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?

 

Be honest now.

Earlier on my Facebook Artist Page post, I made some decisions to free up my time a little more and put quality over quantity rather than do a  million things at once Рwhich I always end up doing Рbecause my ambition usually outweighs my skills. Just keeping it real.

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I had to be really honest with myself, which let’s face it, I’m the eternal idealist so this raw honest discussion with myself does escape my reach at times!

shareefa

I recently watched Shareefa Energy¬†talk about her new poem called ‘Duality’ in which she ¬†talks about her relationship with her poetry and being true to yourself and the journey you take.

“Day in, day out we meet people, people are like ‘yeah, I’m cool, I’m okay’ and nobody really comes with an honesty about how they are feeling.”

When talking about her poetry, she goes on to say:

“It’s about allowing people to resonate with your art…just learning to be more authentic with yourself and with each other…”

“…I’m part of this so called conscious poetry scene or whatever it is, and I think a lot time people like to play it out like we’re all just light…but the reality of us as human beings, we’re very complex…I am sometimes light and I am sometimes dark”.

She’s so right!

I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to establish a style or personal stamp of my artwork that’s true to me¬†and how I am as a person. And it can be kinda daunting at first to really put it out on the line, especially if, like me, you’re still prone to self-criticism,¬†and self-judgement. But then on the flip side, it’s so liberating to finally be like ‘YES, this is me love it or hate it I don’t care!’¬†There’s a sense of ownership and pride that you’re being real and who ever is interacting¬†positively with you, is genuine.

I also randomly came across this point in a documentary about Eminem of all people where he was commenting on when he first released his debut album ‘Infinite’ and it flopped. He mentions after a lot of style changes and drama going on in his life and talking more about macabre subjects like drug overdoses and not trying to please everyone with what he thinks should be heard, then that’s when people started paying attention to him and taking him more seriously in the hip-hop world:

“It seemed like as soon as I stopped giving a **** about what I was saying, people started giving a ****. It was like a reverse affect, like **** you I don’t care if you like me or not – oh we like you now”.

It’s funny how these things are presenting themselves to me as a sort of signal.

I’ve always been about listening to people’s stories and point of view. And it really does give you motivation and sense of profound depth when Truth is being exposed and presented to you, especially in random ways. I hope I can share my profound truths to, but for now, I’m blogging and trying to show this in my artwork.

 

 

Shareefa Energy is a spoken word artist, poet, international woman and facilitator. She currently works with a charity organisation called Stop Watch giving workshops to the community about knowing your rights when being stopped and searched.

Her new single Duality is out now to embrace. Go to www.shareefaenergy.com or visit her FB page @shareefaenergy and Instagram page @shareefaenergy. 

 

 

Talk about it! (mental and spirtual health – Part 2)

It seems to me, living in London, being brought up in an African/British household and community, and having reserved, conservative parents have definitely made accessing counselling or psychotherapy really off-putting. Team that up with a society where the previously expected formula for a successful is ‘go to uni + do a masters + do an internship = job’, and it increases more symptoms of decreasing mental health!

‘Sick, twisted people go the mental hospital’, ‘Are you mental? Are you sick in the head?’ – It’s this kind of statements and utterings that are often conveyed within a lot of households. The image of the distressed, rough looking person with a straight jacket and a constant twitch that eludes danger and insanity is commonly in the minds of a lot of people where mental health is involve.¬†THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE.¬†

Many people are suffering the same things but are afraid that it will make them seem weak. A negative label hanging over their heads like their an outcast to society. It’s simply not true. There are many ways to deal with our stresses and issues in life. Meditation is common place. Going tot he gym. Having sex.¬†(Okay maybe not so much as a long term solution, but it gives some endorphines to us). Praying. Art therapy, dance therapy, drama therapy, etc. Talking to someone about it….like…a friend, stranger, or going to a qualified counsellor at a local health clinic. Even creating online groups to discuss about certain topics like anxiety. It helps.

