Playhouse Arts Residency, Tasarte. Week 2/5

Playhouse Arts Residency, Tasarte. Week 2/5

During week 2 we had visits from other creatives, who also happen to be our off-spring and friends! My youngest daughter Buki who is a musician and art gallery apprentice, my niece Ayo who is a music journalist and travel blogger, with one of her close friends Fay who is a textile designer accompanied with her 2yr old son Finlay! I will add in some quotes from the feedback they gave about their stay during the residency. I enjoyed their presence along with the energy and different perspective they all brought to situations. My niece particularly inspired me to be more confident with my driving which was exacerbated by my anxiety and need for safety. It was OK that I was nervous, it was ok to take a bend in the wrong gear and even regular drivers also make those mistakes.

During week 2, I put in place a daily routine of chanting and tapping to alleviate the negative mental chatter and overwhelm I was experiencing. I began to feel more settled, grounded and safer in the space and as a result, found myself opening up to respond more fluidly with what I experienced around me.

Week 2’s guests thoughts on ‘play’:

BUKI: I’m upset i couldn’t stay a bit longer and explore a bit more, but there’s always another day, another time. As we get older we lose what it means to play. It’s also about learning and discovering things about yourself as well. I think it’s great that you [Ekua & Folami] are taking time out to, to play. Which i think a lot of people, they go on holiday and stuff, but its not the same.

FAY: new and interesting; slightly challenging in some ways being closer to nature than usual but the views are amazing – inspiring i guess, because it shows you different things; its inspiring to hear why they [Ekua & Folami] come here in such a secluded spot to find a new ‘breath’ in their art journey; Findlay’s loved the outdoors and getting dirty. Yes, its been a really good experience!

FINLAY: Cheese!

AYO: Play is doing something you enjoy and having fun. As a child it was playing with my Barbies. Now it is going out having a laugh with friends, having a bit of time off, not worrying about the time. Work can be play if you get the right job, so that’s the aim. I’m creating a life with more time to play! I find being creative playful, doing art playful.

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Mumzy and Buki hanging out by the beach in the town of Mogan
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The sky brought a beautiful sunset every day. It was like being surprised with a gift by a lover every evening!
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‘Reclaiming My Being’ selfie photoshoot. My body, self-made banana leaf and my muse, dead aloe.
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‘Reclaiming My Being’ selfie photoshoot. I was having THIS MUCH fun! 😀
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‘Reclaiming My Being’ selfie photoshoot. My body and self-made banana leaf rope.

This 3hr ‘Reclaiming My Being’ photoshoot had a profound effect on me and my relationship to my body, which has changed in size and functionality after 2 years of physical illnesses (partially dislocated hip then virus infection leaving me with permanently swollen feet, some of which has reduced only after 2 years), mental burn-out and emotional shit-storms. I spent the time alone with my Canon 1300D and tripod playing with my muse and self-made banana rope. As a naturist, I have always been comfortable in only my own skin and do not mind the intrusive curious gaze of others. Yet stripping myself bare in all my vulnerability at a time in my life when I am at my most vulnerable physically, mentally and emotionally is very significant to me. As an agendered person I have always struggled with how I ‘should’ look, how my body ‘should’ function in order to be accepted in the life the world said I must lead (as a woman) and I desperately wanted to feel accepted in because I knew of no alternative. I was never comfortable. I was never satisfied with myself due to the tension and conflict this brought to my sense of self. I had no words to describe the torture of this until I opened up to my queer non binary friends. Its not body dysphoria because my body is not the problem. How it is gendered, categorised and policed by my culture and wider society is the problem. I am learning to love how I have become, visible and invisible ‘flaws’ and all. It’s all good. It’s all beautiful. Even when i feel unfit, old, ugly and not enough. I’m openly sharing my vulnerability here because after spending most of my life living in conflict with myself, I now celebrate my wholeness, even though the world is yet to accept me as I know myself to be: Agender. Being. Me.

Seconds after my lovely daughter asks if the fruit is edible, she bites into it, causing lots of tiny cactus spikes to embed in her lips! Poor thing! She did discover later that by soaking the fruit in warm water allows the fine spike to come out. It took a while, but we plucked all the fine needles out her lips in the end.

