In The Thick Of It

BALTIC commission process journal

“The most effective way to do it is to do it.”

Toni Cade Bambara

I set myself the task of touching the Hinterlands commission every day for the next 100 days from the beginning of July. And on the whole, I have succeeded so far in this task. Day 23 of July and I’ll be honest, this commission is filling my waking and sleeping hours, as I agonise over how to bring my ideas and concepts to fruition. How to communicate what I think, or feel or see to others. How to make that connection of understanding, empathy and solidarity when exploring the Black woman’s body with/in nature.

This is not an easy task. And I think I’ve made the task more difficult for myself by trying to incorporate multiple and diverse art form into the brief. It’s that same old story, that fear of never getting another chance like this so I have to say everything I’ve ever wanted to say on the subject all at once to make sure I get my message across. That I use this opportunity to it’s limits as this might be my only shot, my only slot, my only opportunity to speak and shine.

Of course this is not based on fantasy. This is based on fact. Did you know that just 2,000 artworks in the UK’s permanent art collections are by Black artists – most of which aren’t on display?

And even though over the last couple of years, there has been more visibility and opportunities for Black and People of Colour artists to be part of the British art scene/establishment, for example with Sonia Boyce winning the top prize, the Golden Lion as she became the first Black female artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale. This is still a rarity and not the norm.

“It seems almost ridiculous that it takes into the 21st century for a Black British female artist to be invited to do Venice,”

Sonia Boyce

We are still operating in a highly racist, discriminatory system. FACT. I can continue to keep chipping away at this. And I will. But …

For here and now, I think it comes down to confidence and belief in what I’m doing. To silence the outside noise. Ignore the internal critic and just do it. Do the things I want to do and move on.

At the end of these 100 days, I’ll have a collection of items, products, creations that I will then pull together into a whole. Into saying something about something.

We will have to wait and see. But I’m enjoying the process.

So already I feel as it I’m winning.

Spirit of the South

As mentioned at the beginning of this month, when I declared that June was the month of the Mixmoir, going forward I plan to use Mariëlle S. Smith, Fleshing Out The Narrative: A 31-Day Tarot and Journal Challenge for Writers in conjunction with The Earthcraft Oracle Deck by Juliet Diaz and Lorriane Anderson and illustrated by Daniell Boodoo-Fortune in order to get the creative juices flowing.

Using these tools and prompts, not only allows me to create content for the mixmoir but also allow me write around the subject, explore the process and progress. This bit excites me and keeps me engaged. Working out what I’m trying to say at the same times as holding up to the light the rituals and practices I have around writing, is enlightening as well as encouraging. One way of working might work well one day but the next not.

I’ve been using the pomodoro technique with Abao in Tokyo on YouTube. Writing/ working/ practicing for 25 minutes at a time and then taking a 5 minute break, helps with the concentration and productivity. I’m really enjoying the process sandwiches into neat sections of time for a focused amount of time each day. It’s a simple practice which I look forward to and really get engrossed with during the allotted times for writing.

I found it interesting today that I pulled the Spirit of the South card when I was exploring the fire within yesterday and how I’d rather allow it to burn outwards and accept what ever backlash it may bring rather than living in fear of the fire outside consuming/ canceling/ destroying me.

This card came along today, I feel, to reinforce what I’ve been thinking of late, that is to not hold back and to stop finding/ making up excuses for not doing the work/ practice and to crack on and just do it. To follow my dreams, tell my story and to hell with it all.

And here ends the daily cheerleading chant for Sheree and the Mixmoir.

Fear on the Playroom Floor

An oversized, blue fluffy bunny
is the things of nightmares.
Garish, stalks the playroom floor.

I hide behind the enlarged
building blocks, hands over ears and heart
busting my chest. Afraid

the bunny will hear me, find me
and beat me. Beat me for being me.
I didn’t do anything wrong.

I fear this fear. Not knowing
where the next blow from the taloned
paw is coming from and why.

Not knowing if my existence
is an affront or punishable offence.
I dream of other floors

with soft cushioned landings
blankets and warmth, like
under autumn leaves breathing orange.

Summer Fox

Could I be as cute and cunning as a fox, I giggle into another snapshot filter. 

Happy in my play and disregard for others’ opinions.

His eyes are open and still. I think he’s a he, slight and young. Pointy nose with white frosting.

The rest of him is a dull orange red.

So whole and perfect and dead.

Lying on his side at the edge of the motorway, four legs sticking straight out as if ready to bounce back onto, after playing dead. 

I feel guilty. I didn’t hit him. He was already dead when I flew by in Summer, my metallic orange Susuki Splash, honest. 

But when I see him dead as clear as day, I feel shame at my mini Snapchat film and buying into the cunning as a fox stereotype of fairytales. 

My heart stays in my throat for the whole day.
Why did he have to die, such beauty and no blood? 

