British Council Artist in Residence

This year started with a double turn of events for me. First, I took part in a writing competition that was held by the British Council and won a ticket to participate for free at the three-day literature seminar on the themes of sexuality, gender and masculinity, that the British Council was hosting here in Berlin. The second turn of events came in the form of an amazing opportunity for me as a poet and writer. I applied to become the artist in residence at the British Council for this year and *drumroll* I got the spot. Yes, I am the artist in residence at the British Council here in Berlin. https://www.britishcouncil.de/en/uk-germany-2018/artist-esther-heller

This means that I will be participating in different cultural events that the British Council will be hosting this year. By participating in these events, I will have the opportunity to meet and hear a variety of writers that are making waves in British literature today.

For instance, at the first seminar that I attended (due to winning the competition), I had the honour to speak to Bernadine Evaristo, Nick Makoha, Kate Hudson, Monique Roffey and Sabrina Mahfouz. I also had the chance to take part in a workshop that was instructed by the talented Sabrina Mahfouz on writing for the stage.

I would like to document my one year as artist in resident. And I would like to take you all with me, I am not sure what will happen but at the end of it all, but I do know that I will have learned a ton.

 

#Britlit Seminar: Sexuality, Gender and Masculinity

The themes of sexuality, gender and masculinity are currently very present in our day and age. Therefore, it was wonderful to hear different literary voices speak on these matters.

For the competition, I had written a poem that highlighted gender roles, sexuality and masculinity. This poem is untitled.

On the theme of gender Juno Dawson really captivated me the most she said so many things that just resonated with me. She brought me to question things that I had already been questioning, but she made me feel assured that I had every right to question those things. She inspired me so much that I wrote a reflective piece of poetry titled “When did I become a woman?”.

Juno mentioned the existentialist philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir who wrote the famous quote “one is not born a woman but rather becomes one.” At the seminar, I met another fellow competition winner Marie Theresa a graduate of creative writing and English from Brunel University, who flew in from London to attend the seminar. I asked her to respond to “when did I become a woman” by writing a poem of her own. She responded with the powerful poem titled “Mother Nature”. I was in such awe when I read the poem. It was such a coincidence that Marie Theresa’s poem gives such strong imagery of nature. I use the word coincidence because I had just sent her my poem without giving any explanation and without mentioning de Beauvoir. The coincidence part comes in because de Beauvoir gives the example in her most famous work titled the “The second sex” that a young girl can be comfortable in her body when she, for example, is out in nature and feels a deep connection between her body and nature[1]. Therefore, Marie- Theresa’s response was so compelling to me.

The second poem that was inspired through my attendance of the seminar comes from something that I noted down that one of the women speaking at the seminar had said, I sadly can not remember who of the wonderful women said it. However, the phrase that I noted was, „As a woman, there are parts of yourself that are not taken seriously in society”. Out of this phrase the poem Farina was born.

After the seminar, I did some more research on the theme of masculinity and came along some great resources. The Southbank Centre in London held the being a man festival for the fourth time last year in November. During this seminar, some men talked about the topic of masculinity. I can only recommend listening to the talks that were held at the festival, the ones that resonated with me deeply were the talks by Kevin Powell (very powerful!) and Robert Webb. I have linked the recorded podcasts of their talks at the festival at the end of this post.

To end this post, I would like to share a quote from bell hooks from her book “All about love”, which I find speaks immense volumes on the subject of masculinity;

 

 

Podcast:

 https://open.spotify.com/episode/4IanwaZWPr7MSB61zrxLm8?si=CUNfA06BToqbiOaq5BNrRA – Kevin Powell

https://open.spotify.com/episode/4CDcagHqjxw57iL5NRMGJ3?si=6-O4shKmS-iFV8arXpm9jQ – Robert Webb

https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivals-series/being-a-man – Southbank centre being a man festival

 

[1] Joseph, Felicity. 2008. “Becoming A Woman: Simone De Beauvoir On Female Embodiment | Issue 69 | Philosophy Now”. Philosophynow.Org. https://philosophynow.org/issues/69/Becoming_A_Woman_Simone_de_Beauvoir_on_Female_Embodiment.

End of March- Turning 25

I turned 25 on the 24th of March. March is always that exciting yet stressful month of the year for me. I am a person that loves celebrating Birthdays. I have always been! I trace this excitement back to my childhood. My mother always set up a “birthday-table”, since I am a “frühlingskind” (spring baby) she would create an Easter tree for me-by placing twigs and branches in a large vase. She would then decorate the twigs, by hanging little colourful Easter eggs and pretty ornaments. She would sing for me and I would blow out my candles and we would have cake.

There are some memories that you hold on to as a child, especially if you lost the person that you had those memories with early.  This year I turned 25, it feels scary because there are a ton of things that I want to do and so many things that I am unsure of.

 I am currently working part-time and trying to pursue my dreams/hopes and still figuring out my life.

 

Here is a list of 25 statements/facts/thoughts/scatters that I would like to share:

  1. I hope to learn to edit videos and pictures better in the coming months
  2. I grew up with family traditions until the age of 8. I hope to start a new tradition of spending time with my family every Sunday
  3. My family is my younger brother
  4. Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin describes the relationship that I have with my brother quiet accurately
  5. My brother is 3 years younger than me
  6. I live very close to the area where my Mother used to live when she was in her 20s
  7. Berlin will always be the city where I had a mother
  8. My mother died when I was 8
  9. At nine my confidence started to diminish
  10. I used to go snorkelling a lot as a young girl. I would go alone and spend hours floating on the ocean’s surface and watching the corals below me
  11. The subject’s that I enjoyed most in primary school were English and English literature
  12. I changed school’s three times
  13. In ninth grade, I cut all my relaxed hair with a shaving razor blade and went bald. I did this because I had promised my mother that I would never put relaxer in my hair.
  14. As a teenager I looked for approval and love from boys and others. I would alter myself so much just to gain approval.
  15. Nobody told me growing up that it was ok to grieve. It was more like its over now, get over it already, so and so years have passed.
  16. I won a poetry competition once
  17. My middle name is Kondo. When I was born I had a lawyer as the German social services thought that Kondo was a boy’s name. But my mother’s mum was called Kondo so my Parents had to prove that the name was not a boy’s name :/ if only Marie Kondo’s book would have been a bestseller back then.
  18. As a teenager, I tried out several religions as I was searching for rules and guidance. Looking back, I realise that all along I was searching for something that would let me know that I was Ok.
  19. I came back to Berlin on my own when I was 19
  20.  People in Germany did ask me if I grew up with Giraffes in my backyard
  21. I did not grow up eating fruits, veggies or organic produce. I am a 90s baby. I celebrated one of my Birthdays at Mcdonalds and another at Pizza Hut.
  22. I have been plant-based for almost 3.5 years now.
  23. I have come to realise that in a long distance relationship it is not about the distance but more of what happens when you see each other again. Just because you survived 3 months or a year apart does not mean anything. It is about how strongly connected you feel once you are back together in one space again.
  24. I have learnt to let go of things that I can not control. I still miss my mother but I am not ashamed of that fact anymore, that’s why I can share all this.
  25. I am grateful to everybody that came out to celebrate me.