Flaneuse roundup and other things

The month draws to an end. And so does my challenge of walking out every day, taking photographs and reflecting on the practice. I didn’t manage it every day as mid-way through sickness hit our household. But I do think I completed more walks than if I wasn’t trying to complete the challenge.

Today was a glorious window of light, that I’d be a fool to miss out on. So it was a quick dip in the bay and it was bitterly cold. And then a brisk walk along the shore to warm up. It was a great way to start my day and help with productivity for the rest of it.

As promised to my Patreon sponsors, I delivered my first essay from the forthcoming mixed genre memoir. I’ve made a commitment to share one essay and reading list that I used to complete the essay at the end of each month for the rest of the year. Yes only four months but still that’s four essays done than not.

The theme was climate justice this month and I enjoyed writing it once I got into it. This essay’s been brewing since I first came across the work of Wretched of the Earth. So the time and space and audience to finally complete the beginnings of an essay around this. This is just a draft but at least I now have something to work with moving forward. Making this commitment made me accountable. For which I am thankful.

You can jump on Patreon for as little as $1 to read it if you want. And as always, I appreciate feedback, comments and arguments.

Here comes October, my birthday month. Yay!

Moving Foward

Over the weekend, I attended a Wretched of the Earth gathering in London focusing on #climatejustice, billed as Building Our Power. This was a first for me to attend such an event; where I knew the majority of participants would be black, brown and indigenous people as well as gathered together to discuss the climate crisis. I didn’t know what to expect but I was excited about the prospect as far too long I’ve been the only black face in the room when talking about the natural world, the environment and conservation.

The event didn’t disappoint. It was such an amazing and inspiring space to be part of as everything was being co-created; the values and actions, the tactics and strategies of the movement moving forward. What struck me and what I take away with me and move forward with is the way that the climate debate is framed within Western society is wrong and misleading. There has been growing concern for endangered species and the melting icecaps and how we can make a change through recycling and other such individual measures. Yet this narrative keeps hidden the major causes of climate change along with the pain and suffering that has been experienced for decades within the Global South because of such.

Climate Justice is about re-writing the narrative and exposing the inequalities and injustices that have been going on for the last 500 years through colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. This climate emergency cannot be divorced from other issues such as housing, crime, poverty and racism. we enjoy a privileged standard of living in the West because communities and people in the south suffer, be that through being used as cheap labour or have their homes and livelihoods decimated due to extractions industries and drought.

There is so much to be learned around these issues which I’m motivated to explore and share. The creative non-fiction memoir of mixed genres which I’ve been writing this year centres about a black woman’s body with/in nature, I envision to take on a more climate justice stance as I continue to champion how nature has helped me heal and how we, humanity, need to heal through our re-connection with nature.

The Re-Education of Sheree Mack

Fires broke out in 131 indigenous reserves from 15-20 August, 2019*

I considered myself to be an educated person. A person with a certain degree of knowledge, with recognisable qualifications which would signal knowledge and expertise. I’ve talked before about my eyes being opened and becoming wise to the system. At no point did I think I knew it all but when you’ve spent so long in the educational system as a learner and teacher, you do build up the belief that you know a thing or two. However, what I’ve learned or had to be re-educate myself about in the last few months is how this world, not my small insular world, but this global space we occupy and share with millions of diverse species is through an unfair and unjust and unequal and corrupt system.

Blazes have been seen on the Araribóia indigenous reserve in Maranhão state – a heavily deforested reserve on the Amazon’s eastern fringes, which is home to about 80 people from an isolated group of Awá indigenous people, described by the NGO Survival International as the world’s most endangered tribe.

I thought I had a handle on power and who has it and who doesn’t but I have to admit, my understandings were naive and academic. I’ve experienced inequalities and injustice and discrimination and prejudice. I know I’m at the bottom of the pile being a black working class woman in the U.K. But when I see black and brown people who look like me but who are losing their homes and livelihoods and lives because of big business, fossil fuel companies; because we in the global north demand material goods and lavish lifestyles at half the price then I know I enjoy a certain level of privileges.
I choose to be a vegan for environmental and animal welfare reasons. I can make this choice because I enjoy a certain level of income that allows me to pay for these select choices in what I eat or don’t eat. People surviving in poverty do not enjoy this luxury.