Myself and Buki strutting some South London style on the dusty beach road. Video taken by Ekua Bayunu.

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Oh the variety of colours in the rocks on the beach!

Our day trip to Mogan gave us the opportunity to enjoy a more touristy setting and an easy to navigate sandy beach with calmer waters. Glad we’re not staying here for the full 6 weeks though!

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So much beauty and diversity in just the cacti!  Numerous ideas for carving pots in this one shot alone 🙂

Beginning to enjoy the varied delights of mountain life and dramatic interactions between mountains and clouds. The clouds sometimes come down to your level.

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Clinging on for dear life. The shrubs are inspiring in their determination to keep thriving!
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Wearing my golden yellow passion fruit like its jewellery. Who needs diamonds when your’e surrounded by such rich delights of nature!
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Pioneer trail. Shadow on the road from the beach.

How I made rope (featured in the ‘Reclaiming my being’ photoshoots) from fallen banana leaves I gathered on my walk.

Digging the dry arid soil looking for clay. My ‘tool’ is an old bent pipe I found on the beach. I never thought I’d gain so much fun from just digging! 😀

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Realising this island is pure rock and dry dirt, I decide to work in reverse and sieve the art dirt then wet it in the hope to make something budlike to extract clay from. Not feeling very confident at this stage… (more clay making in week 3)

Listening Hearts

This blog entry is to introduce a new page I am starting where I will be sharing my experiences of working with empathy and non-violent communication (geweldloze communicatie in Dutch/Nederlands) – also known as compassionate communication and also giraffe language. I am very passionate about the role language and communication plays in harming or healing our hearts. Whether it be in our relationships as parent, child, friend, lover, partner, siblings, adult, employee, with authority figures or those we fear or feel threatened by. The experience below happened to me a day after 70% of the `UK population voted whether Britain should leave or remain in the EU. The ‘leave’ votes won by a tiny margin of 2%. There is a growing concern about the rise of right-wing xenophobic sentiment and politics spreading across Europe.

Coming to terms with the outcome of the vote and witnessing the referendum campaigns, my heart is troubled. I ask myself ‘well what can I do to create value and stem further negativity and hatred amongst people i meet?’ As a practitioner of the NVC process and a Buddhist following the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, I’ve decided that I will try to meet any opportunities I have to talk with someone whose views differ from mine with heart-to-heart dialogue. I believe peace can be established when we as fellow human beings recognise and touch the humanity in each others hearts. I believe empathy is a ‘muscle’ we can strengthen to enable us to do that.

Before I share todays experience I wish to say that I do not by any means consider myself an expert in empathy, NVC or as a Buddhist. I am very much a work-in-progress, a student of life, working hard with each encounter to build a world of peace, starting with the person infront of me. This is the encounter i had today and how i managed to deal with it:

