Eyes on the prize… award.

In February, I was nominated for the Jerwood Compton Poetry  Fellowship. I can’t deny I would have been really ecstatic to have won the £15,000 award, as well as the have had a multitude of opportunities such an ward in the world of literature affords you. It would to tide me over in the most difficult months of a freelancer’s year,

But during the drought, it was really interesting to be able to blue-sky dream a lot and envision yourself into  action.

I have been wanting to conduct oral history work and play with aural engagement with  VR, poetry and storytelling. This short trailer evidences it so…

So I dug through my audio archive and smiled at the memories of times I’d spent, working with live poetry, sound scoping and audio. I have come back to it, I have always loved radio dramas and have had a few opportunities over the years to exercise that oral imagination muscle. Here is the sample I sent to the Jerwood Compton Poetry Prize fellowship. (I must say I was very pleased to see a fellow poet and friend Raymond Antrobus as one of the winners. Go Raymond!)

The 5 minute Playlist

1) In Other Words – Zena Edwards and Jamie Woon – a commissioned collaboration for Apples and Snakes Poetry Organisation’s 25th birthday celebration

2) The Deadline – A commission by the BBC radio 4 for the Verse Illustrated Series.
A working girl suffers from insomnia because that deadline looms.

3) Bloodlines – Commissioned by Apples And Snakes Poetry Society for BBC radio 3. Twin Sisters are estranged because of family tensions after both their parents die. A trip around Africa hopes to mend their relationship. But no one can predicted how distance and grief cannot override the call of blood ties.

4) The Fury Project – Opening soundscape Commissioned by UK Arts International in Partnership with The British Council South Africa

5) Healing Pool – Zena Edwards and Truba, Randolph Matthews, Henrik Jensen and Mauricio Velez

 

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Zena E’s The Writery for Freeing Writers

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The Writery for Freeing Writers
For the past year or so I have been collating tips, techniques and quirky writing prompts to help stay inspired for my writing. When I think about what it means to be a free writer I refer to the writing exercise of free flow, some quality free association –. Imagination is valuable to us. It is crucial for a healthy mind. But sometimes it can get flabby as a muscle, can calcify because it is stuck in one motion of ‘thinking’ (?), Or it might need a prompt to encourage focus because of all the distractions the hectic-ness of life can bring. Sometime we just need little help to ‘free-up’ as creatives.
sparklerThe prompt, tips, tricks, quotes, images are designed to shine a spotlight in the creative creases of your grey matter, to be dowsing sticks that find that gem of an idea floating in the creative slip stream, to be Frankenstein’s life giving machine, a jolt the heart of the imagination into action.

Its become a healthy collection, so I decided to open up the archive  for those who feel they have a creative block at the moment, are a bit bored of their style and want to try something new, or if you just need a kick start. Have a browse and comments and requests are welcome!

The Writery for Freeing Writers

Verbalisation with BeatFreeks at BRep

imageBirmingham with Beatfreeks on Wednesday 27th July.

“How do you find your inspiration for your work?” is the most frequently asked question I get as a writer who performs her work. I can’t deny I am often stumped at the question. I trawl my brain for the one thing  but it just doesn’t work like that. I’m only sure of  a couple of things though – the world is full of inspiration and my gut and my heart have conversations all the time about the abstracts – love, conflict, relationships, frailty, resilience, environment, discrimination and power. Or that centrifugal spin of a coffee cup falling. That tense exchange through eye contact on busy  public transport. A door held open for an Elder. The truth out of the mouth of babes. Continue reading “Verbalisation with BeatFreeks at BRep”

Mind Meandering #5 – You’re Too Much

“You’re too much, too big, too open, too tall, you’re hands are too big, you’re too conscious, too choosy, too negative, too bold, too brash, too timid, too dark, too skinny, too direct, too sure of yourself, too placated, too self conscious, too doubtful, too strong, too humble, too black girl, too black, too man-ish, too white, too maverick, too unconfident, too emotional, too ambitious, too…too..too….”

These are some of the contradictory descriptions people have felt confident enough to say to me. Too many have a judgement and see nothing wrong in telling me so without a filter.

