music, Poetry

To Be or Not 2B

 

Earlier this year I was a participant on the East African Soul Train, traveling from Nairobi to Mombasa on the Lunatic Line. We were encouraged to collaborate with fellow artists in the confines of a moving train and create something that was reflective of our personal experiences. The theme of the residency which lasted a week was Kovu Safarini – My Scar.

It was challenging, inspiring and the beginning of me questioning how I as a poet you explore my work in different mediums other than performance and workshoping.

As an artist in residence at 32 Degrees East I have been exploring my scars. The theme: To be or not 2b is an exploration of Migration, Identity and Mourning. The topic is multi layered, but my jump off point was ‘Maafa’ – The Great Disaster which was Chattle Slavery commonly known as The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Many Africans know nothing about this period in history or the implications it has had on Africans on the Diaspora and continent. We don’t speak about it, but i feel it is a scar that needs to be healed. But before that it has to be exposed. The continent lost between 11 and 100 million Africans to Maafa and I want us to remember that. We all know what it feels like to loose something and now as more and more Africans are being displaced through conflict, climate change, disease, I believe that even though it may not be us who experience this directly we need to develop compassion for each other and the trauma that this loss creates. This trauma doesn’t just go away it stays with us in the bones and the blood. It is generational.

 

The ideas for this installations have come through my dreams or meditations. As a poet I use paper, I love writing and have a Parker fountain for that specific purpose.  The other day at an event i was MCing I thought I’d lost it. I was frantic, I went back and found it laying in the aisle of the auditorium. I was so relieved I had found it. But what does it mean to loose a person you value and not know if you will ever see them again? How do we cope? Natural recycled materials are what i have chosen to work with.  I have been experimenting with the creation of paper using paper pulp and cassava flour. Using mabati (iron sheets) i  have moulded my pulp onto the iron sheet to create a ripple effect. This represents fluid movement and the the reality that our identities are seldom static. Constantly changing, both physically and mentally we evolve as human beings from year to year. Just like the annual migration of Buffulo across the Masai Mara we as human beings have always moved and when you think about the scale of the African continent this was always a great expedition and ultimately lead us to adapt and change as our circumstances as our environments dictated. This means we are now hybrids, Fusionist. There is more to being an African than being born on the continent. Its now about how we ‘want’ to express our ‘Africaness’, but is there an essence? What are the elements that keep us in contact with the land and each other?  Now in contemporary times Africans are restricted from movement. We are unable to see the other side, to broaden our horizons, we are restricted. Immigration policies mean we have to jump through hoops in order to justify our desires to travel and often even though we are told we are impoverished we pay visa fees which if denied don’t get reimbursed.

 

For most of my life I have been asking who am I? So I took a DNA test which showed me the genetic similarities I have to specific African peoples. Like Cheik Anta Diop I firmly believe we are one people who have mutated into the different forms which represent Africans now. I also discovered I am Haplo Group 1, one of the earliest groups of Africans who made their migrations out of Africa into Asia. So when asked where am I from, I can honestly say I am an African even though the details of location have been distorted or lost through the global trade (not really a trade but a theft) of Africans and the misinformation we are given regarding the contributions of Africans to civilization.  Maybe this is why i was searching to reconnect with those missing parts of myself I felt were lost. I also wanted to explore how other people define themselves as there is an assumption by Africans of the Diaspora that Africans on the continent know who they, celebrate their culture and will place it before anything else. Interestingly enough many of the indigenious Africans who attended the discussion felt that their cultures do not represent who they are or who they want to be and in fact they feel restricted by it. My mind was blown, what does this mean? Why is this happening? Reading C& (Contemporary and) publication ‘I am built inside of you’, the artist Helen Sibidi says ‘we own nothing….. we don’t even own ourselves’ and i see this, I see how we as Africans we are ashamed of our skin, our hair, our ancestors, we cleave to Christianity and Islam, to skin bleaching, to speaking with foreign accents, to being anything other than who we are. The seeds, our seeds are being lost to us and this is what tied us to the land, grounded us in cycles and rhythms and gave us a sense of purpose. Now we have become consumers who have bought into capitalism and expansion at the detriment of our environments. This is also why i chose bio degradable materials because i want the installation to change, decay, fade away just like I will at the end of my life. We are looking for permanence now.  Also as part of my exploration of Identity I interviewed Baba T and his wife Mama T who repatriated to Tanzania. They left Jamaica for the Europe and eventually decided to settle in East Africa. The elder who is 81 gives an emotional account of his experiences which will also feature in the installation.

