Yesterday the literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away. I kept perusing over his quotes and, feeling extremely confused at the intensity of my own sadness upon hearing his passing. I felt so deeply about his death that upon tweeting, instagraming, and all the social media jazz, I felt like I had to write my emotions about Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It has actually been quite awhile since I read his “Hundred years of solitude” which was how I was introduced to this iconic writer. Although my memory is foggy at all the intricacies and brilliance of this book, I will never forgot how quickly I fell in love with its characters from the very first pages. Many people struggle with this particular book, calling it “hundred years of hell” which is understandable given the many characters that share the same names and the interconnected lives in the book that lead often to confusion. But for me “Hundred years of solitude” was a balm to the soul. I devoured the book and the following “Love in the time of Cholera” in a matter of days under the mango trees and the scorching Senegalese heat. Gabo, as some affectionately call, captured perfectly my story and the turbulent times I had grown up. My days as a child in Bissau, my refugee years in Lisbon, my isolation in turbulent Abidjan, and finally my coming of age in Dakar.
Central to those years had been my family, ruthless lovers and comically dysfunctional. The Buendia family was my family. Shaken by history, torn apart for a better life, and a immigrant existence across the world I saw myself and my family in the Buendia family. What made me fall in love even more with “Hundred years of solitude” was the passion and the magic in the Buendia family that was reflected in the endurance and strength of my own family. As a the silent dreamer in my family I had taken up the responsibility of chronicling the adventures, the magic, the insanity, and beauty of my kin.
(Family being family)
So I wrote from an early age and was inspired to continue when I first encountered the magic surrealism in Latin American literature. However as a lover of words Macondo this mythical Latin American city had also been a source of inspiration to me. Hailing from an immigrant family from Guinea-Bissau, I had left my own home at the tender age of six in plastic sandals and a white flag.
(me on the front page of a newspaper documenting the boarding of Bissau-Guinean refugees in a plane to Lisbon)
Even though I had never returned my parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts had never let me forget the beauty of the city of Bissau . As any immigrant child I had dreamt and idealised Bissau and followed the turbulence and the violence that has kept ravaging this tiny city that no one knew even existed. As the city Macondo slipped away from the Buendias so did I feel increasingly estranged from Bissau. I still yearn for a return to the city that had brought together once the destiny of my ancestors from distant lands hailing from India to Portugal. As my own city slowly fades away from its ancient greatness like Macondo, the death of Gabo reminds of my own task to become the gypsy Melquíades and write the history of my family. Gabriel Garcia Marquez will always remain the man who extended his hand to me through his books and taught me the inseparability of the past, present and future. Butt as well the writer that soothed my seventeen year year old self and taught me the mad beauty of my own story.
Using film, visual art, dance and poetry, A Different Mirror provides a platform for Women of Colour artists to explore the conflicts about how we see ourselves versus how we are seen.
The 3 day exhibition and educational activities confront these crucial questions about the systems or structures that shape our relationship to our bodies and its connection to our identities. It holds up a mirror to see and know ourselves differently.
This artist seminar explores the ways in which art can be used to heal and empower ourselves and others. It offers insight into different artistic mediums and how these artists have used their practices for reclamation and transformation.
“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”
// they taught me to write like Shakespeare. to write like Emily Dickinson. to write like Robert Frost. to write like Mary Shelley.
but those writers never moved my soul. never filled me up. never quenched my thirst.
then i found Sonia Sanchez. and Zora Neale Hurston . and Toni Morrison. and Molara Ogundipe. and Nikki Giovanni. and Flora Nwapa . Chimamanda adichie. nayyirah waheed. Miriam Harris. Ama Ata Aidoo. and Lorraine Hansberry. and Gwendolyn Brooks. and Catherine Acholonu.
their words left marks all over me. moved my soul. spilled over in me.
it was through their work that i yearned to be a writer too.
the writers i never learned about in English class, Bilphena Yahwon
Writing is something that I’ve always loved to do. From an early age, writing became my only means of communication. My grandfather, who is a poet, always encouraged me to express my feelings through my pen. I will admit though, my relationship with writing was strained for some time. As an African woman, I couldn’t seem to identify with the writers presented to me in my English classes. They were all either white women or white males. My story far too different from theirs. So when my teachers would ask me to find meaning in their words, I struggled. I wanted something that would tell the story of home-Africa. Something that would tell my story of being an African woman. Something that would move me to tears but instead I was left reading words about places I was not familiar with and didn’t care to be familiar with. It was not until college that I became exposed to African writers. Not just males but also women. It was then that I took on my own style. It was then I decided that I needed to tell my story just as they were telling theirs. It was then I found my voice.
April is National poetry month. For this month of April, I will be sharing my favorite poems by my favorite African women poets. I think it’s very important that future African writers, especially women writers, are exposed to works by African women at an early age.
“Only American audiences ask me, “What should I do?” I’m never asked this in third world. When you go to Turkey or Colombia or Brazil, they don’t ask you, “What should I do?” They tell you what they’re doing… These are poor, oppressed people, living under horrendous condition, and they would never dream of asking you what they should do. It’s only in high privileged cultures like ours that people ask this question… We can do anything. But people here are trained to believe that there are easy answers, and it doesn’t work that way. If you want to do something, you have to be dedicated and committed to it day after day. Educational programs, organizing, activism. That’s the way things change. You want a magic key, so you can go back to watching television tomorrow? It doesn’t exist.”