Tag Archives: oppression

Grandmother’s Hands

For Colored Girls London was a wonderful success and if you really want to know all the stories that surrounded its conception, production and performance just do a google search and you’ll find it all there ( can you believe, we can now be googled, so much for anonymity!). It’s been nigh on 6 months since I last posted, which means FAR too much has happened and it’d be awful for me to attempt to explain and write and describe and muse in retrospect. Moreover, where I once was able to write as a musing voice with no intended audience, since i’ve begun publishing my poetry and therefore having to put a name to my work, I now know I have (may have) an audience and moreover they know me – which changes the game entirely. However, for those who still once in a while pass through this former haven of my thoughts, I have a surprise in store for you in the New Year! (only a few days to go, stay excited).

In the meantime, one (amongst many wonderful things) that happened to me in November is I did a TEDx talk. Below is the link. I won’t say any more but do give it a watch, a listen, and if it touches you in a positive or challenging way, do share.

Wishing you seasons greetings. Till 2014

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#4 ~ For Colored Girls: Dark Phrases

The first poem that opens FCG is entitled ‘Dark Phrases’. One of the last poems to be written, it begins as a lament, a lament for the (lost or stolen) womanhood of black women.

 

dark phrases of womanhood

of never gavin been a girl

half-notes scattered

without rhythm/no tune

distraught laughter fallin

over a black girls shoulder

As a director, an actress, and a former english student, before I can translate the above words into action and stage craft, I need to be conscious of both syntax and semantics. Shange’s style is characterised by its colloquialism.  It carries the ease of natural speech, and yet it has been altered and adulterated to incorporate a poetic rhythm, a lilt and melody. The most obvious conceit throughout the play is the use of colour. The first hint to the colour spectrum we get is a shade. Shadism is a problem within black culture and stems from the racial discrimination that has dogged non-white individuals for generations. It is a discrimination in which the darker you are the less attractive you are the less desirable, the less ‘good’ or wholesome. It feeds into the dichotomy of black : white, evil:good, that fuelled institutions and regimes such as the Slave Trade, Apartheid and pre-civil rights America.

‘dark phrases of womanhood’,  alludes to shadism and colour dichotomy, insinuating a pain, a darkness and danger that haunts the growth of a woman of colour. It generates the image  of an aborted or stolen childhood, a neglected or abused innocence which has created this coloured woman who has ‘never been a girl’.

When I set out to create my own production of this phenomenal and well-known piece, I had a deep urge and awareness to include music. Each of the poems are themselves scattered and infused with musical references. It isn’t just about speaking the word, song is presented as intrinsic to the liberation of the coloured woman. When her song, her lyrical voice is silenced, it is a sonic destruction of her physical, emotional, mental and spiritual being. It is the oppressive removal of a life. What is left is terror, anxiety and  a discordant life that has no melody, no tune, no future and no purpose or recognition.

Watch this space to see how we take these concepts and use music and light in our production.

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#284~ S/he talked about A Hole in the World

She talked about a hole surviving in the world. Actually, I don’t know if it’s a she or a he, but he is a just third of she, so lets just make it a whole – that’s right, we were talking about that hole in the world.

S/he talked about there being a hole in the world. One that was gaping but hard to see. It wasn’t covered over, it was just buried deep under the sea of our disinterestedness. Our politics incorrectness and oblique apathy, our feminism and chauvinism which clouded this body of water, purply green

The colour of her bruises, in fact it could have been his, disguised under all those lies, the trials the journeys, and the cramped, monkey cage style, of living, who knows about the gender, by now the conditions have probably bent her.

All the politics and fighting about whose got the Rights, all the arguing and despising about who is Right, all the oohing and aaahing about whether we should turn Right, or left out of this windy lane, back to the green fields, chic markets and cargo stuffed aeroplanes…

So we decided to take these Rights of sexual liberation and sexual pleasure,  the Right to my body and the Right to…whatever

And we carved a deep fat hole in the texture of this confusing world, that wasn’t buried in a liquid sea, but in an ocean of media and hypocrisy.

With the splayed legs and lingerie backs, the cleavage that heaved as s/he tried to lean back.

I’ll tell you, stop looking at the Sky, the Ozone is going nowhere, instead tilt your head to the side, and begin to stare

There’s a hole in the world which leeks over billboards and chart toppers, over your daughters thighs and behind your son’s good night manners.

I didn’t dig it up, and I don’t know how to fill it in – did you know there’s a hole in the world, and the worst part is…

we all fell in.

Article

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#20 – Occupy Nigeria: Article

[This post is an article I wrote for the TCS student newspaper on the Occupy Nigeria movement.]

 

“If you are raping a nation, then you are not a child of that nation.”

On January 1st, Nigeria woke to an economic crisis that has rocked the largest oil-producing African nation to the core, becoming a catalyst for a wave of peaceful protests and an urge for deep social change.