The paper panels I have created will feature my poetry and quotes relating to the theme. I have a soundtrack which was created by a wonderfully talented artist called Joshua Oyintareoge Egbuson and am supported by so many great creatives Patience Asaba, Nikissi Serumago -Jamo, Kaya Sanaa to create an installation that will be an sensory delight. I will also perform some of the works as a part of the activation.

As an non traditional artist I have been challenged with how to present the work. For me it doesn’t go into a gallery space because I think what I have created is like a memorial to those who have been lost and due to the artist Sunoj D who is an Earth Artist who I worked with a few years back, the installation will happen outdoors in space which reflects some of the emotions and experiences Africans may have felt as they were ‘tight packed’ on the ships bringing them into slavery. The installation is also interactive and there will be certain things people will have to do before entering and whilst inside.  I realize the subject matter is heavy so to bring ease to myself and audience I have created 9 mandalas which represent my desire to heal this wound, to restore myself to balance and allow the ancestors to weep not just tears of pain but of joy, as we recognise their contributions and sacrifices so we can live and be who we want to be in contemporary Africa.

 

Activism, music

I Look Away

I’m sitting in front of the computer trying to recollect all what I have achieved this year. It’s hard without my notebook. I have such a poor memory sometimes, so I tend to write things down. As a result I have many past notebooks collected in a box which I take out from time to time to reflect on my life’s journey. It’s surprising sometimes to see my aspirations and goals written down and to realize that some of them I have achieved. Others have not yet manifested but that I am on the way. I feel proud of myself. Especially when it seems that Life is just not going to plan. I encourage all of us to write our dreams down because otherwise It’s hard to see how far we have come.

I’m in a reflective mood, especially as this morning a friend of mine showed me a video of a beheading in some Islamic state somewhere. The crowd was gathered, blood from the previous beheaded people can be seen on the ground. The axeman takes aim and begins his wing, I look away. This isn’t a movie, this is real and I can’t stand to watch, to remember the image, for it to remain in my memory. I know this is the reality of many people who have been caught in conflicts. War is traumatising, it wounds and scares.

Even though I can be forgetful, I know I will be able to recall this. I look away. I’m confused by our inhumanity towards each other. How we can so easily murder and bring pain. And I wonder what is our future? If I was an extra-terrestial what would I think about our behaviour? Maybe it wasn’t such a good thing that God gave us free will, because look what we do with it.

It’ true I’m feeling morose. I don’t know why it happens around this time of the year when people seem to be so happy. Anticipating family gatherings and laughter. In my mind,  I’m thinking how come we can’t show this goodwill all year round? Why do we have to wait for Christmas in order to become more humane, generous and loving?

I’m in a reflective mood. After spending 3 intense days with ‘Barundikazi’, Burundian women who come together to discuss and formulate their opinions and actions regarding the events in Burundi, I keep wondering why these conflicts and traumas continue to happen in our beautiful continent and planet. Are we sick as a species? Will we eventually just destroy each other and leave the planet to evolve without us? I worry about us. Our continued march towards destruction. Are we indeed living in the last days? Who will be saved and who will be destroyed?

There are so many layers of reality, the political, the spiritual, the ecological, the scientific, the philosophical, the social, the mental, the emotional, the religious. If we were a patient what would be our prognosis? What is the percentage of the population who are behaving in a way that is anti life and love?

I know there are good stories out there, the world is full of stories of hope and inspiration but why don’t we hear or see them? I’m asking these questions because i want to know and understand the nature of humanity and how we can change the most destructive elements of our behaviour in order for us to live in peace and love.

Or is it a case of we can’t have one without the other, but like I say in one of my songs ‘there has to be a better way’. And I hope that more of us will make a commitment to finding it and transforming our society. It’s time to break out and try something new.

 

Diarie, music

How to be ethical

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Since the beginning of the year I’ve been encountering issues of ethics. We talk a lot in Uganda about corruption and how it stops us from developing at a reasonable rate. But my question is what happened to the African Ethic so often spoken about by historians?

When I first started reading African history there were so many accounts of the ethics of Africans. The Ethiopians were seen as the most pious of races bringing religion to Europe with their divine stature. Kemet (now known as Egypt) had the system of Maat as its spiritual foundation and I think it did them well, because their civilization existed for over 10,000 years.