As a woman of African descent, my very presence and body seems to be an invitation to pull out a censor from the depths of insecurity and, with a flourish of a branding iron, singe my skin and consiousness with their armchair psychoanalytical judgement.

So many mixed message and tags I have had to navigate through the many versions of myself through one life time, many of them said during my formative years, or when I have been most vulnerable, or even feeling confident (a space which is oft times an uphill struggle to reach.)

What these comments do is deny me a safe journey into my full Self as a Woman of African descent. They deny me multi-dimensionality. They have been attempts to diminish and control.

Now I am older my first response is does this person commenting give a shit about me? If not, my second response is mind your own business. If what they say comes from a place of caring, I’ll consider their comment, but even still my *instincts* are my best friend, my North Star. My loved ones – old and new – have evolved into flag raisers asking me to pay attention. “Thanks for the heads up – what you saying instincts?”

But we must take care how we use the words “you should” and “you’re too” because they have the power to derail folk from their paths into fullness.
Each to their own journey.
‪#‎Memoirs‬
[Source: Shame. The person who shared this did not name the author with the post.]

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Mind-meanderings #4 – Bulldozing Art

I am sharing this Facebook post from a choreographer, artist and brilliant thinker friend from Nigeria. It was the passion behind his words that pulled me to do a quick google search about this New Artists Village space he speaks of. I understand why his fury flames.

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FYI – http://www.bellanaija.com/2016/01/artists-protest-as-government-demolishes-artists-village-at-national-arts-theatre/

“On Saturday, the Artists’ Village at the National Arts Theatre was demolished based on orders from the Director of the National Arts Theatre.

The government’s position is that the Village had become a hive for illegal and illicit activities. The artists on the other side dispute that accusation and claim the government has less than pure motives for their actions including possible commercial use of the space versus the current free art space.”

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Collectives of artists create homes that become their sanctuaries, their laboratories, sacred spaces of communing and creating, hubs for innovative and dextrous think-tanking for new worlds through art, pathways of resistance and artistsic bootcamps to decolonise of minds and heal societies are conjured in those homes. The bricks and mortar of these homes hoard memories and songs for the future. They can be gentles spaces. Spaces for fury and tough love when they hold up mirrors to those who oppress the already oppressed in the name of free thought, freedom of expression. Artists are not (and/or should not be) afraid to chastise and be chastised if the integrity of their work has dubiously become a manipulative tool for oppressive, repressive or stagnating status quos. It is rigorous critique that keeps things fresh: let’s keeps it moving. But ultimately, spaces found and nurtured by artists are formidable in their power to inspire and it is those powerful fountain well-springs of inspiration that frighten the status quo.

Continue reading “Mind-meanderings #4 – Bulldozing Art”

Tale of 2 Cities – Gentrification or Regeneration?

THE POETIC DEBATERS PROJECT

The Poetic Debaters Project has been quiet for a while, however, the praxis of PDP has been vibrant.
I have been using Poetic Debaters pedagogy to facilitate workshops since the projects pilot launch in the summer of 2014 and Tale of 2 Cities initiative is a prime project for using strategies of truth-seeking and diplomacy to  interrogate the pros and cons of gentrification that is rapidly consuming the city of London at a rate that is surprising and outraging  many.

Tale of 2 Cities is an initiative produced by Muenda O Kamara from Big Creative Education looking at the  fine line between regeneration and gentrification which seems  to have evaporated and there are many stories to tell about the contentious transition – jagged cross-fade from one world of local social cohesion to another – corporate and property development profit.

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Food Fight – Shake Youth Arts Actvism and Media

Shake! Rides again. As a core member, co-devising, structuring and facilitating Shake Youth Art, Activism and Media project, I decided to get personal in promoting the next intensive course – #FoodFight.

Here is the blog entry for the project’s blog using personal experiences with my vascillating relationship with food.

