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.

Early Morning Photowalk

Chirton Dene Park

I’ve been resting. Resting for me looks like house and dog sitting for the weekend. It‘a getting up early for dog walks and then doing it again and again for the rest of the day. Getting out and stretching our legs.

Chirton Dene Park

And I’m not complaining. It’s good to be out there greeting the light. Well what little there is. As the fog came in during the night and stayed. Creeping into the daytime too.

Royal Quays Marina

We get into a rhythm Mila and me on our walks. Short lead near roads. Long leads in the park with expansive greens. She knows though to stop and wait while I take pictures of things that take my fancy. That make me slow down, stop and look closer.

There is still so much beauty left for the season. Still so much colour which is even more striking and startling as they cry out from the grey. The fog. The chill.

Saltkisses Misses

Royal Quays, North Shields, 28 November 2022, 07.44

I miss your saltkisses, your cold caress. As I welcome winter and I’m reminded to rest, I will come to you with arms open wide, ready to kiss the day with you again.

A Deep Attachment To This World

“The most sublime act is to set another before you.” William Blake, Proverbs of Hell

Let me honour you. Hold you up to the light. Explore, examine and praise your simple beauty, your blessed grace.

Shiny, hard nut. Chestnut. Conker. Like my heart, you will soften and give under the right conditions, under the right love.

Who do you belong to? Where do you belong? I ask you, but really I ask myself.

It’s rude to stare, to touch but I’m attached to you whether I want to be or not. We are both citizens of the Earth. This Earth.

I’m not alone in this world I’m connected to you. Chestnut to brown. Brown to chestnut. Skin to skin. We are kin.

And I feel your hurt too.

In the Earth of her Voice is the Remnants of Fire

If I allowed curiosity and love to seep through the wounds, I wouldn’t be here now at the page trying to make sense of it.

A black girl walks through the meadow, enters the dark woods and forfeits her life. And I can’t but think if she was white …

Trust. Always difficult for me to hold, like light on burnt leaves. Like the coming of winter any day now.

The race talk, an accumulation of cautionary tales told through time, she, with earth in her voice, filled the void of rage with what was right for her soul. Joy.

Black Wet Grief Has a Tendency to Cling

Loch Lomond

After Ada Limon

On the black wet branches of a sycamore, grief waits for me with the last few clinging burnt umber leaves.

Rain, black blankets, wind-whipped worm into the scarred wounds of me. Her great absence present.

Waiting for the shift, in fall, like stinging nettles’ persistence call, being still is vulnerable and exposed.

Yet suffering is all around when I choose to be part of the world. Privilege I acknowledge and push against.

All this will pass. Time playing through space. Illinear like this journey of grief on the black wet branches of a sycamore tree.