I’ve tried¬†counselling¬†and told one or two¬†people about it that aren’t family, because again of the social stigma. But I’m putting it out there now. And it helps. It’s one of many ways to work on issues that we all suffer from. Having an objective point of view within a completely confident environment and a professional experienced approach makes a difference. I had about six sessions – it was a free service available at uni – but even then it made me see a little ‘out of myself’. It gave me some distance and perspective that I appreciated because I didn’t think about it that way before.¬†Luckily it was free as well. I have to admit, many private health services cost an arm and a leg, which makes it even more inaccessible.

It’s funny that in the States it’s not a big of a deal to have a psychotherapist on hand. Or have a marriage counsellor (or at least its more accepted in society). But in the UK, it seems like a very big deal. Why? Hmm.

It seems that discussing mental health publicly or at least having a person to talk to about is a real demand – even in a world where everyone is ‘talking’ (communicating ) on social media.

Happy #WorldMentalHealthday ! Keep sharing.

On my next post in this series I will be talking about Art therapy as it is a new found appreciation of mine, and more.

Please share your experiences, stories or opinions whatever it may be. I would love to do podcasts or interviews with anyone who would like to share and contribute towards future posts in the series. You can always contact me directly on my email mm.dubale@gmail.com.

ūüôā

Stay blessed,

Meron x

 

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:

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And some hilarious reactions:

Twitter 1

 

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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.

 

 

 

“Go get a job!”

My friend and I were in central London, enjoying our ice creams. We turned to a road leading to Tottenham court road, ¬†at which point I saw a BIG ISSUE seller already approaching a woman eating outside the restaurant. If you’re a Londoner, you almost always see a Big Issue representative outside stations, tourist attractions, public facilities. I see one at my local train station. I’ve even started conversations with one more mature lady to find out why she was there and given money. And most of the time you know why they’re there. Even if you’re not ¬†from London, the person usually doesn’t look well groomed so you can assume their begging for money (the Big Issue¬†foundation¬†is a homelessness organisation¬†giving jobs to homeless people selling Big Issue magazines on the streets, as well as other things)

“GO GET A JOB!” she screams, angrily¬†and annoyed at this young BIG issue man trying to sell her a magazine.

He’s shocked. And so am I.

He walks off muttering to himself in amazement at how rude this woman is. “Go get a job, pfff!’

…How can she say that? That’s my first reaction. I mean she’s sitting there eating her gourmet food, telling him to go find a job. RAS CLAAAATT. REALLY???? He’s got a job selling magazines! It may not be her ideal job but it’s honest hard graft- he’s making a positive step to reclaiming his life, regardless of what happened to him, whether he became addicted to drugs, or stole or whatever would make you homeless. He’s seeking steps to help himself. And no one should knock a person down for that. NO ONE.¬†Woman need to check herself.

Even if he was being persistent and being annoying, there’s no need to speak to a human being like that. Just keep saying no. Ignore him even if you have to. I was vexed to be honest, and I had afterthoughts of how I would have gone up to that lady and given her a piece of my mind. Told her how ugly her attitude is. How she shouldn’t be angry at him, she should be angry at the government for not doing more to support homeless, unemployed people. For not doing more to help people with mental health concerns, young people with low self esteem as well as other issues. The government has let us down with its dodgy political, social and financial infrastructure. A person can abuse the welfare system so easily, and live like a king or queen by not working and claiming benefits, but then you have people struggling for their lives not getting a penny or a pound in welfare. The system is screwed. Shouting at homeless people to get a job does not help that person. We don’t know what that person is going through, emotionally, socially, psychologically, physically. So how are you gunna just shout at this person! Serious!

I walked off before the aftermath (or maybe there wasn’t?), but I hope she can think about her actions. And I hope the seller doesn’t get too disheartened by her words, but gives him more of a desire to succeed. Life isn’t easy no matter what background you come from, so we need to help each other. So please, be mindful of other and mind the gap.

Rant over.