Walking In Search of Purple

I’ve started again. I think it happened a couple of weeks ago now. But I’ve started walking out and searching for the colour purple again. I first started this last year during lockdown, when I would take a daily walk, but walk with intention. My intention was to search out purple, usually purple flowers, pause give thanks and snap a photo.

As Alice Walker write in The Color Purple “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”

Walking is a meditation. Like breathing. When I walk my footsteps fall into a rhythm with my breathing. I always feel better after a walk. During the troubling times of the Coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter uprisings around the world, I’ve been searching for purple, more often than not. Does that mean I’m been looking for God? Looking for the reason maybe for all this suffering? But maybe there’s isn’t any reasoning for everything that’s happening. Maybe it’s just a case that this is how things are in the natural scheme of things. How it’s always has been and will be? That’s there’s meanness in the world and suffering and pain as well as beauty.

As more and more in society reopens after lockdown, and more and more people are making demands on my time and attention, I’ve slipped back into walking and searching for purple. And I think this is not to just fill my creative pot with joy, but also to makes sure I keep moving through this world at my own pace. Slowly. And when I lean into taking things slowly, doing things at my own pace, I know I’m in control of everything that is happening in my life.

It’s me taking back me power. And I think that’s what purple symbolises for me. As a colour, for centuries it has been associated with power. Not just regal power, but also because it was so expensive to make, purple was only worn by the select few, the echelons of society.

To be empowered from the inside out is real power for me. Power isn’t how much money or status you have in society. For me, it’s how much you value your own worth, protect your boundaries, lean into what makes you feel happy, what brings you joy and continue to relight your creative fire.

This is power to me. This is purple.

Lizard

There’s been signs but I’ve chosen to not pay attention, to not listen. But now I’m taking heed and acting accordingly.

Coming down our street there was a van packed up with the sign ‘By-Safe’ splayed across it’s backside. Okay I get the message.

I pulled the Lizard card today from The Wild Unknown, Animal Spirit, oracle deck. The Lizard is sensitive to the subtle, almost like a sixth sense; hearing what is yet to be spoken, seeing what is yet to be seen.

The Lizard’s energy and essence can be quickly worn down by big crowds, lots of travel, bright lights and over stimulation. The Lizard has shown its face today to tell me it’s time to pull back, to go within, seek my inner artist and start that creative project.

As I said, I was feeling the signs. This week saw me cancelling planned events and activities in relation to my nature projects. I’d started to self-isolate and have the inclination to draw my family in close. Not just for our own safety but for other people’s safety too. How do I know that I’m not carrying the virus? It’s amazing how much one person can stop the spread of the Coronavirus by self-isolating sooner rather than later.

Usually, the belief is what can one person do? In this case a hell of a lot. I’m working from home. I’m turning inwards and listening to my soul, my inner wisdom and I’m hanging onto my creativity.

To Panic, or not to Panic

“Giving clear and consistent information to public at the right time on #coronavirusis vital. Governments’ media strategies must reflect the importance of that. This is not a run of the mill political issue. @scotgov will set out advice to the public in an orderly manner.March 15, 2020

Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) on Twitter

Here is the U.K. there is mass panic. Panic buying. Panic spreading of misinformation. Panic induced inability to act.

Our U.K. Government doesn’t have a fucking clue and it is down to voluntary created community groups to look out for and support the vulnerable individuals in our society who might succumb to the corona virus and die.

I’m trying to keep things on an even keel and reduce the risk of catching and spreading this dangerous virus to all those I have been or come into contact with. But it’s difficult when this menace is unseen and deadly.

I’m moving towards self-isolating myself via working from home and having virtual meetings. But this is all useless if I continue to send my child to school where we all know illness can spread like wildfire.

Our Government continues to fail in taking action and issuing recommendations because it’s first priority is economics rather than human lives. It is ill-prepared to handle this pandemic and our NHS is under financed and resourced to take the ongoing and on coming strain. This is not a pessimistic mentality. This is our reality.

I send out virtual hugs and love today as I wish you to stay safe and vigilant. Look out for each other and make sure those who are vulnerable and alone are not feeling alone and that they know you are there for them. This is the time we pull together and be there for each other.

Let’s all try to do the right thing for once.

I Dare You

I believe that the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare.” Maya Angelou

Today, I am daring myself to draw again. To allow myself to draw and dream and to be just curious again. To try things out, to practice with colour and not worry if it’s not right , if I get it wrong. I dare myself to get out my coloured pencils and to just try. To draw for me. And this is scary as it’s for nothing else I’m working on. It’s doing something for no other reason than to just try. And it doesn’t matter if I’ve got no time and other things are pressing. And it doesn’t matter if I don’t know where to start, or what I’m doing. I have an inkling to try so why not go with it. I dare myself today.

What are you daring yourself to do today?