Tag Archives: life

#8 ~ What’s Your Back Story: Lady in Green

Naomi Maxwell" Lady in GreenNaomi Maxwell was a sure fire-hire when I first auditioned her in October last year. She had this drawl to her voice – melodically southern – and a saucy smile. When she was giving attitude she would wrinkle her nose up in a look of disgust, and to top it all, she already had a silver ring in her nose – it was like she was born ready. Slipping into the Lady in Green’s role for the Cambridge Production came naturally to the writer and blogger – it almost seemed like an enviable ‘effortlessness’. Moreover, her heart wrenching poem that culminates into the play’s apex was bound to garner her a standing ovation whether she put in 100% effort or not.

But I’m a director who wants more.  ‘For Colored Girls’ requires the actresses to be verbal painters. Poetry involves bringing words to life on the canvas that is your audience. You have to pop, sizzle, simmer and evoke all at the same time – and this production uses minimal props so all that ‘action’ is located in the voice.

Maxwell’s opening poem ‘No More Assistance’ is the story (or should we say letter) of a woman who is ‘endin’ this affair‘. She has been short-changed in every way possible, and is at last beginning to assert herself – and it’s about time too!

Yet, to remove ourselves from stereotypes and hashed out caricatures a ‘back story’ is always important.

Creating a back story requires you to return to the text and ask why? Within what was initially a rant, the Lady in Green declares:

‘I have left 7 packages on your doorstep, 40 poems, 2 plants and 3 hand-made notecards I left town so I could send you have been no help to me on my job/’.

It’s a line that is easily glossed over, I doubt whether people familiar with the play remember it. Yesterday it struck a chord with me and I questioned Maxwell – when did you (LiG) start writing poems?

Silence.

As a poet, I know that 40 in ‘8 months, two weeks and a day‘ is a lot of poems to be writing, let alone disseminating! What does that say about the character? Not only does she remember and count the days since she’s been with her man, but she’s educated, perhaps a romantic, she has a deep attachment to words.

As we began unpicking her lines the voice of Alysia Grace Williams, a Nurse in the local downtown Hospital emerged. She was caring by nature, shy but with a quiet confidence. She’d experienced emotional neglect when she was a child and that spiralled her into negative relationships with men who used, abused and confused her. She was barren, and the fates had it that she worked on a maternity ward. She yearned to be a mother, and her lousy-ass boyfriend Tyrone (inspired by Ma Badu herself) had only gone and gotten a young girl from the block pregnant. And that’s when the penny dropped.

‘But you are of no assistance’.

The break down above might seem simplistic – it is a simplified version of approximately 8 hours of character development that started yesterday afternoon. But when Maxwell chose the name, the very consonants where a reflection of the character. Ending the poem with a note and a plant pot, we discovered that ‘No Assistance’ is neither a monologue nor a rant, it’s the very letter Alysia writes to Tyrone to tell him that ‘I am ending this affair’. As Maxwell knows only too rightly, that very declaration took a lot of courage.

Watch this space to see how we develop this poem even more and breathe life into the story. Also, make sure you get your tickets, so you can see the final product on September 13th at Canada Water Culture Space.

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#365 ~ Death of the Writer 365

I was 18 when I started this blog. I was sitting in a room, it was clothed in shadow, with a yellow desk lamp, the same one that illuminates my food stained keyboard now, glaring at the screen, as I Skyped my older brother. I was depressed. Not in a suicidal manner, but I had lost any spark that ever glared behind newly framed eyes. I was apathetic. And my chest was burning. It was burning because I had this scream that was locked up deep inside of me, and it was tearing the enamel off my teeth, scraping the bristles off my tongue, inflaming the sores I had chewed into the lining of my cheeks. It was my voice. Disabled, disused and highly confused, and it lay mangled and crying in the back of my throat, trying to make me scream to release it. But I had no constructive way of doing so.

