When being black, female and sensitive just gets too much…

Earlier I went to the South London Gallery in Peckham to visit their current exhibition ‘The place is here’. It’s actually a decent exhibition with a collection of videos, photographs, mixed media pieces and archives relating to prominent black British art and artists in the 1980’s and 1990’s, at the time of Afrocentrism and riots.

I was there for a fair bit as I wanted to really get a sense of the space and the content. [context – I used to study black British art of this particular period as part of my history of art degree at SOAS…SOAS represent!! ūüôĆūüŹĺ]

There were artists I knew of like Eddie Chambers, Kieth Piper, Sonya Boyce, Mona Hatoum and Rasheed Araeen. So it was great to see their works close up! Although it didn’t help that when I arrived staff there decided to walk up near me and randomly have a convo about their personal life, like ‘Hello? I’m trying to engage with this video, not your life!’

I digress.

It was after when I exited the gallery that a very panic-stricken woman came up to me whilst I was texting on my phone and asked for money.

I usually just say sorry and keep going (keeping it real here). But she caught my attention so much I couldn’t ignore her.

She was in a right state. She begged for ¬£6 to help her pay her council tax bill as well as food for her children. “I”m suicidal! I tried to take my life earlier. I had to have sex to buy this [points to her carrier bag with a bread loaf in it], and he cummed in me and I have to get tested for AIDS now [and a lot more rambling that I couldn’t figure out because she was distressed]… I’m suicidal, I’m going to kill myself!!”

Wow.

“Don’t do that please”, I firmly said because who knows? She was that manic, that she may have just jumped in the road.

“Look at my feet, they’re all dirty… [mumbling again that I couldn’t make out as she was distressed]” She then took off her right shoe and revealed some dutty feet.

“It’s okay, you don’t need to do that” – This is going far now.

I gave her ¬£2 in the end – “no I need ¬£6” – I still gave her 2 quid and she was off.

Walking up to my bus stop, I was a mixed bag of emotions – what should I have done? Should I have just said sorry and walked away? Should I have googled a helpline for her? Should I have said “Everything is gunna be alright”. This lady looked Caribbean and distressed and I really felt for her but I still felt like I was being conned. But then, I just got out of an exhibition all about the struggles of British black people in the U.K. especially London, and here I am confronted by a real life example. I couldn’t help but to do something for my British black women community. But still.

I just felt helpless.

I knew my money probably didn’t go to her bills, but then this woman doesn’t need money. She needs a support system. People who have her back. People who can help her and won’t oppress her for having brown skin and curly Afro-Caribbean hair, for having outspoken opinions and a different form of banter. She may have had a history of mental health problems or just the struggle to have basic human rights is what made her this way. I don’t know. All I know is this shit ain’t right. And yes it’s upsetting. Today I really felt all the troubles and frustrations that people with brown skin have to endure in London. Sometimes it gets to me more than others and I do have a heavy heart…This shit ain’t right…

 

What would you do?

 

Africa Utopia is Here!

So for the second time, the Southbank Centre is hosting Africa Utopia, which explores the many dynamic and creative cultural elements of Afrika and its affects on the world.

The first thing when I encountered the food market is the sounds of the vibrant, bold beats of African music and the sumptious smells of Caribbean, Ghanaian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, South African and Kenyan food. Oh my gosh.


As I drift away from the outside market and navigate towards the Royal Festival Hall (where the inside events take place), I see lots of beautiful accessories and clothes with glamourous prints. Yellow, orange, wood, metal, cottons, rayons, the chitter-chatter of negoatiations and the bored looks of the chidren helping out their mamas on the stall.

Finding something to observe or participate in is not hard as there are so many events and opportunities. Take for example ‘Meet [the Author] Chibundu Onuzo’. At 25 years old, with two books under her belt (The spiderking’s Daughter and Welcome to Lagos¬†– which is coming out soon!), a coloumnist for The Guradian and overall diva, she has a ¬†young yet impressive quality about her! She was very quick with her back-handers and wit which made us all laugh.

This is her response when asked about her political stance as a hypothetical Nigerian politician: “Am I here to talk about my political ambitions or about my book!” I get you Chibundu. It’s not the one for me either. Despite that, she did answer well referring to education, female sanitation and the high levels of youth unemployement and crime.

In terms of fashion, my partner and I discovered a great talk about lookng beyond African prints in the fashion industry, as it can stereotype some African fashion designers! Unfortunately, we got hungry so we ate and missed the catwalk that was after.

The last day of the festival is tomorrow, Sunday 4th September. If you haven’t been before, or you like African culture and want to explore, please go! Visit the Southbank Centre’s website which will tell you the schedule if you’re pressed for time.

Enjoy!

M x

 

 

 

Living that Art life

I have a very vivid memory of me sprawled out on my uncle’s living room floor, with the sun beaming in, and a colouring pencil in my hand, creating away on a piece of paper. My uncle then asks attentively, “So Meron, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m assuming to confirm actions of the joyous but relaxed mood I was in.

