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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Travelling Light to reach South Africa

Click to go to article source
World renowned British poet, musician and facilitator, Zena Edwards in partnership with the British Council in South Africa, are bringing Zena’s Travelling Light production to Johannesburg on 15 March 2012, and Cape Town on 16 and 17 March 2012.
Travelling Light is a creative piece of poetic story-telling by Zena linking three generations of women, through a gripping autobiographical account of a touching mother/daughter relationship.
As a part of the British Council’s art programme, Zena will engage South African audiences through poetry, story-telling and, will also share knowledge and skills with aspiring South African poets.
Poets such as Mbali Vilakazi and Naima McLean, both established South African poets, will have the opportunity to engage, share and collaborate with Zena as an expansion of her knowledge sharing experience.
The show, which Zena describes as a docu-poem, recounts Zena’s moving autobiographical story and explores the paradoxes that haunt and challenge gender definition and role playing in society.
Using poetry, visuals, song, movement and blogging to interact with and challenge the audience through a time warp of evolution in womanhood, the production touches on various themes including domestic violence, love relationships, sex, race and the dreams and aspirations of a young woman through some of the most challenging eras of modern womanhood.
The event is expected to attract many-a-poet enthusiasts including local poets, musicians, journalists, creative industry leaders and members of the public.
Zena’s visit forms part of the British Council arts team’s efforts to work with the best of British creative talent to develop innovative, high-quality events and collaborations that link thousands of artists and cultural institutions around the world, drawing them into a closer relationship with the UK.
During her stay in South Africa, Zena will also spend some time in Cape Town conducting workshops and rehearsals in preparation for her Travelling Light performances in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Travelling Light is not the first project that Zena and the British Council have partnered on; she previously came to South Africa in 2010 to participate in the Verbalized project, which showcased the best of young and emerging UK and South African poets, a project in which renowned South African poet Gcina Mhlophe was involved in.
Johannesburg audiences can expect to be enthralled by Zena’s Travelling Light show on Thursday 15 March at at the Joburg theatre at 18:30. While Cape Town enthusiasts will enjoy Travelling Light on 16 and 17 March at New Africa Theatre.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sell the Children

Sorry, how old....?

A group of people came together one week day morning. They work for an advertising company and they need to land a client so they need a-one-in-a-million pitch. They have to sell a perfume product for a company called "Love Cosmetics". Now, whatever the design team, the copy team and the casting team were ultimately thinking is that to win this pitch they needed to make the campaign for this product something the consumers (who have been targeted using focus groups and market research) will 'buy into'.
That morning they came up with this. Image and text approved. By who?

Please excuse me if you know all this but I'm thinking out loud trying to process what I see every time I look at this advert for a 'women's' fragrance.
What result were they aiming for -  did they actually have solid aims and a strategy when they thought this up - when they juxtaposed innocence and sexiness to sell a scent to 'advertise' a contemporary woman's life style. And what did they EXPECT us to 'think' when they did?
Vogue 2011
Teddy bears, mascara and lipstick... and whatever that look is in this little girls eye, the copy translates it into coy seduction. The strategy behind the construction of this whole ad  is a paradox of negligent genius.

The above ad campaign is dated around 1974. It seems the hyper-sexualization of  girls was not a dialogue engaged with much at that time. But it also make me wonder how far the culture of sexualizing young girls has come when we see media and advertising companies pushing campaigns that promote clothes and underwear for children which are mere mini versions of those for grown women. It make we wonder whether the fashion and media industries feel they have some kind of immunity, suffer from a self-instigated obliviousness or a gamblers wrecklessness to continue with this form of selling of children practice while the debates around this disturbing issue rages.

This video analyzes the disturbing  hypersexualization of young girls as young as 5 years old. Watch and make up your own mind...

"Sophie Bissonnette's documentary, 'Sexy Inc. - Our Children Under the Influence',  analyzes the hypersexualization of our environment and its noxious effects on young people. Psychologists, teachers and school nurses criticize the unhealthy culture surrounding our children, where marketing and advertising are targeting younger and younger audiences and bombarding them with sexual and sexist images. Sexy Inc. suggests various ways of countering hypersexualization and the eroticization of childhood and invites us to rally against this worrying phenomenon."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Travelling Light is on the move...

Click to enlarge
Its Monday 5th March and I'm "packing" for Holland and Cape Town where I'll be sharing the next phase of development of Travelling Light.   Packing!!! I have to say its not my favourite task on my to do list, but that is the irony - I'm learning to Travel Light.

Quote from the show - "Helpful tip - if you pack for a holiday, your first pack is like a writers first draft. Go back, take out a third of the 'stuff', minimum! Then you'll be about right."

As it'll be International Womens Day on the Friday 8th March, I'll be exploring womanhood manifested in poetic writing and performance along with Zulile Blinker, another powerful Sister writer and performer, and Sis DJ Wonder (also a dynamic and sensuous writer and poet) .  I'm expecting an incredible weekend of vibes and feminine creativity.

Click to enlarge

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"What the guide told me", a poem - Haiti revisited

12th January day of the Haiti earthquake, 2 years on. Last month, I hosted and performed for two charity events, One By One For Haiti  and Haiti: Year Zero +2. Both events aim to remind us that the after affects of the disaster are still deeply resonating amongst the din of so many other news reports.

I found my attention turned to the women and the young girls who are living at high risk in the 'makeshift' camps, which should be places where all survivors can come together in mutual support of each other after a catastrophic event. In contrast, there has been an increase in their vulnerability. There  have been reports of up to "250 rapes in the first 150 days". Source: Women for Peace - Rape Crisis for Haiti: report.

It is never easy to talk about rape. Just the sound of the word alone is hard-hitting, chilling, anger-making. No one talks about it lightly. Though I've heard a few jokes round it that have made me guffaw purely because of the sheer brazen-ness of them. But in reality we've seen an increase globally in reported rape of both women AND men, an occurance so rarely talked about because of the shame.  But the true shame is in the value judgment placed of one over the other when the act itself is as dehumanising for humanity all round.  For whatever reason, attitudes toward sexual aggression is even more disturbing in its normalization towards women in the light of it being shocking and taboo for men.

 Also, it is under circumstances of crisis when the abhorrence of a crime against another human being such as rape becomes magnified, because we must consider how rigid attitudes

Monday, January 2, 2012

Even though its just a taste...

...its ok. The year is young.
So finding this now video by Kali Films is enough to add to the galvanized and inspired spirit I am feeling for the next phases of creating and completing Travelling Light.
Alice has been a childhood inspiration for me, The temple of My Familiar being my favourite book of hers. The strength of her voice and the faith of those in it, consistently re-ignites a humble fire in me to continue to put one foot in front of the other in times of uncertainty while navigating the tricky road as artist, writer and activist.
Watch this blog space. I feel it will be prolific this year....