Thursday, 2 July 2015
Thoughts on Food Fight – Shake Summer Intensive 2015
POEMS, FILM, MUSIC, ART AND ACTIVISM, SHAKE! NEWS, #foodfight, #Shake2015, BLOGGING,

When the team was asked (I volunteered) to write a blog about the war being waged on our food systems for the next Shake Intensive course ‘#FoodFight’, I started to consider my own relationship with food, what I have personally seen with regard to changing attitudes and patterns of behaviour around food, and found that reams of questions poured out of my finger tips as I typed.
2013 and my finances were particularly low post-London 2012 Olympics. imageIf you had not been recruited with some kind of an Olympic themed large scale poetry project or spoken word education initiative, 4 months of your existence in that year was like being left out in the cold with your face pressed against a window while the party raved inside because you weren’t on the guest list. So, in November, broker than I had been for a very long while (2003 and just starting out as a poet), this freelance artist had to be scrupulous with her food shopping. Continue reading “Food Fight – Shake Youth Arts Actvism and Media”

The Poetic Debaters Project

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Young Poets from the Barbican, SHAKE! and Slambassadors‘ mentees with Sam Berkson, PDP facilitator
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Castleview and Cornelius Vermuyden School with judges 4i2i at Pop Up Festival of Stories in Essex
PDP Ackland Burghley
Acland Burghley School with poet judges  Jasmin Cooray and David Lee Morgan at Pop Up Festival of Stories Swiss Cottage, London

I have been a-brewing a project that I have a deep connection to and I think it’s because it involves all the geeky things that I love to do behind closed doors – reading for research, writing for passion, engagement and education, and devising performance to invigorate and inspire.
It has been a project nearly seven years in the devising, structuring and branding, and so far I have delivered several independent call-out group versions of the project and 2 schools programs.

The original idea for the project was to activate young minds into further engagement with important polemics and equality issues in the world around them, however the model is so flexible, it can adapt to raise awareness for any cause with strong social justice agendas. Ultimately, this is a program about truth-seeking and raising awareness.
PDP is supported by Pop Festival of Stories, English PEN and The Poetry Society.

Dylan Caulder from Pop Up is a much valued supporter of PDP as is Joelle Taylor from Slambassadors and Louise Swan from PEN. I really appreciate their energy and vision for it.

It has been great to work with fellow Poet Sam Berkson to co-facilitate and deliver PDP. We are also co-collaborators on another project exploring mental well being called, “The Poetry of Madness.”

As I am gold Arts Award trained, I am ready to deliver a whole progam to schools and education institutes who have the Arts Award as part of their curriculum.

Poetic Debaters excites me as a project because of the potential to reach and empower many young people, providing them labatory-like spaces for exploration and a platform for their voices with a strong poetry and debate strategising regime. Also for them to have fun working as teams, inspiring and enlivening audiences doing something they love, which, in turn, gives them confidence.
Very soon I shall be rolling out a facilitators package of training for PDP. Yet another exciting development in the projects life.

For much more information, visit the THE POETIC DEBATERS PROJECT blog/website and to hear audio of PDP debates in action, read poems from the young people.

Watch the PDP Promotion film by Juliette Dalton, 2Dice Productions.

 

~Z~

Spark – Hope in their Hearts

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It was quite a daunting ask, for me to be on  panel speaking about something as abstract as ‘hope’. Even as a poet it is hard to steer clear of cliche´s about olive leaves in the beaks of birds on the wing. All we know is that it is something that can be felt  in the body, and that hope can sometimes be made manifest in physical form like a lighthouse or a beacon to give direction when in the dark. There you go. This is what I mean about avoiding the cliche´s…

Ultimately hope requires a type of blindness. Not  myopia or blinkers or plunging your head into sand. It requires tunnel vision for a specific thing and committed conviction to that thing. But a long with that you must be propelled toward hope when in certain circumstances there is none.

Taking to the street to protest in many ways leads us to believe that we are all powerful if we are united, only to see some either lose their faith when they look up at the towering  enormity of the project of saving the world… Saving the world? Who would volunteer to that challenge when the prospect of death or ruin lurks at every turn. Only an extremely brave person or a stupid person would. I’ve heard

“Who is more the fool, the fool himself or the fool who follows him?”

