Friday, October 12, 2012

3 Furies Interview with Belinada Otas

Every time I am asked to speak about the Furies project, I reach another level of understanding about why I am doing it. I'm grateful to Belinda Otas, freelance journalist and avid blogger, for sending me a group of questions that provoked more thoughts and points of note highlighting the need for more in-depth dialogue about women's anger.

Belinda: You have had a busy year, from Travelling Light and now as part of AfroVibes, take us into your world and how poetry and the spoken word continues to help you shape and define your space with this manic world? 
For years I have walked through life as if I’m watching a movie, where characters come and go, evolve or implode, where the scenery, set, props and budget, in other words – circumstance - have a profound effect on how people rise to the challenge and test their mettle in this one short life. I find these stories fascinating. Even mine. It’s been tough for me growing up in a single parent family, having a migrant status, being a woman of colour who has experienced serious racism and the paradoxes of sexism and class-ism. Reality is brutal in its treachery and it's beauty, and I feel I have a very strange ability to walk around the planet as a tourist.

Monday, September 10, 2012


"Recognising the anger
trying not to see red and disappear
or end up with time lost
to the Bermuda triangle of troubled,
strangulated till I black out:
the  hurricane walks."

The piece below is me channeling an almost imperceptible fraction of Three Furies deadly deamonism.  While pursuing an understanding of women's anger in the 21st Century for a project with the same name, I discovered that The Furies are not often fairly depicted. What they represent is often misinterpreted and the term daemon related to dark forces and something evil. But this is not the case.

"Daemon" is actually a much older form of "demon"; daemons have no particular bias towards good or evil, but rather serve to help define a person's character or personality. The ancient Greeks' concept of a "personal daemon" was similar to the modern concept of a 'guardian angel'—eudaemonia is the state of being helped or protected by a kindly spirit. 

  Their aka name is "The Kindly Ones", who when incanted, rain torment as retribution upon an offender and render them a defenseless, powerless victim under the focus of their wrath. But summoner beware, you have lifted the lid off volcano. Get out of the way of the lava flow.

However, when the Three Furies were being The Eumenides, "The Kindly Ones", they were making full acknowledgement of an injustice done to Family, to Woman, to Child. They metered out terrorr and torment to the degree of punishment they perceived appropriate

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I am an endangered species
But I sing no victim's song
I am a woman I am an artist
And I know where my voice belongs

I am a woman I exist
I shake my fist but not my hips
My skin is dark my body is strong
I sign of rebirth no victim's song

Thursday, August 30, 2012

This Is My Body Campaign

I'm not usually one for melo-dramatic or artsy understated videos, campaign posters and adverts about Womanhood, Feminism or "girl power". Many that were born in the 80's, that stomped and charted in the 90's and stumbled around in the 00's are twee, outdated, over-sexualised and are echos of throwback memes and slogans from an aggressive man-bashing era. It so happens that they became rooted in societal discourse and debate around women's rights but are often twisted and turned against women to justify some men's sexist behaviour. It manifests in name calling - "dyke, frigid, bitch, man-hater, lezzzzzbian!(said viciously). Women have been scorned for their failure to build on the Feminist movement from previous eras of suffragette-ism but someone who is really paying attention will know there are many who are struggling to be heard building on the shoulders of women who have gone before. More on that in a later post.

Slogans, declarations and declamations pro-women have their rightful place in the history of Women's Struggle for equality and they draw attention to women's issues in the west, and since the US Republican Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment, I am seeing the war the on women's bodies though my Amplified-Goggles. I can hear it LOUD and clear.
Women's bodies have so much clout. They are heavyweight pieces in the

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Amongst Women Part 1 - The Importance of Communication

Red Table Talks: Jada Pinkett-Smith, her mother Adrienne Banfield Jones and her daughter, Willow Smith Talk Love and Family

Red Table Talks: Jada Pinkett-Smith, Willow Smith Talk Love, Family

Before I comment on what this video is about I wanted to talk quickly about the success of all relationships resting in those involved being able to express themselves. It's more than healthy to be confident in expressing one's needs and to show openness to receive information from the other. The skill of Listening is a fading (faded?) art, it seems. It's crucial to articulate grievances without aggression or an ulterior motive to undermine someones confidence, destablize them. #Playfair.
 Verbal jostles are real but they're not the be all and end all. Sometimes they're useful for letting off steam but not to hurt. If you play fair its just a rutting session.  Two people with intimate knowledge of each others communication ability allows compassion to exist between them and can be part of a sense of home for someone when they feel so understood. Like an unconditional clause in the unspoken family contract.

But what if home is not so secure? Many find that they fail in communicating their needs because they just don't seem to be able to get themselves understood. They may have

Thursday, July 5, 2012

RIP Grandma

Geraldine Herbert Barratt - 4th May 1927 - 9 June 2012
It has been an incredible 6 weeks peaking with my Grandmother funeral. This is short blog entry just to say Rest In Peace Nanny. The wonderful family I have discovered is testament to the Amazing Woman your were in this life and how the strength of your Spirit will resonate with me forever. Thank you. With Love Zena

Friday, June 1, 2012

THREE FURIES - The project begins

Click to go to Three Furies Blog
When I was commissioned by UK Arts International and the British Council to create a Spoken Word piece with Dutch MC Clara Opoku and South African poet Mbali Vilakazi, I was concerned about Travelling Light because I was raw from coming out of three serious family situations - a bad patch with my Mum (we hadn't spoken for months),  my Grandpa had passed at the ripe old age of 96, and my Grandma had fallen seriously ill and had been in hospital for about 2 months. It couldn't be any worse for the development of an autobiographical show about 3 generations of women.  It was not a time for questions about their past lives when they were just managing to hold on to the present ones.