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has been widely criticised for failing to respond quickly to the crisis, issued a
decree on Thursday banning fires in the Amazon for 60 days – a move environmentalists described as largely symbolic.

So yes my eyes have been opened to the disportionate distribution of wealth in the world but I still have so much to learn. Consider this the re-education of Sheree Mack because I realise now that I have been indoctrinated into a Western way of thinking and being. And it’s a total
mindfuck. Basically, I’ve been thinking and living as if I’m a white person but really I’m a Black Woman. And always will be. No amount of education and striving and hustling and appeasement is gonna change this fact. This reality. I‘ve been acting as my own thought Police within myself, keeping myself in check with blinkers on, trying to make others comfortable and not really questioning or analysing the news and information I’ve been fed and digesting.

The fires are often used to clear pasture and deforested areas in the Amazon during dry winter months, but there have been 28,000 this month – more than any August since 2010.

I’ve been fed a warped set of norms and values that places colonialism, imperialism and capitalism as the mordus operandi and the only way of operating that is worth my attention and respect and love. The Global South did not exist on my radar except as primitive, backward and unworthy. I’ve been ignorant of my people, my cultures, my heritage, my lineage. That connection was severed 500 years ago and it suits the minority in power to continue that disconnection by any means necessary be that through education, media, culture, science, policing; the system. The system in which I, and those that look like me, will always be viewed as ‘other’ and deemed inferior, not of value on a human level, but worthy enough to be exploited and oppressed and eradicated.

Fiona Watson, advocacy director at Survival International, said land grabbers are targeting indigenous reserves because they are often remote, well-conserved and unprotected.
“It’s clear to me that a lot of these fires are set off deliberately,” she said. “The difference now is that with Bolsonaro’s message, the Amazon is up for grabs.”

This story. This task. This re-education is not linear. Nature isn’t linear. Spiralling. I came here after actively reading and engaging with the fires in the Amazon. I was lead to believe that this was a natural disaster; lightning storms after such high temperatures etc. The reality is all about the climate, but not climate crisis but climate justice. I might be coming late to the discussion but this is better than never. And my eyes are wide open now.

*These quotes are taken from Dom Philips an article printed in The Guardian 29/08/2019 here (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/29/brazil-amazon-wildfires-indigenous-reserves-remote-areas)

A month in ( nearly) of the new 100 day project and this is what I want

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At the beginning of August I started my third and final #100daysproject of 2019.
I started 2019, painting 100, A3 sized abstracts. Then come April when the official #the100dayproject took place, I jumped on board with painting and drawing Black women’s faces and bodies. I’ve found these practices challenging at times, especially when I’ve been traveling and had a shortage of time. But the flip side has been such a overflowing pot of creativity which has had a knock on effect with my writing and general outlook. 
Now nearly 30 days into photographing my golden goddess statue, I‘m figuring out how this practice works in anchoring as well as inspiring me. 
With these 100 days, I‘m carrying my beautiful goddess statue out into nature and taking instant photographs of her there. I’m using her as a surrogate for my own body in nature. She takes up space so confidently and with such a ‘don’t care less’ attitude, that her essence is rubbing off onto me. 
How she behaves and holds herself is how I want to behave all the time when I’m out there in society, hustling and getting by. I want to have her self-confidence and self-awareness and magnitude. She is badass but so gracious with it. To have what she has, to be so in love with self and grateful for it is how I want to live my life. 
Hopefully, from the practice and folllowing the goddess‘s lead, I could get there, well slightly there, over the next 100 days.
We’ll see.

Wow – time flies!