So came the idea of this blog. Coming to the end, albeit a month late and not in the fashion I wanted – this is more like the salutary face-plant I ended my first-year of Uni with –  I have arrived in a heap of words, and thoughts, and comments, and life lessons, here, in the last post, on the last day of January. And I have grown.

It’s bizarre. This blog has seen me age three times. From 18 to 19 and now to 20. When I began this blog, I tried to be extremely covert and dissembling. I wrote critical pieces about the representation of ‘Africa’ in the media. I spoke about my broken heart for the dispossessed, for sex trafficked women. My pain at the industry that promotes prostitution. I began to voice the niggling sensations that clawed at my mind about identity and being a post-colonial being, a British Nigerian who is neither and both and somewhere in the middle. I talked about being tall, having big feet, being a gawky student, not able to get down in ‘da club.’ And then I began to write poetry?! Some of it was at 3am in the morning, raw with spelling mistakes and odd imagery. Some of it was down right contrite. A lot of it was self-indulgent and a poor man’s escape from reading the news and commenting in a socio-political manner. I began writing Life Lessons, the easiest way to get a quick post done. I travelled to South Africa and worked with Ithemba Projects. I came back and was unable to write. I then re-wrote Psalm 119  in a series of meditative posts. At each centenary mark I worked with my sister and produced 100 words and photo – and that was a beautiful experience.

I re-created my identity in this blog. I discovered, I destroyed and I forced out a voice on this webpage. I became a woman. And I came to the end of my 365 days writing. And it really was a process that killed the writer. It is the Death of the Writer… and the birth of a person who has re-learnt how to speak, and found a multitude of avenues to express her voice. And that voice is wholly polyphonic, just like the truth, just like my identity. It bursts out, it sings, it cries, it laughs, it writes, it speaks and it has learnt – most importantly – how to be silent.

So where do I go from here? Well, in the mix of this journey, I have begun to write for a wonderful women’s magazine called Magnify Musings -so check that out for more of my work.

Oh, and that poetry that just appeared? Well…check out the video below.

I wondered whether, amongst ‘the pile of shit’ that no doubt clutters this blog, if you, the reader, would ever find a piece of gold. I hope you have. If you haven’t… search harder.

So…How to end this journey?

I bow out, with grace. Born on a Thursday 20 years ago, I end this blog on a Thursday, and look forward to the many more years, strung together with words, that are yet to come.

Good night, God Bless, and a lot of love.

Thank you for walking with me.

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#323 ~ 7 Things about Christmas.2 – Church

The etymology of the word Christmas pretty much requires you to remember the reason for the season. Christ derivates from the Greek Christos meaning anointed, and was the title bestowed upon Jesus of Nazareth by his followers, as he was seen as the Anointed Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews who would save them from oppression. Mass is another term for the holy sacrament Eucharist, the sharing of Christ’s body and blood (Holy Communion), as performed in both the Catholic, Protestant and any other church of the Christian Faith. Put them together and you get Christmas: The Holy Communion/Feast of the Anointed.

Whether Jesus was really born on the 25th of December or not isn’t really important (theologians claim it was more likely around March). It makes sense to celebrate his birth during the darkest time of the year, and most of the Church’s calendar and Feast Days has been superimposed over pagan festivals – when better to remember the light of life than during the depths of winter?

What’s really cool about going to Church on Christmas day, even if you aren’t religious, is that it manages to actually give a purpose to the mindless capitalism that has wrecked this holiday season. Christmas is a time of fellowship, a time of reflecting on life as being one that is full of light, of hope, of goodness. Sure sharing presents and breaking the bank are also enjoyable extras, but it’s a time, in the middle of what is generally a bleak midwinter, when we can reflect on what’s good in the world. When we can actually STOP, breathe, think and remember. When we are, in a way, forced to remind ourselves who and what we love and to show them. And for those that aren’t religious and don’t know the gift of grace and new life that Christ offers, it’s a time to wonder about the mystery of life, and the power of hope.

