It's been a while. Since "Self-Portraiture" that is. I've been swamped with material things. The hair, the beauty, the settling-down-in-Melbourne-city. But I'm coming back to my whole self. I'm grateful.
Allow me to write to you. But first, take off your eye-scales. Wipe clean your glasses. Take a hiatus from your hair woes. Switch off your TV. And Hush. Listen to the silence if you will. Focus on your breath, your inhale. Then your exhale. Let it out, all out. I know you're tired. So am I. So here, my friend, is an invitation to rest.
Let's think about the daily show within our walls. Our mental walls. Let's think about the shifting shadows that plague us. The setting sun's rays that evade us. Another day goes by.
What's going on within your mindspace, my gal? Deep within the walls and confines of your heart? I want to know. I want to know what scares you and what inspires you.
Who are you?
You woman. You effiminate woman. You reader of blogs. Educated, schooled, sophisticated woman. African. African and Black. You might have a slight tweng. Just like I do. Because you've lived 7 good years away from your home soil.
Who are you?
You Lawyer. You Designer. You BusinessWoman. You Entrepreneur. You Student. You Doctor. You African, Woman. The NEW type of African woman. Like Chimamanda Adichie. Or Lupita Nyongo. Or You. You Afro-wearer. You proud Afro-wearer. You Mother. You Sister. You Soulmate.
Who are you.
(A question that's never answered, is like a statement.)
Who are you.
Let that question remain a statement. Because this is what I have come to see as truth. As the tandem of life hurls us forward : high school, then Uni, then everyones-engaged, then weddings then children - sometimes not in that exact order - we become different versions of ourselves.
Each stage of life brings out different aspects of ourselves.
And that, that's okay.
See, it took me a while to come to that conclusion. Hmm! You see, I'm the type of girl who loves to plan one year in advance - just like my American schooling taught me. You see, I'm the type of girl who likes to aim high. To know exactly where I'm going, and how I'm going to get there. To dream above the clouds. To settle only for the stars.
Let me tell you a story:
See, I'm a college graduate - with an honors degree and an Oxford education to boot. But I found myself whimpering at a job interview. See, here I was, child-of-mama-Africa, born and raised on her soil. Here I was, interviewing for a TOP position at a firm on Melbourne's "Wall Street". Everyone else in the room was the definition of elite. She was raised in Paris, went to boarding school in New York and had just come from a tour of South America. She was Indian, and had studied at the University of London and had a masters degree from the University of Melbourne.
I aced the interview. But for a second there I doubted myself. I doubted their ability to see past my dark skin, full lips and wide hips. But I aced the interview.
Let me explain my awe a little more. Let me explain, why this seemingly small incident was a defining moment in my time here in Melbourne City.
1. I am not of here. I am not from here.
I say to myself always: it would be a lot easier if I was back in Kenya. I am the child of so-and-so. And my line up of potential husbands includes the son of the Minister of. Yes. It would be a lot easier if I was back home. Easier to get a job, easier because I come from the right tribe. That's the blunt truth that is Kenya.
But I'm not at home. I'm ocean waves away. And so the ball game is a little different.
2. I am not in America.
The race game abroad is very strong. Oftentimes, you are battling perceptions of oneself even before you open your mouth. (Read through other self-portraiture pieces for a glimpse of my life in America.)
In America. Everyone understands Race. Everyone understands, even if mildly, the inner workings and structures of supremacy. In America, the narrative of "being" is structured around racial identity. That's not the case in Melbourne. And that's not to say that Melbourne has no racial problem. Ask any sister from South Sudan. Ask the Punjabis. The social structures of identity here are different. I'm still figuring them out. But without any prominent identity structure to go by, like was the case in America, it's easy to feel like one is falling within the cracks.
Again, the question-statement plagues: Who are you.
This self-portraiture piece explained.
Please understand this one thing, my gal. I write for you. You who are in flux. You who left the nest a long time ago. To chase dreams and careers and maybe even a lover. You who wandered from the flock, to find your inner passion. You who may feel displaced. You who may be away. On your own. Somewhere. Away from loved ones. I write for you. And for me.
In this self-portraiture piece, I explore the concept of change, flux, movement, ebb and flow. I explore displacement and migration and how those shape identity. I'm intrigued by groundedness and by stability. And also by frailty and vulnerability.
1. My static frame draped in orange fabric represents a solid, vibrant and energetic core. I love that the fabric sways in the wind. She does not resist change. She acclimatizes. She is adventurous and open to new possibilities. But she sticks to her core. Her values. Aspects of her that are unchanging. In so doing, she stays grounded in times of vulnerability.
2. The differently-shaded walls represent the waves and seasons of life. Each wall comes with its own texture, its own cast. One wall represents a period of prosperity and growth, another yet a period of fatigue and melancholy. She must walk past each wall. She must experience life in its wholeness. The good and bad. But she sticks to her core. Her values. Aspects of her that are unchanging. In so doing, she stays grounded in times of vulnerability.
3. And the shifting shadows represent the reality of our temporal existence. As I shot against these backgrounds, the sun's rays were faltering. It was sunset. Another day had gone by. The reality that is time could not be more persistent, more clear. Each day our lives tick away. We are mortal beings, that exist within a space/time trajectory. What we cannot escape is this very vulnerability. This very reality that our lives are fleeting. But still, we must choose to experience life in all of its wholeness. The good and bad. We must choose to love our lives and to be, only, our very best.
And so my gal...
As the shifting shadows of life, fall upon your colored walls, one truth remains.
You are immovable. Unshakeable. You are a roar of thunder. Unstoppable.
Hold fast to your inner core. Your values. Your empathy, humor, courage, discipline, forthrightness and humility. Take time to de-clutter your mind. Find a space of inner solitude from which to rejuvenate. Re-strategize, and when you've been hurt, re-energize.
You are human. You are also sunshine and energy. Beam forth. In grace and in strength, because you my dear. Are a force more beautiful and powerful than the world has seen before.
Love and Sunshine!