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I come here today not realising how long ago I was here. It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything, updated the website etc. My head has been down. July saw me trying to get through the last days of the school term before the holidays. And then the holidays come and all I want to do is rest.
But have I got to that stage of rest yet when I let all of my load down? I’m not sure I even know what that state is never mind feels like, as I’m always carrying around something; some project, some event, some concern. So is life and I accept it rather than spend time and energy trying to run from it.
Anyway, August is here and I’ve feeling the moving at a slower pace. The sharp angles at the edge of my consciousness have softened and become hazy in a sense as they lose focus and I become more present in my here and now and relax. I realise I have some time now to focus on me, my passions and my desires, those things that make me sing from the inside out.
I’ve started my third #100daysproject over on Instagram and it’s all about the goddess and love. #100daysofthegoddessandlove.
I’ll be sharing come creations here too but initially it’s all about black bodies in nature, my body in nature and how I use a surrogate of a golden goddess statue to go places I might feel I don’t belong or won’t be welcomed. She’s pushing me into places where I might fear to go in both internal and external landscapes. I’m excited to see where she takes me. More to follow on this project in time.
For now, I’m off to enjoy these long lazy days of summer and hope to pop back here more regularly as I shift my focus and attention towards my joys and passions. Happy summer.

Someone told me once …

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The other week I went back to where I grew up. My time in a small village by the River Tyne were my formative years. I grew into a woman there and then left to go to London for university. I couldn’t leave quick enough. I found the place small and claustrophobic. It was a place where everyone knew your business. And to top it all we were the only black family around for years and miles. So we stood out.
Someone once told me that I should learn from the past but not hold onto the past. At the time, I didn’t quite get what she was getting at. I nodded my head and said thank you and moved along. Going back to my roots the other week this piece of advice came back to me.
Growing up in that all white village, I learned how to fit in, I learned how to make people laugh, I learned how to make other people comfortable being around me.
That is in the past. What I know now is that it’s okay to be myself; my whole self because if somebody doesn’t like me or gets uncomfortable that’s their problem not mine. I’m not in this earth to make everyone like me. I’m not on this earth to just blend in and smile.
I know I am here to shine. To offer up my gifts to the world and those who are on the same plane can appreciate them and learn from them if they do choose.
In the past, I worked hard for you to love me. In the present, I work at me loving me. And that’s enough now.

5 Problems with Social Media

I’m currently on another social media hiatus.
After my last three months absence, from November 2018 – February 2019, while away I left Twitter and Facebook, I’ve been posting once or twice daily on both my Instagram accounts. I was posting about my #100daysprojects as well as my personal adventures into nature. Things were going well, but I knew a burnout was coming. I was being too prolific and focused. I knew, from experience, that I would run out of things to say. So I called the hiatus before that point, but by the time the end of April came along, I was ready to go.

I value the connections I’ve made through Instagram. I enjoy witnessing what others are doing. I take the time ad energy to cheer them along on their journeys. But at the same time, I’ve my issues with social media and these are what they are.

1. Social Media can be a distraction.

I find that social media can be noisy and distracting. So many people are doing or offering great things and telling everyone about it. And it can mean, I spend my time watching them instead of watching what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s just another way to procrastinate and take me out of my own creative flow.

2. Social Media can be damaging for the self-esteem.

I’m not stupid, and I know people post potted, designed versions of their lives and journeys but that doesn’t stop me from falling into the comparison trap. Sometimes, I see other people’s brightly photoshopped lives and feel paralysed. No amount of effort or time or talent could get me to this level, so why bother, I think. So I do nothing.

3. Social Media can be toxic.

I’ve met some good people on social media. Good people who now support me through Patreon, or through reading my writings and posts. But one reason I left Facebook was because of the negativity and arguments and harm that was showing up on my feed. There wasn’t much love coming my way or being circulated around. I saw a lot of hate and it was affecting me, physically and mentally. So I had to go for my own sanity and well-being.

4. Social Media is not the real world.

I know if you’re living far away from loved ones that social media is a great way to stay connected. With the photos posted you are able to ‘see’ them and feel as if you’re not missing out on their lives and happenings. But this isn’t the same as living in the real world. Nothing can beat having face to face contact with friends and family. And sometimes, we use social media as a substitute for making more of an effort to connect with our people physically.

