing process and working towards my best work.

I envisioned it as the space where I wrote the memoir ( memoir then, Mixmoir now).

I said through a facelift of my Patreon Page that:

I’ve been writing a creative non-fiction memoir which includes personal essays, poetry, quotes, paintings, photography etc and this continues as this piece of creation centres the black woman’s body with/in nature. What I envision now is this piece taking on a more critical and political perspective with climate / environmental justice taking up space as this is my reality, our reality, even if there are systems in place which would lead us to believe otherwise.

Using my art is my resistance, is my activism and I just see it as time to start owning it. Blatantly so.

All that I’ve been wanting to achieve and working towards has morphed into one – this idea of black / brown bodies with/in nature. This is my full-time obsession and I’ve been making big changes in my personal life to reflect and accommodate this. This includes Patreon.

It was within this space that I created the term Mixmoir to describe what I’m trying to create. There, here, everywhere.

When you take on a project, a writing project that is arduous and long and messy, there’s a tendency to get lost along the way. Get tangled up in the details, get into your own head and manipulate your own weaknesses and doubts to the point of stop writing and just spending your time and energy just wishing.

I’ve got to the point of feeling sick and tired about feeling/acting/behaving this way. This inactivity within a writing project I feel so deeply about. Which is so vital to my being.

So this is me attempting to change the story and get the damn book complete on my own terms by any means necessary by glueing my arse down to the seat and just writing.

Welcome to my practice.

Embracing the Green

Visual Journal 29/05

I was brought up to believe that the colour green was unlucky. Where could such nonsense come from when Mother Earth is partly green?

The belief, for a while, kept me in my place. Kept me is a limited space almost scared of the colour green.

I believe this superstition stopped me enjoying a closer relationship with nature, from a young age. There was a fear. But also a desire not to disappoint my family further by embracing the colour.

I’m not sure when I started to think for myself and embrace the green. But I know I haven’t looked back.

I’m loving the green.

One Tired Goddess

Visual journal 16/05

This past week has been way too busy for my liking. But it was to my liking in a way as I found it stimulating and so much food for thought.

What I need now is rest though in order to process it all and at some point it did get to stimulation overload.

My creative pot over flows and I need to channel this into something. Something I produce in order to process this last week somehow. as well as how it sits with my overall practice and how I show up in the world.

Showing up at the page each day has helped; mining my thoughts and feeling and reactions onto these pages has been a support.

I just need some more space and rest now to integrate it all. Yes that’s what I’m seeking integration.

And again this is where my visual journal steps up/ in/ through me to support this journey of becoming.