Tango by the Lake

At an outside social event in a picturesque part of the Dutch countryside, I was pleasantly having a conversation with someone i’d never met previously and before I realised it i found myself listening to sexist and racist comments. I kept my cool, making calm measured responses to what this (white, cis-male, 50+ years old) person said. I responded in a calm, quiet and measured way when he spoke about the inconvenience of having to hold meetings in a public space because of women refusing to attend meetings held in his house because ‘they’re always afraid of being raped’.
I applied my NVC approach of listening carefully then guessing his feelings and needs under each statement and asked him if he felt judged because he has a need for trust and to assure his guests that he is not a threat to them? He did not respond, so I said “Do you recognise the importance for women to feel safe when meeting with other strangers?” He said ‘So I always have to hold my meetings in a public space then?’ I replied by sharing the example of my need for safety being based on taking the best possible care for myself and that rape is used far too often to judge women negatively for their need for safety. I told him the threat of rape is real and not to be mocked.
Changing the subject he then moved on to chat with me about Brexit and tell me that there is a strong feeling amongst most Dutch people who also want to also leave EU because, he explains to me, of the “22 million Muslims waiting at the gates of Europe”. I asked him if he felt unsafe and threatened by people arriving from other countries to make a safe home here? He responded in a voice that felt bigger to me, by asking me if I knew that “there were no-go areas for non-Muslims in Amsterdam and The Hague?… Muslims go around on scooters clubbing people across the head with big sticks?” At this point I’m suppressing the need in myself to release my South London ‘fuck-you’ aggression in full force.
I took a deep breath and said to him I felt that judging the reason for peoples violent behaviour based on their skin colour and possible religion is Islamaphobic and racist. I said the people on scooters sound like very afraid and angry people to me, just like the white English non-Muslim who killed the UK MP Jo Cox last week. I asked him: “Are you feeling afraid because you hear these stories and need to feel safe in your own country?” He told me (in a voice that I received as angry and aggressive) that he’s not against Islam and its got nothing to do with racism. At this point my alarm bells went off. I felt unsafe hearing his words and I knew my next response to that would unleash the full force of my anger.
Instead I timed out by telling him (still calm and measured) I need the conversation with him about this subject to stop now because I am in strong disagreement with him, even though I hear his concerns for his personal safety, I feel offended and I choose not to engage in a heated political debate at a social event I came to enjoy. I said “I will not continue talking to you about these subjects. I’m happy to talk about something else” (me: deep breath, calm voice, forced smile). He paused and then began to tell me another story about ‘Muslim violence’ and saying that we need to agree to disagree blah blah.
At this point I was unable to hear his words. I stopped him mid-sentence and said ‘Did you not hear my ‘No’ earlier? I will say it again and then walk away from you so you know I mean it when I say i will not continue speaking to you about these subjects. No’ (another forced smile, this time firmly holding my hand up between him and myself).
As i said my final ‘no’ he walked away from me.
I took several deep breaths and continued at the social event, keeping calm and relaxed but still very unsettled. The man steered well clear from me for the rest of my time there and when I said goodbye to the group, I glanced in his direction and saw him (by coincidence maybe?) turn his head directly away from me as others bade me farewell. I judged that as a sign that I touched his heart, but it felt too uncomfortable for him. Sometimes learning, growth can feel uncomfortable. I also felt some discomfort in myself and on reflection accepted that there are things I too can learn from this exchange.
I hope that I nudged this person’s empathy muscle and planted a tiny seed of awareness that others in his life will water and enable his heart to warm to his own feelings, needs and the feelings and needs of those less privileged than him.
I’m sharing this because despite me slipping into judgement and defensiveness (jackal language), I did two things I wish to celebrate:
  1. I did what I told myself I felt is important to do, which is engage in dialogue with people whose views/politics differ to mine with the hope to touch their hearts in some way that they reconsider the fears that drive divisive ‘jackal‘ views like xenophobia.
  2. I did this, realising my limit, AND called time-out instead of getting embroiled in a heated no-win argument that’s so easy to do with someone whose beliefs differ from yours.
Next time I have such an experience I hope to have exercised my empathy muscles enough to stay in the ‘fire’ a little longer.
Bloody hell this heart-to-heart dialogue is fucking HARD WORK!!! 😅