5. Social Media is controlling our lives.

Being on social media takes time and effort. We post our loves and hates, we post our joys and worries, we post our dreams and successes. We invest a lot of our time and energy and love into platforms that are set up to leach our personal information and money. They profess to be fostering community but really they’re keeping us locked into the vicious cycle of being mindless consumers. Yes I’m still on Instagram and yes I know it’s owned by Facebook. But I’m looking for a way to leave all social media and still be connected with my peeps around the world. One possibliity is here, blogging and my website. I’m trying.

Black British Art – a series

I’m a Black British artist. I’ve been involved in the union for artists in England. I’ve been involved in different exhibitions and events around the arts. What I know for sure is that the British art scene is elitist and exclusive.

I’m actively attempting through my own practice as well as research and reading to make visible the invisible; the invisible history of Black British art. For centuries, Black artists have been visible amongst themselves/ ourselves being involved in individual and collaborative projects. But within official records and archives, the Black presence remains little and absent.

Histories and lives and stories are missing within British arts from an African diaspora perspective and I hope through my creating and agitating and archiving I’m changing the narrative.

Through a series of posts I hope to explore the Black British art tradition to bring this rich and diverse and valuable history to light and more recognition. I look forward to sharing my findings with you.

My Year of Deepening

tintype-577394653.781030While reading an email course I’d signed up to about community, there were links to the person’s website and courses. Before I knew it, I fell through the rabbit hole, following links and thinking of signing up to get another course which promised to support my quest in getting more in touch with my intuition.

Forget that, I probably couldn’t afford the course, the wonder and excitement juices were already flowing. The thrill of the new was taking over as I was pulling out the credit card. But wait. I took a step back. Backed off the ‘buy, buy, buy’ button and hit the breaks. What was I doing?

Buying another online course I wouldn’t finish? Spending money I didn’t have to spend? Fooling myself into thinking that this course held all the answers I was looking for?

All fantasy and stories we tell ourselves to justify the buy, the need and wish to accumulate yet another thing, I know off by heart. I don’t need width. I don’t need to buy another course, another book, another life. I need to focus and appreciate and dig deep into the things, the books, the skills, the course, the life I already have.

Around the beginning of the year, I’d heard about a #depthyear, but wasn’t sure what it was. I thought it was in connection with choosing a word for the year. But today, I found out what it means. The idea came about through an article by David Cain called ‘Go Deeper, Not Wider.’ Within it, Cain stresses a new tradition or intention of not starting any new hobbies, or buying any new things for a year but to revisit, reconnect, reuse the things he already had.

“No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.
You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.
The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.” Drill down for value and enrichment instead of fanning out. You turn to the wealth of options already in your house, literally and figuratively. ”

In the age of consumerism, this is no easy task, as it’s habit to buy the newest gadgets and clothes. Value is placed on the new and the young rather than the used and the old. But what could be achieved and accomplished, if we just focused on what we had already and we took satisfaction and sustenance from that?

Subconsciously, I feel as if I have been going deeper through my #100dayprojects, first with abstract paintings and now with the black female portraits and figure paintings. Somewhere in my being, I felt the need to drill deeper into these practices in order to get better at them as well as to understand them. However, during the process, I’ve brought new art supplies and tools and books. I think this demonstrates a lack of trust in my own abilities by looking elsewhere for guidance and permission and inspiration.

All I need I have already. A lot of what I need is inside me to excavate, and if not then I can find the answers or further questions in the mountains of books and articles and courses I have accumulated over the years.

So take this post as the beginning of my year of deepening. Saturday 20 April, 2019.

By taking a whole year to go deeper instead of wider, I hope to develop a rich and joyful and carefully curated collection of interests, pursuits, skills and knowledge. I hope to reduce the power of newness and possessions has over me, in order to foster a deeper gratitude for what I have, the luxuries I already enjoy or have neglected.

Going deeper requires patience, practice, and engagement. Interestingly enough, these attributes have featured as my words of the year for the past few years. Maybe a sign that all has been leading to the point of awakening as I plan to delve deeper into this one glorious life I have.