Zambia has enjoyed 49 years free from colonial rule. It has been years of peace and we pray God continues to bless us.
A poem I wrote to celebrate Zambia’s Independence…
You held my mum in soft, warm, brown hands
Your earth, her bed
My heart embedded deep within her womb.
You birthed a woman ready to take on the world
Held her in your palm, with peace showed her that love was the revolution.
She arose and gave birth to me
Rising, surviving, overcoming
In the struggle that was the breaking from darkness to light
She looked ahead.
Often she rested on your coppery bed
Reconnecting with soil, soul and self
Positioned, perfectly, poised
She knew that the only way to be truly free – was
So she fought from the inside out
Asserted the right to have the right to be one.
One Zambia, one nation, one child, one generation.
This time last week I was getting ready to watch Macbeth. It was a completely new experience for me. The National Theatre live broadcast of Manchester International Festival Macbeth was introducing Nissi Mutale to live theatre, not so live. So here was I getting ready to go to the theatre and cinema all at once. Confused…you should be. So, The National Theatre show live screenings of theatre productions at cinema. Amazing right?! Maybe you are not as late as I am, and already knew this happened, but I did not. Anyway, immediately I had loads of questions; what would be added to the experience? What would be lost? Would I ‘get’ what the sound and lighting were trying to do? Would the production have a more cinematic feel? Would I be conscious of the fact that the camera wasn’t at the right angle? Would I be thinking about what I am not seeing and feeling because of the camera angle?…And believe me, the list went on.
Watching the show I completely forgot about all these questions. That has to be a good thing, right? The show was amazing! Kenneth Branagh as Macbeth, Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth, Ray Fearon as Macduff directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh – dream team! The production was staged in a deconsecrated Manchester church on a catwalk type stage – audience on either side. The actual stage was covered in mud. The contrast of mud in a church made me think about the amount of dirt the characters would pick up as they walked up and down. The build up of mud symbolic of the growth of evil and sin as the story unfolds. The eeriness of the witches coming out of the church walls also showed how evil had crept into everything, the selfish ambition of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth evident and ill placed from the beginning.
The significance of the church really struck a chord during Lady Macbeth’s famous ‘hand washing seen’. Standing on the upper level of the church, the lady is seen marching up and down, then stops and is heard saying the following:
Out, damned spot! Out I say!…Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him. What, will these hands ne’er be clean?….. Here’s the smell of blood still: and all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh oh oh!
Set against the backing of the church, a new dimension of the lines is emphasised. Unable to confess and repent of her sins (as is practised in Christianity), Lady Macbeth is unable to simply wash away her sins.
All in all it was an amazing production. I did not take notes to bring a huge breakdown to this blog, but felt I had to, absolutely had to write something.
It was wow!
I have decided to add a new section to this blog where I will talk about books I am reading or have read. I read a lot! So I thought it only made sense to share my thoughts on some of the stuff I come across. I read a variety of literature, faith and self-help books. So to kick this section off, the author I am fascinated by at the moment is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I first read a book of hers around a year ago. ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’ was recommended to me by a friend who did not even really read, so that was immediately promising. Since then I have bought all her books on kindle. I am impressed.
Anyway the book I have just read is the new book by Adichie ‘Americanah’. The book explores a number of issues including; the black immigrant identity, transition, inter-racial relationships, class, class struggle, blogging, online identities and so many other issues. The main character Ifemelu is a 20 something year old who has moved to America to study and increase her opportunities in life. Like many Africans outside of Africa, Ifemelu has moved to America hoping to build a better life for herself.
Adichie takes the reader on the journey of excitement, discomfort, pain, searching, temporary excitement, dissatisfaction, realisation and longing for home, I for one have experienced as an African abroad. Despite having the comforts of family and my parents moving to England from Zambia when I was a baby, I still had identity issues I had to work on growing up as an African in Britain. I may not have had to deal with the passport and immigration struggles that many do and I will never for one moment pretend I know what that feels like. However that feeling of knowing you are different to everyone who is not African (and that includes Asians, Black British, Black Caribbean, Caribbean, English, those of mixed heritage…everyone who is not African…in my case everyone who is not Zambian), there are issue you will need to deal with.
This journey is depicted in the small and everyday happenings we take for granted: getting hair done, wondering how people perceive us based on the relationships we have, our social groups, the house and part of town we live in, our online profiles, these aspects are brought together to get the reader to think about African identities (represented by Ifemelu’s Igbo identity). I say identities because we know that there can never be a singular. Stereotypes are singular but Adichie challenges stereotypes in her book so that even the caricature is somehow plural.
Over the next few weeks I will be posting my thoughts on certain parts of the book that stood out for me.
I hope you will be challenged, chastened and cheered by it all!
Please forgive my melodramatic headings! What I am talking about today is the aim of being famous verses the aim of simply being the best at your art. By best I mean the most forward thinking, creative boundary pushing artist in your field. Now when I was a child spending all my free hours watching MTV’s shows on how Destiny Child, Whitney Houston or Christina Aguilera became famous, I was simply thinking – I want to be like them. After a few years I gained a social conscience and wanted to write songs and act in plays that would change people’s hearts but that was after a few good years. And I am (well so I think) a sensible one. I am aware that the transition does not occur for all. That is where the fame scandal comes to play. Is it bad to simply seek fame? Those awful singers entering themselves on X-Factor for their 30 second fame as the nation’s worst singer until the next comes along. Is it bad for a person to chase every single new wave that comes along? Those artists who stand for nothing and fall for everything.