On average Nigeria, the 5th largest oil-producing nation in the world, produces 2.4 million barrels of crude oil a day. However, the impoverished conditions of its own refineries means the natural resource is internationally exported and refined, whilst the country imports 70% of all the gasoline it uses.

The State claims by slashing the subsidies it will ‘free-up’ money to be used elsewhere, such as improving Nigeria’s notoriously poor roads, infrastructure, unreliable power grid, and maintain education and healthcare facilities. However, for a country that does not have a minimum wage, where the majority of the people live on under $2 a day despite its abundance in natural resources, the subsidies, to many Nigerian’s, are the only ‘helping-hand’ the Government gives. The abrupt hike from N65 to N141, or N100 to N200 on the black market, for a litre of oil has instantaneously crippled both the economic and social state of the country. Businesses cannot function, institutes cannot run and now, with support from the two largest trade unions, the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union of Nigeria, city-wide protests have stirred a social uprising called #Occupy Nigeria.

The aim of the movement is to put pressure on the Government to re-introduce the subsidies, or at least give people enough time to adjust to the new changes. Since Independence, and the discovery of oil, it is widely known that the Nigerian Government ‘suffers,’ from corruption on all scales. Many protesters are questioning whether there ever was a subsidy, and whether this is just another form of State extortion. It is ironic, that a country whose resources are vitally intrinsic to the way in which our world operates, has been unable, through poor governance and a lack of state-citizen accountability, to harvest and nurture its own nation. Whilst it is said Nigerian Government officials are some of the most highly paid in the world, the country is still referred to as a Less Economically Developed one.

On one hand there is the ever-present colonial rhetoric that condemns Western involvement from the partition of Africa through to the oil companies that are ravaging, with no regard to environmental, social, or economic preservation, the country. To an extent it is a valid point. Perhaps there is a degree of external oppression that is preventing such a vital and naturally rich country from harnessing its wealth and flourishing. No doubt if Britain produced even a fraction of Nigeria’s daily 2.4 billion barrels of crude oil, it might not be in the type of recession it is facing, but then again who knows.

“can you live in a house and conscientiously work towards the demolition of the structure?”

The problem with Nigeria is one of accountability. As one protester in California stated, “ those who rape a nation cannot call themselves children of that nation.” Maybe, through corruption instigated by the perpetual fear in many developing countries, of a sudden loss in economic and material security, it is the Nigerian Government that has become the economic colonizers and oppressors of this great west African nation. As one Nigerian lawyer states,“can you live in a house and conscientiously work towards the demolition of the structure?” That, in political terms, is treason, and treason, even in this country, is punishable by death.

In the wake of what may turn into its own West African Spring, the resounding note is that Nigeria needs to put to death this system steeped in a thirst for material security without accountability.  A regime maintained through the mentality of self-preservation which has perpetuated a leadership governed by fear of poverty to create a vacuum for injustice. Until Nigeria wakes up and with one united voice calls for a grassroots change, one government will rise, one will fall, and the sickness that plagues that office will remain.

So how does this country that was once hailed as a leading nation, that once saw the Naira equal the pound, and created treasures such as the Ife Bronzes, tangibly move forwards? Some say it needs a system nearing the measure of a dictatorship to flush out this plague of corruption. However, once you remove the people’s voice and the potential for state-citizen accountability, you annihilate the chance for a sustainable change. One may argue that until grass-roots poverty is removed, the people’s voices remain available to the highest bidder, and a rhetoric of accountability is only more voting propaganda.

I would answer the question like this: since the protests have started not only have Nigerians from across the social stratas joined together the world over, but even from religious sects. Where the Boko Haram terrorist group were bombing churches on Christmas day, Christian protestors in Kano protected their Muslim brothers who were praying, and Muslims escorted Christians to church. This shows that what is plaguing Nigeria is not tribal conflict, not religious and it is not social. What we are seeing is a nation rising to its feet with one voice, because it has realised that it is now ready to govern its own country, make real change in its own country, fight for freedom for its own country, as one people for an effective, attainable and enduring change.

 

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#19 ~ Intermittent

This is not about rhetoric, this is about accountability.

This is not about colonial oppression. This is about post-colonial suppression.

This is not about rights, this is about duty.

This is not about a nation, it is about a people

This is not about the law, it is about Justice

This is not about democracy, it is about government.

This is not about a subsidy, it is about relativity

Though this may be about corruption, it is not an interruption

To the way in which you live your lives.

It is not an interpretation

To the way in which you tell your lies.

It is the simple fact,

That whether you are a bastard son born to foreign shores

Or a home-born pickin’, even from a whore

You cannot be a rapist or murderer

then turn around and tell me

your victim was your beloved Mother.

(This poem was inspired/influenced by some research on the Occupy Nigeria protests that are sweeping across the country due to the removal of the fuel subsidies on January 1st. There will be a follow-up post to defend/explain some of my feelings on this issue. For now I hope you enjoyed this creative piece of work.)

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