Orange doesn’t suit me at all…

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My idea of a living nightmare.
My first KingsDay experience.
Firstly, I didnt dive into the celebrations because:
1. I hate crowds.
2. I’m anti monarchy.
I decided to catch up on netflix programmes and hide away in my attic. Given its my first experience of Kings day (last year I was abroad), I wanted to see some of what went on out of curiosity.
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On my 9am morning walk I first took a very quiet scenic route along a canal. I passed 6 people in the 40min walk. The sun was blaring, just a few clouds in a bright blue sky.
As I neared my home again I saw families and friends, pulling trolley loads of items, some unloading from cars and trucks to set up their ‘patch’ for selling.
The families and in some cases just children, lined the shops and market street with their personal items for sale. A big national jumble sale, basically.
Where i live is not the posh side of Amsterdam, quite the opposite. The area is filled with mostly social housing. Mostly white working class, unemployed and a scattering of people from migrant communities.
The wares being sold were similar to what you’d find in any UK jumble sale. There were some of those oil lamp/candle holders i could have happily bought if i had a garden, but most of the wares did not attract me. I’m not a very good bargain hunter. I nearly bought a set of champagne glasses and a foot bath but I had no cash on me.  The children were out in full force and they looked excited and happy, also freezing. Most of the wares were childrens toys, clothes and books. Also lots of rechargeable drills. Everyone knows the cheap ones are shit, only good for making paper pulp and milkshakes. I’m glad I’m not the only person to have found out after buying a cheap one!
Despite the beautifully bight morning sun and blue sky, it was only about 7ºc. I went home, had me some sleep, food and netflix. I was hoping for some baked goodies like at a school or community fair, but no one was selling home-made biscuits or cakes. I would have baked cakes and sold them, or is selling food not allowed by royal decree?
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On my evening cycle, I came across lots of loud music blaring from boats, bars and some houses. I’m very close to the big river, the Ij. It was extremely windy by the shore and not many small boats. they probably stayed on the canals in the main part of Amsterdam. Where the people were selling stuff, there was a lot of things abandoned by the huge metal skips the council left for the purpose of disposing of unwanted goods. Now I’d be more interested in scavenging the left-overs! I saw a couple pulling out a set of metal garden chairs from one skip. If i had my studio, i would have picked through the discarded clothes for some useful fabric scraps. People had left their jumble selling and gone for a booze-up. Where were the children though?!
Big music events with DJs could be heard in the distance. Lots of orange-dressed people with very red faces! The bars and restaurants i passed were all full of people drinking. As I walked back to my home, the dustbin workers were already clearing up the mess of discarded clothing and bits of broken toys. The efficiency of the Dutch always makes me smile 🙂
I’m sure in the posher areas of Amsterdam there would have been richer pickings at the jumble sales. But from my experience of wealthy people, they’re usually more mean with what they sell and with the prices. It also felt relatively quiet here compared to the main areas of Amsterdam. I could imagine Dam square. Ugh!
Having experienced too many Friday nights frolicking around London and Manchester, I’m thinking this Kings Day is what the British do every weekend – get really pissed in large or small groups and then jump about to loud dance music.
I guess its nice that people are given a day off on the kings birthday. The monarchy do such wonderful things to keep their subjects happy. One day off work and permission to sell their tat on the streets. If there is more to this day than I have experienced, someone let me know. Does the Kings Day celebration extend to the Dutch ex-colonies (shhh! Don’t mention colonialism to a Dutch person!) like Aruba and Surinam? Do they also jump about wearing orange and getting drunk under the hot caribbean sun?
Having a Kings day is at least better than the British queen who  has 2 birthdays and the peasants there don’t get even ONE day off! Maybe thats why the British have a booze up and party hard every weekend.
Oh well, I survived my first Kings Day! 🙂

People getting together, apart…..

I filled my Christmas Eve and Day with walks and cycle rides around nearby parks and lake.
I filled my Christmas Eve and Day with walks and cycle rides around nearby parks and lake.

That was the phrase that came to my mind as I wandered on my bicycle today past houses and flats, enjoying my Solo Christmas Day.

Some people tend to talk about Christmas as a time for getting together with friends and family, reaching out to loved ones with messages, gifts, good cheer and plenty of food. Yet, when one stands on the outside of it all, it appears very shut off.
The streets were all silent; doors & windows shut out the cold; some bare windows revealed silent movie clips of a family gathering. For the first time I felt the strangeness of it all. From a distance, it felt very isolated – families and friends shut away, each gathering doing their festive celebrations on a mini scale.
This is not a judgement, just an observation. I have the opportunity to do a lot of observation and reflection whilst living on my own these past few months. Choosing to spend this day on my own (a decision i made about 4 months ago), was a decision that was based on unhappy childhood Christmases that then led to me refusing to acknowledge the event at all in my adult life until about 18 years ago. This is the first year i have decided to unhook myself completely from these usual Christmas activities. I had no visitors today, and only exchanged a few messages with close friends and family. I have my lights up and selected a simple meal of a warm salad with smoked salmon and a few snacks and Prosecco. Having just my own company, my cycle ride around a nearby lake and a few online films to fill the day. This has been a very calming, sobering and refreshing experience. I look forward to having many more different and interesting 25th Decembers.
However you spent you day today, I hope it was an enjoyable one. If you could choose to do things differently, how would you spend your ideal Christmas?