So what happened? Why have we fallen so far from grace?

I try very hard to be none judgmental when it comes to behaviour, its hard enough keeping myself in check without looking for the log in someone else’s eye, but I’m curious as to why we have now become a race of people who don’t stand for much anymore.

The other day I was relating a situation to my children, of course it was in relation to money and work, but when I had finished my daughter told me that I was wrong because ‘we need to eat and the world is not like me’, so I just have to do as others do and get paid. I felt a knot in my stomach honestly, I couldn’t understand how she couldn’t see the importance of what I was saying but i accepted it because in essence the world is so fucked up and that means I should be too.

I can see her point, the saying that ‘one should not throw pearls before swine’ resonates but i just can’t help it. I can’t go against my heart. Maybe this is something that was instilled in me during childhood, transmitted by my mother. So is the problem women? What exactly are we teaching our children? Or maybe its a case of having some life experience against which one can judge or establish a stance on certain things.

I suppose we cannot teach what we do not know or more simply we have forgotten how to be humane. In this rat race of space we call life everyone is battling for their piece of the pie, so its survival of the fittest.

Maybe I’m an Afromantic. The history I read about my origins, or maybe the past lives I have lived means I can’t turn away from injustice or perpetrate it either. Yes I want my life to be easier but who said that life was meant to be easy?I know its hard to stand for something especially when those around you don’t agree with your position.

Its a complex topic and I still don’t have the answer, all I know is I want to be better. More kind, more loving, more just, more compassionate, more patient, more trusting, more forgiving and maybe the adversity I experience is the fire that will refine my character. Only time will tell.

 

music

Chaos

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So yesterday I was at home, you may as well say I was idle. I had nothing to do. I didn’t feel like speaking or interacting so I stayed in my room, read, watched DVD’s and basically spaced out. But in that space I realised how undisciplined my mind is, even after many years of meditation my mind can wander erratically. Its such a shame when I realise how much time I spend on these types of thoughts. Its such a waste.

Because I am a poet I try to change my mental vibrations through writing so I wrote the poem Escape, which honestly made me feel better. Creative processes always help me to find my balance. The death I speak about is the death of unproductive thoughts.

So if my mind is like this even with meditation, how is the mind of Joe Public?

According to the Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi- ‘the normal state of the mind is chaos’. Without training and without an object in the external world that demands attention, people are unable to focus thoughts for more than a few minutes at a time……we don’t notice how little control we have over our mind, because habits channel psychic energy so well that thoughts seem to follow each other by themselves without a hitch. But when we are left alone with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself. With nothing to do, it begins to follow random patterns, usually stopping to consider something painful or disturbing’.

Oh dear, sounds like I need to go back into training! I hope I can make my mind more productive for 2015. Want to join me?

music

At Ease in Musicality

I want to act from my strongest self. This is a concept a friend of mine Sheron Wray introduced to me this week.

It means I have safety within, my actions are congruent with my higher values, I’m present rather than living in regret about the past, or anticipation of the future. I focus on what can be done, rather than on self blame for lose or misfortune and I have a connection to the deeper resources of the higher self that results in EASE rather than lonely struggle.

Now this concept has been developed my modern neuroscientist who say  this can be accessed through the breath and a sigh as you exhale, which signals the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system located in the forehead.

One of my mentors Dr Llaila Africa teachers that the parasympathetic system is feminine and the sympathetic masculine. Not in gender but in energy. To be feminine is to be passive and receptive and to be masculine is to be active

I’m learning to balance my masculine and feminine energy. I think I am most at ease whilst teaching and performing.

So here’s one of my Ease moments at the Karibu Music Festival Bagamoyo 2014

 

 

music

Healing nature

10376715_10152182278321782_511783444071487125_nTo be honest I’m looking forward to the closing of the year 2014. Its been a real challenging year on a number of fronts personally and globally, ‘there’s so much trouble in the world’ as spoken about by the honourable Bob Marley.

Sometimes I wonder if humanity will ever evolve beyond our ego’s and start living from the heart.

Its a scary prospect I suppose to allow ourselves to be vunerable. To give without thought of receiving, to share whether we have a little or a lot.

I know there are good stories out there but we seem to be surrounded by so much bad news it can really leave a person hopeless and depressed.

I question where we are going wrong, we have so much potential as humanity but we seem to want to continue the same patterns of war, greed and envy.