Who and what do we follow into the future if it is not going to be our blind faith in the power of hope. The horrifying occurrences  in Gaza are holding our attention to ransom. Social media is going crazy over the bombing. And so it should, but there is something is seeing direct act like ordinary people protesting by occupying Bristol BBC Gardens to highlight the lack of balanced coverage that makes you feel galvanized, supported, rebooted because you know you are not alone in your voice. Some people would say, “So downloadwhat? I have a voice. But WHO’S LISTENING!?! No one cares.” Who is no-one? A million people marched against the illegal war in Iraq. “They still went in though innit?” said my regular-folk friend from Tottenham. Here is an example of where hope is thin, where people don’t think about hope, they think just about getting through the day, because the day to day is all that matters. And herein lies the rub. If we only focus on today, how are we going to build a tomorrow? How are we going to do this if we believe Hope and we are powerless.

Now this question aggravates me the most  but it can also become the driving force for seeking the answer – Who cares? I do. And I think that is what matters the most. Expressing a care is Hope in action and gives collective caring a chance even if we do not have a conversation about it.

There is always so much unsaid because of fear.  How about the unsaid that exists in Hope? We are often scared to declare the things we hope outwardly for fear of setting ourselves up for disappointment and making a mockery of our selves. What we need to think is that in the long run, opinions don’t matter, saving lives do and if that means holding on to tenuous sense of hope that things will be alright in the end, then let that be your soul  foundation of your every move in dark times. Darkness itself is nothing to fear, it is the unknown an din the unknown we can find potential. Its about shifting focus. And having faith that faith  will provide.

Hope has got to play a part in our healing first and foremost – being allowed to possess Hope, taking your desires or prayers to Hope, preserving the  ability to Hope. But what exactly is it though? As much as Hope  is a physical sensation (I feel it mostly download-1behind my eyes, strangely enough), to me, Hope has got to be made practical as well. Art has done that for me.

It has allowed me to organize a rather chaotic upbringing into a semblance of order, placing traumas and life saving memories in their rightful places in the past, in the moment or the future and making art was a method to calmly respond and act with Hope in the world.
Hope can catalyze organisation in way that at least make sense to the individual, even if nobody else.
Let it be your crazy Hope. And meditate on it, write it, draw it, collage it, dance it. Let it be the reason why you get out of bed on THAT morning when it seems most futile, even if the
best that can happen is that you make it through that day. Success!

I am looking forward to the next Shake! -You Arts and Activism intensive course  in August. It is all about mental health and well being. Perfect fertile ground conversations around the point of Hope.

Click the link to the video of my Hope In the Dark Stream of consciousness (with my not so new hair cut – the Lo-fro throwback!) – http://bambuser.com/v/4720016

~Z~

The Soul Manufacturing Company at Whitechapel Gallery

Last year I was commissioned to make a series of visits to read to some potters at the Whitechapel Gallery. My readings were a part of the Visual Artist/Performer, Urban Planner and Activist, Theaster Gates,  Soul Manufacturing Company for  The Spirit of Utopia  exhibition.

This interactive installation was an extension of the Gates’ previous works at the White Cube Gallery earlier in 2012 – “My Labour is my Protest.”
The Soul Manufacturing Company exhibition interrogated the notion of the value of art and was an oblique but very classy tongue in cheek critique of the art world – “who or what gives value to a piece of art,  how does the institutionalized canon of opinion in valuing the making of art maintain itself and what questions can be asked about the labour of the hands that make the art?

Six ceramicists were commissioned to make the simplest Japanese style bowls and cups and hand-made bricks from a basic clay as if in a factory production line every day for 8 hours a day. Hundreds over 10 weeks were made. The destiny for these objects seemed to be a bit of a mystery and in vein with how Gates works. They will be shipped back to the US and what they will be used for is being held close to Gates’ chest. Right now, let’s make pots.

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
Francis of Assisi

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My job was to manifest the value of each potter’s labour by offering them the gifts of poetry readings and song. Continue reading “The Soul Manufacturing Company at Whitechapel Gallery”

SHAKE! Youth Art and Activism – My Thought on the 3 R’s

I have been working on this incredible youth project for the last four years. Shake! is Platform London’s youth initiative which happen twice a year as a February school’s half-term and August Summer holidays intensive course. They take 6 months to devise with themes I would have been frightened of as teenager, more concerned with fashion and hair and whether I was going to make enough money at my holiday job to get the freshest garms to rock on my  return to college.