“Hmm, either an artist or a doctor”

He then asked which one I would choose if I had no choice but to pick one. I hesitated for a bit, but I confidently said artist. I was about 9 or 10 years old at the time so I was pretty aware about different occupational roles. I always remember that memory because I feel like it’s what I am meant to be. And the more I think about it, the more it resonates with me. Usually the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ is often ignored in later adult life. But lately, I’ve been trying to listen to what my intuition tells me. I think the reason I said both options of an artist or a doctor, is because I want to help people, but I love art and have received more compliments about it then anything else I do.

And it’s so funny because I literally am drawn towards art therapy as a career change! I love psychology and eventually I want to blend the two worlds – art and psychology – together into a nice little world of my ¬†own.

But that art life though!

I’ve only JUST started exposing my art work on social media and online. I’m so bloody defensive of my work, as predictably by my artistic nature, I’m a sensitive soul. Don’t get me wrong, sensitivity is a great thing to have but if your skin isn’t that thick, it’s painful. Luckily, my skin is growing ever more thicker, which is great but I still have some way to go. There’s so many doubts niggling at you like an itchy nose – ‘But I can’t do this!’, ‘I’m not a real artist’, ‘Who’s going to be interested in what I have to show?’,¬†and the classic¬†‘I’m not good enough’. ¬†Aye aye aye!

I am good, I am kind, I am enough.

I am good, I am kind, I am enough.

I am good, I am kind, I am enough.

(repeat until less stressed)

…That’s better.

It’s my new mantra thing. It isn’t a permanent solution but it’s a good way to centre my emotions. I know I can do this. Live a life more dedicated to practising art and using it to help others. Essentially that’s my life goal. To help others using art. I’m still not sure how exactly but I think along the art therapy route. One thing is for sure – I just to keep creating, stop the self judgement and do it for me. Not to prove anything or to show off but for me.

And in honour of this post, I’ve featured my latest painting/selfie. What do you think is going on?

Uncertain times: the Brexit decision. Keep Calm and Carry On?

Friday 8.15 am, 24th June 2016 (GMT – London time)

Big history was made.

I heard wailing in the living room of mother’s house where I stayed over for the night. Be sure to to believe I ¬†voted remain. I crossed that box with assertion and speed, in hope others would do the same at the polling station.

‘No!’ my sister screamed.

I snuck into the living room and realised the future of our nation: ‘Great’ Britain had apparently decided that it wanted to leave the European Union. Face palm. This is my reaction on Facebook:

fb

And some hilarious reactions:

Twitter 1

 

twitter2

48.1% voted to remain, 51.9% voted to leave. Only about 1 million or so votes difference.

I discovered that most of the votes made from London were to remain, as opposed to the majority of communities outside of London, predominately England and Wales. Scotland however, decided to remain!

Now, hear this. I DO NOT believe people actually knew what they were voting for. The media, as per usual, has and still sensationalises the Brexit debate and other topics of British concern.

Immigration. Immigration, Islamic terrorists, Immigration.

Like a wave of chants uttered by the misguided. I admit I may not have a meticulous knowledge of the pros and cons of the debate. But one thing that DOES make sense: the world is better when we are connected. Having an ideology that separating the UK from the rest of the world, or what Nigel Farrage calls it with delight, “Independence Day”, will bring more prosperity and a ‘Greater’ Britain, is to me bollocks. It’s clear that many British people are disturbed by people who come to the Britain to work and get a better life for themselves and their families. There are two main types of immigrants; economic and political. The hustlers and the freedom fighters (in other terms). Yes, there are people who come to the UK to abuse the welfare system, but there are also those who are British and abuse it anyway. The welfare system is corrupt and broken. So is housing. So for people who want to chant religiously to the rest of the world about how people are taking their jobs; please, hustle a little. If you are going to blame anyone, blame this suits in the banks, sitting on the their piles of gold whilst they laugh at you and make all your decisions for you. As ‘the people’, the members of public, we are stronger as a large community, than smaller communities with hate and angst at each other. Living in the UK can have a lot of benefits (not only the welfare kind), but it also isn’t easy, for anyone.

As a second generation Londoner, in my opinion, we are a divided nation. Scotland wants out, London wants out. The referendum just displays a mirror of the cracks which actually can be a good thing. The reality will sink in.

I know this post sounds very pessimistic, and quite uncharacteristic of me, personally, sometimes I feel I do need to point out the realities as it is very concerning! Although processes wont take full effect until around 2018, I feel very uncertain and cautious about the state of the the UK.

Although that being said, I’m not totally pessimistic. London does have such potential and is a melting pot of cultures, which I love. And to be fair, things probably will still feel the same, so I’m not in total panic mode.

Still, plans are in place to move abroad, ha! Maybe just temporarily.

“What’s that Los Angeles… you say you’re wanting to get more young, creative Londoners in the area? Sure! I’ll be there in a jiffy! Oh wait, is Donald Trump going to be your next president? I see! Hmm.” The grass does seem greener on the other side…

Decisions, decisions.