Hero

I am currently experiencing a lot of things, most of these experiences are positive and moving me in ways that I have never been moved before. Yet, as all this is happening I still wake up in the morning asking myself why I have not disappeared yet? On most days I feel like crying, hoping that each drop aborts the negativity that I feel inside. But I know that it does not work that way.

When I was younger I would pack my bags during summer holidays and would pretend that I was going on a journey. I would pack a blanket, my favourite outfit, a pocket knife (that I “borrowed” from my dad’s office), a notebook, my pencil case filled with gel pens and a cuddly stuffed dog toy. I would then be on the lookout for my parents and siblings and would make sure that nobody would notice me leaving. When I was sure that nobody would know that I was gone, I would sneak out. We lived in a gated community. There were several lanes of houses and I would always enter the second lane and walk till the end of the road where there was a huge brick wall. I would lay out my blanket and sit under a tree and wait. I would wait for someone to come looking for me. Sometimes I would cry under the tree, but, nobody came. Nobody ever came. At one point I would wait and hope that I would somehow disappear. Other times I would wish for a hero to come along. I was 12 years old.

My hero came in the form of writing. There were these sentences that would form in my head and I would write them down. The things that were all around suddenly could speak to me through writing. Like the sunflowers that were growing in our garden suddenly became children of a mother that called her children sunflowers that woke at sunrise and fell asleep as the sunset.

Writing has brought me to connect with so many wonderful people. And I am so grateful for this, even if my depression can’t be written away.

One very impactful meeting in my life happened last night. As some of you know in September I will start a creative writing program. Last night, I had dinner with Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and he wished me luck on my writing journey and he also shared a lot of wisdom with me. He spoke about how the core of bullying lies in the act of making the victim hate something about their body.  When the bully makes the victim hate a part of their body, that part of the body then becomes an internal weapon of self-destruction. As the bully turns one’s body against oneself.

I feel like my body is a self-harming weapon because of how parts of myself have been criticised in the past. Like the fact that I did not have a mother made me a rotten child, a child with no manners, A child without a backbone, I think that’s why I always hope to fit in and to be liked. Its like I stretch myself and mould my body into an unholdable posture and try to hold on for so long even when it is no longer good for me to hold on. As a child, I was seeking because I was ignored a lot. That’s why I would disappear and wait for someone to notice. When I would cry or self-harm my guardians would say “You just want attention, well guess what we don’t care, and you will not get attention from us”.

Me and Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.

Starting a GoFundMe and performing my poetry has really shown me the wounds that this body that is fighting against itself has inflicted. I am truly grateful to everyone that has shown and is showing me love and attention. Yet, I also feel how this body is still fighting against itself. I have so many weapons in me that I must destroy and turn into instruments of love and healing.

>Maybe all these moves and changes will give me the superpower to turn knives into flowers and become my own hero for a while.

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.