THIS type of project (post UK Summer insurrections 2011) is more important than ever and from 17th-21st February, I was again immersed in the politically inquisitive and emotional world of 16 young people who believe they can change the world with the poetic word and film.The process of devising this particular Shake course was perhaps the most befuddling because the themes were MASSIVE – Remembering, Re-Imagining and Reparations.
I wrote a blog about it and writing it was crucial to my process of grounding me in the themes for this year. I needn’t have fretted. The Young People delivered, as usual.
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Here is the blog post.

Zena’s Thoughts on the Three R’s- Remembering, Re-imagining, Reparations

This will be my fourth time as a Shake! facilitator and the third time as  core team intensive 5-day course deviser.Shake! 1: The pilot “Arts Race and Power” course honoured the lives of aspiring architect and London youth Stephen Lawrence, and the eco-activist and Nigerian Ogoni Tribesman writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and used their stories as case studies to interrogate the themes

Shake! 2 – The “Voice Verse Power” course analysed media representation, political definitions of race and power to estabilish, validate and give a platform for the voice of the marginalised and stigmatised.Shake! 3: focused on the themes of and “Power, Perceptions, Propaganda”.Now we’re going in deep – Remembering, Re-imagining, Reparations. This the title of the next course and it is going to be one of our most challenging courses to devise for the themes are so broad, complex and could potentially take us down a worm hole of new age theory and idealistic visions of Utopia. Continue reading “SHAKE! Youth Art and Activism – My Thought on the 3 R’s”

Parenting the Artist. Giving the Artist’s Manager a Break

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So, we made it through 2013 in pretty much one piece. Now, to continue the quest to thriving.
As I’m a freelance, self managing artist, I need to have work strategies in place for the fractious haggling of time and energy between the needs of the artist-self and the independent arts business manager/agent-self (she’s a stubborn-jawed entreprenuer <- what the personality my artist-self needs – an innovative somebody who is fearless and on her side in the business realm). Sometimes a cold war exists between them though, nothing gets done and procrastination wins the battle.  Some days I am in the negotiating room for 8 hours just to survive another day, diplomacy sweating and hoarse at the table. Continue reading “Parenting the Artist. Giving the Artist’s Manager a Break”

Women Make Music – Yes. I do.

I was recently asked to be guest of the month for The PRS Foundation because my last commission was funded by the Women Make Music Award. Why is it important for these kinds of initiatives with pots of money to exist highlights the fact, that the imbalance in the representation of women in the music industry is very real. Its funds like this that give opportunities to artist musicians, like myself, spread our wings, to make journeys into the obscured treasure of their voices and then to put those stories and voices out into the world to inspire and galvanize others. These awards shift the imbalance so that audiences can  have more choices about what they want to hear and have enrich their lives.
Gotta give a big shout out too Women Make Music!

Below is my interview for the PRS Guest of the monthe interview or click for the original PRS website page.

On 15th November at the Southbank Centre, London, Zena Edwards will be performing a new work written for the 21st birthday of Serious – the producers of the EFG London Jazz Festival (LJF). This work was supported through Women Make Music so we asked Zena some questions about her music and the new piece. Continue reading “Women Make Music – Yes. I do.”

Supporting the Legendary Hugh Masekela

I’m still tripping that this tour has been offered to me…

I’m touring as a support to Legends South African Jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela and Pianist, Larry Willis.

November 5th was the first date of this tour and meeting Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis was one of the coolest experiences with musicians I’ve had. Watching Hugh do Tai Chi; him, Larry and their tour manager cracking jokes over take away food back stage, hearing Larry and Hugh together warming up – magical. Piano keys sang around the dancing smooth horn lines distinct to Hugh’s sound. Both in their seventies and celebrating 50 years! of working together, this duo breathe each others spontaneous creativity. Definitely a landmark experience in my artist’s career (along with performing with Baaba Maal).

Big Thanks to David Jones at Serious, The PRS Foundation “Women Make Music” award and to Jon Speedy for being my partner in crime for this project.