Let’s look at popular music again. There is great music being put out. I love and appreciate all genres so from the London emcees to Calvin Harris – you will find it on my ipod. However I cannot help but feel a little uneasy about the music videos or branding of some artists. Again this is just me thinking aloud so feel free to post your agreement (or disagreement). Let’s take Drake’s song ‘Started from the bottom now we’re here’ track. The words are actually really deep. A story of struggle, to overcome, of pushing oneself against all odds. However the buffoonery in the music video completely discredits the song. This is what gives Hip – Hop a bad press. The videos are so detestable and degrading to women (do not get me started on video girls), that it gets the genre judged and shut down, looked down upon as a musical taste for degenerates or office types trying to be cool.
Branding is so important. Even though it is not morally sound, we know that we are judged by what we look like. Even if it were not so, why would you want what you look like and do to be so misleading that people do not even want to find out what you are saying. I am not for one second saying that we should become a pious herd all trying to ‘look’ the part. In fact my behaviour and dressing has raised, raises and will continue to raise eyebrows. I am fine with that. However I do not go out of my way to look like I indulge in every kind of stupid, mindless and even dangerous act that this shady earth has been cursed with.
In other words we know that there are high rates of STIs, single mothers, drug and alcohol addiction and then one puts out a video that praises all these things (or acts that lead to the above) and we see nothing wrong with that. We put it down to the life of the rich and famous. Nooooooo! We fund these guys by buying their music, going to their shows and letting their music largely influence our generation. We need to start setting a standard where we support those giving back to our communities and I do not just mean money. Any knucklehead can do that. We need those who are making efforts to sow morals and build people of character and value. Fame is good. There is nothing wrong with it. Hey I want to be famous. It is the value we place on those who place very little value on us that is the problem.
Think about it.
Deception verses creative exploration – is there a distinction?
I love a good political play. Absolutely adore anything that gets my social conscience jumping. I love to read a book or walk out of play thinking … man this world is messed up, how can I be a good thing for my generation? How can I be the best I can be to inspire others to be their best also? I also love songs that make me think about my community, what I mean to my neighbours; how I can change the way I interact with people. Not many songs do that. I also like the type of songs that just let me zone out. The ones that I can listen to for hours and just chill; to be taken away from the stress and all so frequent inconvenience of thinking too much. However I cannot help but notice that art is hugely deceptive. What I am trying to get clear in my own head is: where (if anywhere) is the line between creative exploration and downright meaningless deception drawn?
Some communities throughout history and even to this present day had and have outlawed arts as evil for the very reason that it is deceptive, the line being too indistinct for the people to be accepting. I understand that putting out a great work can mean taking on a role. In acting it is compulsory. A play without any actors and a certain amount of stepping into character (also known as deception), there would be no play!
However if we take the music scene at the moment and start calling names – take Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, they take on a role for their stage acts, and videos that in my opinion adds very little value to what they do as musicians. I am aware of the argument in favour of visuals and I am not saying for one second that their creative team lack anything. In fact they probably work with some of the best creative thinkers and visual creatives of our generation. For that reason I am at loss and cannot see why these musicians insist on producing these weird and not so wonderful stage performances.
Now let’s get really serious for a second and think about the influence someone like Nicki Minaj is having. There are countless young (and not so young) women (and men) wearing bright yellow wigs and pink lipstick, having silicone injected in their bums, and doing all manner of crazy things to look like their idol. Some would say it is harmless and for few it probably is. However for others it is dangerous. There are people growing increasingly dissatisfied with themselves and not being able to appreciate their natural beauty because that is not what Nicki encourages them to do. I hear the angry cry of some already…’but she doesn’t try to be a role model’. I am not saying she has to. All I am saying is that we have to be aware of the influence we have. As a female rapper I have absolutely no doubt that she wants to be influential. To use that influence irresponsibly by breeding a following of black barbies is….you fill in the gap.
So there is this tension between creative exploration and degenerate deception. I cannot and really do not want to convince you of either all. If you have an insight that might make me see things differently, let me know. Otherwise simply be vigilant peeps. How are we letting others ‘creative exploration’ or whatever you call it influence us.
For the past year I have been at the drawing board. Have closed myself off from uploading new material and taken timeout to observe.
Now I understand that being ‘in the know’, understanding and having and appreciation for the leaders in your field is a constant process. However I took the step back because to put it simply I was lost. Since a child all I knew is that I wanted to be a superstar. As a little girl I obviously had no idea that being a superstar is a lot more complicated than standing on stage and being basically worshipped by a lotttt of people. I had no idea that people will judge you, your morals, the decisions you make about to wear or not wear to the supermarket (or even the toilet). All I knew is that I wanted to sing and write.
It should come as no surprise then that as a 22 year old blossoming woman, getting some very strong opinions about life, ethics, morals, religion and everything else in-between, I started questioning how far I was willing to go and what I would and would not do for a quick buck and this strange thing called ‘fame’. I mean now when I think about it, it is absolutely appalling that any human being would put another human on a pedal stool. As far as I am concerned we are all equal, fallen, vulnerable human beings struggling to simply make it through life. I am Christian so the way I make it through will look different to the way someone else is trying to get through because (I try to) let God lead in all I do. Nevertheless the underlining point is we are all struggling.
That is why I love music, words, and anything arty. Art is a leveler. It gives the artists the opportunity to say ‘this is the way I see the world, can you see that?’ Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t. The beautiful thing is having the mere opportunity to see life in a way you may have never seen or experienced before. So this leads me to the big question…How far do you go for your heart? Can it ever make sense to make supposed moral compromises to get a message across? Can the message ever be that important? I will be looking at a couple of artists who have left me questioning what, if anything are they about? What if anything does it mean if I endorse what they do? Notice I said endorse, appreciation is a given.
While I get these posts together, feel free to post any initial thoughts…