Are there good stories out there? Ones that inspire us to keep moving on and improving ourselves even though sometimes life seems like a struggle? Or is life just meant to be like this? And through the process of adversity we become better?

We have so much ancestral knowledge available to us, not just in books but in our bones and blood. We can tap into that divine spark if we just take the time to be still and quiet.

I took a group of young people to a festival in one of Ugandans most beautiful gardens. We didn’t get to do what we had planned but what I did notice was the sense of freedom they had. They played, laughed, had conversations and felt relaxed in the company of their peers. Nature is truly a healing balm for humanity.

Being in the natural world gives us so much according to Randy White when children play in the natural environment they gain the following:

Improved cognitive development by improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills.

Helps develop powers of observation and creativity, instilling a sense of peace and being at one with the world.

Play is more diverse and imaginative, fostering language and collaborative skills

So it seems obvious……lets spend more time in nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

music 0 comments on Rift Valley Festival 2014

Rift Valley Festival 2014

10653489_10152724177692628_2274538733489098177_nRVF 2014

I was so glad to be invited back to RVF this year as a part of the Ugandan Massive. This year we were 25 in number including Newcomers: Lady Slyke, DJ Nesta, Winnie, Sweet Banana, Moroto Industries and Nilotika Percussion Ensemble. Alongside myself, Blessed San and  DJ Ska Face I think we represented Uganda to the maximum. This year I got to stay at Top Camp which was bliss, because I rarely get to spend time alone. I enjoyed it immensely. It gave me the opportunity to create new pieces, meditate, reflect, stretch and just be with myself.  I found because of this my interactions with people had greater meaning because I enjoyed them more.

The added advantage of being on the hill was I was neighbours with Santuri Safari Kitete studio.  When I first ascended up the hill ( a very sweaty trek with 2 bags and a yoga mat) I reached the top and found ESA and upon descending back down the hill got to discover that he was working with Gregg  Tendwa a great Dj and promoter of Hatari Voltage a great event promoting digital music and percussive sound.  

This year I got the opportunity to do some backing vocals on a track with Kenyan artist Makadem. To be honest I didn’t know who he was but after saw him and his brilliant band I can’t forget. This guy is a great performer, wordsmith/storyteller and vocalist. So I’m kind of glad I didn’t know who he was before I recorded the vocals, I would have been too star struck!

What was also rewarding was talking to Makadem, Gregg, Aziz (a fantastic percussionist)and Ken about music, our dedication to it and willingness to listen.  This very underrated skill is at the foundation of being a good musician, because when you listen well it makes you more receptive to working as a part of a group/band.

Too often as a female vocalist I have had to battle,  mic in hand with a band who refuse to listen. They create walls of sound with no space. There is an urgency to how they play, always wanting to be heard, thus they fail to understand the power of space and the dynamic of the music. Its frustrating at times but I took some solace in the fact that they understood my experiences and put it down to, youthful exuberance.

Its hard being a female band leader in UG, patriarchy is the norm, so when as a women you try to assert yourself you’re met with resistance because most of the musicians in Kampala are male. I love living in Uganda but honestly this has been one of my biggest challenges, but I’m determined to overcome because music gives me so much inspiration. Listening to it, creating it, sharing it. Next year I want to play with my own ensemble, all live.  Where they is a will there is a way.

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music 0 comments on Been away so long

Been away so long

I hadn’t realized that i had not been on my own website since December 2013.

I was told by a Hindu friend of mine that witnessing the last breathe of ones parents is a blessing, they pass on their wisdom to those present. i feel honoured to have been present at the passing of my mother but i miss her.

writing beginsmeditationpeace circlesmile

Returning to my beloved UG I have been working on a number of projects including the training of Peace Corp volunteers, facilitating street workers to tell their life stories through the river of life exercise, developing peaceful leadership with Writing Our World, organizing Laba Art Festival which this year was over 2 days.

http://safaritravelmag.blogspot.com/2014/06/laba-takes-art-to-streets.html

The picture is from Nsambya where i performed with Kaya Sanaa and Trevor to highlight the need for environmentalism.laba capacity

beats and rhymes

lantern meet

The last 6 months have gone by so fast. This month I will be performing with Lyricist Lounge on the 19th June at Rouge and then 28th and 29th i will be performing with the Lantern Meet of Poets at UNCC aka the National Theatre.

 

would be good to see youifelaba