As I held it together, I realised that I was angry about a lot of things - that I had been neglecting to exercise and exorcise my feelings about my fraught mother/daughter relationship and about not having the time I wanted to spend with my newly found family, especially my Grandma, due to a hectic and demanding freelance artist workload. I had also not had any time to reflect on my new identity as Niece to my Aunts and Uncles and Auntie to my nieces and nephews now that I had found them. My head hurt getting frustrated about it.

The  story of the Three Furies or the Erinnyes (The Kindly Ones) is an enlightening dramatic inquiry of Ancient Greek mythology into Justice, Humanity and Transformation as these daemons/Goddesses are summoned to unleash retribution  for abuses, murder and injustice done to  family. 
"Tisiphone (tis-if-oh-nee) is the "blood avenger," the punisher of murder and crimes against family. Alecto's name means "unceasing anger." Megaera (mah-ger-ah) is called the "jealous one," is especially peeved about adultery." - [source] 

Once they are summoned the matter is taken from your hands because it is they who decided what the punishment will be

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dear Anger and the Three Furies

In March, of this year I faced a challenged I never expected. My own anger. I was asked to describe it, to critique it, to make a creative pieces of spoken word theatre about it in collaboration with Dutch female MC Clara Opoku and South African Poet Mbali Vilakazi

The Three Furies project is, partnership by, UK Arts International and MC Theatre, Netherlands.
We used the Greek mythological epic of the Three Furies as inspiration for our writing but the dialogue that arose between us, and also with the audiences we shared our work with, brought to light that women’s anger is almost a taboo subject – words like hysterical, time-of-the-month and b*tch come to mind as starters. 

How do women process their anger when its not considered  “nice” or “lady-like” to let rip? Where does it go? What do we do with the ensuing frustration if we do not channel it healthily?

Sharon Jane D is a dutch visual artist who took a poem from each of us after our initial stages of our exploration and interpreted them into film. Her warehouse studio space was enormous and full of nooks crannies and open spaces ripe for filming moody pieces.

Go to The Three Furies blog and see Clara and Mbali's film also.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dartington Residency - Day Two

Up until this point I had not really explored other mediums to tell the other stories for my Mum; not just for the Mother that she never knew, but also the fact that she was a brown skinned woman growing up in the 1960's UK, that her father had come here as an immigrant, a professional milliner, and was part of the Windrush era of migrant settlers 'belonging' to the  British colonies. This story is  all to often overlooked as the Black presence in the UK is so taken for granted by younger generations. The truth is the presence of our grandparents and great-grandparents and the  contribution they make to British history and culture is woven into the fabric of post world war Britain, just so we - the present and future generations -  can be quite so flippant. 
However, when the Summer riots of 2011 kicked off around the country, the news abroad distorted the facts, blaring it was the 'young blacks' who were 'running' the riot. In the settling ash of this insurrection, I was commissioned  by Film Africa Festival to write a piece on John Akomphra's film Handsworth Songs in reflection of the  the 80's Birmingham's riots. As the film unfurled, suddenly, my Grandpa's and my Mother's settler experience gained sharper focus. I was numbed by the harsh reality of what their lives/existence must have been like in cold and not so welcoming England. 

So, in my quest to find other mediums to tell their story I looked to iconic musicians in Caribbean history to tell the story better for me.
Lord Kitchener is one of the most famous Calypsonians in Caribbean history. His songs documented social issues with complex parody of political and social events that is steeped in the tradition of West African satirical storytelling. I use two of his songs in Travelling Light, to highlight the struggles of my parents, grandparents and great grandparents  generations, those who came to the UK seeking their fortune as professionals in their fields, only to be relegated to menial employment in construction, social and health care-taking, and in the cleaning and transport services. Some had stories to tell about the atrocious housing conditions in Notting Hill, for example, cornered and harassed into paying extortionate of rates  rent and the racism they faced on a daily basis. The phrase "No Blacks. No Irish. No dogs" was not unusual signage put up in windows of accommodation

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dartington Residency - Day One

I spent some of this day licking wounds. It had been a tough week of brain-work planning the next stages of the Travelling Light project. Travelling Light has no producer support at present  and as a solo artist representing myself, I was having to wear about five different hats, juggling rapid-like to accomplish what should have have space to be done in 4 weeks in about 2. By the time, I got to Dartington I was looking forward to getting the script done and dusted. It wasn't to be the case.

The creative in me had other plans. They were movement plans, photography, sketches - an installation of some sort began to take shape right before my eyes and it grew through my need to map the show in my head some how.
 During a course at the London International School of Performance Arts, I had taken a module called The Dramatic Space. Students were asked to explore the energies in the stage space and how, with full body extension and contraction in movement, eyeline and wordless sound and intuitive characterisation, the size and energy of a space can be changed by the illusion of the action  on stage. For a performance poet whose sole tool of trade is the voice with a little help from our friend, the mic, THIS was going to be a fantastic challenge.

But one of the most confusing classes was working with charcoal sketches and three