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#252 ~ Ithemba Projects: Day 18

National Arbour Day! Today, the Ithemba Team went en masse to the Community Centre to plant trees. 3 years ago, when I visited Sweetwaters, the land upon which the Community Centre is built, had jut been given to the charity by the Chief. It was an unmarked field of blood-red soil and grass. Today, after the hard work of the garden project team, it received its first plants! As we met early this morning, we were spoken to by a local business man and plant lover about the 4 kingdoms of this world. The rock and mineral kingdom feeds the plant kingdom which feeds the animal kingdom, and all three contribute to the survival of the human kingdom. The beauty of life. And then we got down and dirty. With each of us assigned a tree, we set to (back-breaking) work shovelling in the soil and compost before planting our little green babies. It was such a rewarding experiences, seeing the foundations of the crèche and community centre which will spring up in a few years. The whole site is being built using a new soil compression technique for the bricks, so although it takes time, it will be sustainable and truly a part of Sweetwaters.

 

Below are some photos. Enjoy!

Community Centre site, covered in mist. 

 Equipment!

 Indigenous South African trees.

 My Tree!!! (I had to get some help half way through planting, my back almost split in two, hard work!)

 My tree in all its glory (I did fall in love with it, and the idea that it will provide food and shelter for hundreds of years!)

 Our tree rows, encircling the food garden. 

 My hands caked in the beautiful rich red African soil of Sweetwaters, Mpumuza.

Prayer for Day 18: That the community of Sweetwaters would grow like these trees. That as the plants are nourished and flourish, they will provide a home and food for the community and local animals. They would be a sign of hope, strength and potential life in this beautiful community. That my tree would flourish and bless those who sit under it. For the garden and community centre projects, they would receive all the funding they need, and become a beacon of light in Sweetwaters. Amen!

 

 

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#213 ~ Tenacity

When your heart is broken it doesn’t fall  apart. Instead it is dismantled into jaggedly shaped pieces which begin to chafe against one another, causing a deep-rooted pain which splurges from deep within to cover the extremities of the muscle. The heart keeps pumping and circulating blood, life, yet each contraction jolts searing white pain throughout the body, drawing even the far forgotten toes to the fine hair follicles into a cramped contortion of unified pain. A breaking heart however, is the clearest example of a birthed passion, a very present compassion. As the heart chafes against itself the mind comes alongside the cause of heart-break and dwells with it in a shared suffering. And that is where tenacity comes into play. The ability to latch on to what your heart is broken for, and regardless of whether public opinion is ready to hear it or not, to plough through and have your voice, your hurt, aired. A broken heart is too readily belittled into a romantic, self-absorbed caricature. A true heart that breaks, is shattered through the observation and experience of injustice, of fear, of evil in all its inglorious nature; and the blood that spills forth like Teresa’s leather hide soles, does so, because it believes with every pulse redemption can be found. Life can be reclaimed, healing can be attained.

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#207 ~ One Hundred Words and a Photo: 17

“Tell me a story. Pa, tell me a story, go on….”

The whine seemed to entice the impressive stained windows to life. Fain’s flint grey eyes rose hesitantly to meet their looming gaze, cautious, tentative. Weak rays of light edged the vivacious colours as they sprang and leapt at him like unleashed animals, savage, clawing relentlessly at his eyes, imprinting their evocative identities – the rich, hot reds, the yellow which exuded a wealth beyond measure, and all around surrounded by the cool, silky, turquoise that seemed to sing a song of adventure, of life.

“There will be no more stories…”

Copyright: Victoria O

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#205 ~ One Hundred Words and a Photo: 15

It was too bright. Not a blush pink, but a passion pink, deep, wholesome and searing in color. The petite creation exuded a warmth, a power, a delicate grace. In between the coiled snout of the rosebud, each petal rolling itself gently round a central point, invisible, yet not intangible, an aroma seeped out. It was gentle and lilting, it curved and swayed, intertwining alongside the fine wind currents, like grains of sand on a rugged beach. The rose’s aroma and the summer breeze sang a song which spread tentative fingers out, alongside chlorophyll veins, pulsating a hot pink passion.

Copyright: Victoria O

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