Click for tour dates on Serious’s Website: Hugh Masekela and Larry Wills + Zena Edwards

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The Laugh – Zena on Def Poetry

Found this by chance. I thought I’d lost this piece of footage as Def Poetry had taken it down…

In 2002, I got a phone call from my then  poetry agent, 57 Productions, that they’d got a call from Def Poetry. I was so fresh into my working career as a poet that I didn’t feel ready for such a big show – I mean, I was going to New York to stand on that renowned stage where the likes of the Last Poets, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Sundiata Sekou, Jill Scott and Smokey Robinson had performed!
I’d never had TV make -up before and it was caked on. (I get it now). Plus the hustle and bustle back stage was a madness – poets reciting their lines loudly, painting shapes in the air, gesticulating  with that american gusto that scared a lil UK poet who was just feeling her feet in the  spoken word world. It was intimidating to say the least. But what poet from the African diaspora would turn down such a great opportunity. This mainstream outlet was, still is, the home of contemporary  of Black Poetry. Another landmark experience….

I performed a poem called The Laugh. It has had many incarnations since and has become a bit of an anthem.  This was it at its most fetal. I think I held my own…. 🙂
Plus it was kinda cool to have host Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) say, “Yeeeeeah, you was throwin’ it doooown…”.  “Thanks.” I squeaked. Nice moment.

Power Plant: WPD Relationship @ MAC Birmingham

When Apples and Snakes Poetry Organisation invited me to run a masterclass session of the writer/performer relationship, I was excited about flexing this muscle again after some time. What was meant to be a two hour sesssion turned in to four hour of exchange. Directors gained a deeper insight on how to listen to the needs and vision of the writer. Writer-performers learned how to engage more deeply with the creative process of the director, while both worked together empowered the performer inside the writer. At the focus was honouring the potency of the story. It was most enjoyable. And the fact that the session ran two hours over the designated time, the group reaffirmed the value of this a dialogue around this layered and fruitful relationship. Performing poets, writer-actors and directors keep an eye out for this course over the next few months. Coming to a venue near you.

Click for more info on WPD

“Power Plant” is a series of free poetry masterclasses delivered by established pracitioners, Continue reading “Power Plant: WPD Relationship @ MAC Birmingham”

Shake! Youth Arts, Race, Media and Power Project 2013 Is Go!

I have been a core project consultant and deviser of Platform London’s Youth Project, ‘Shake!’, and finally the time has come for it’s delivery. Shake! has been in development since it’s pilot 2010 and successfully received two years funding thanks to the hard work of Jane Trowell at Platform. I spent a day with the  rest of the Shake! team creating the courses curriculum.

I have to say, I’m very excited about delivering this program. Lot’s of interactive learning through creative writing, film making online graphic design…and it’s brilliant that in such hard times, so much can be offered for free. We have a great team – Ed Lewis (Demand the Impossible), Farzana Khan,  Simon Murray and Derek Richards from Hi8us Films South. Plus the Platform London team who are offering all kinds of support, information, research and delivery tips that are invaluable. It’s going to be an amazing year for Shake!

The first Shake!  intensive course is free and runs from 18th February – 22nd Feb. The continuity workshops and mentoring through to Shake’s summer intensive course. Dates to be confirmed.

Click for more on Shake!  info and for details to enrol.
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South Africa – Cultures Worth Fighting For

Today, I want to write about the South Africa I love. Not about Malema and Zuma, the travesty of the ANC legacy post-Apartheid or the shocking images of Platinum Miners in South Africa mown down by security forces (warning: graphic video) last week.
I want to write about the South Africa that has so much to offer in terms of its Spirit and I feel this will be the first of a series of posts about it.

Since I saw this horrifying raw piece of footage, I have pulled out all my music, novels and poetry collections to remind me of why SA is still a life changing place to visit.
My personal connection to South Africa is linked to something ethereal. I think. South Africa was my first visit to the African Continent in October 1994, just after the abolition of Apartheid and inauguration of Mandela. My returns since  have been connected to the most important thing that has influenced me as a human being and that is the country’s passion of Creativity – turning the Struggle, concepts of Freedom and Liberation into breath-taking Art, Music and Theatre and Dance. I will always be grateful to Pops Mohamed, Busi Mhlongo, Moses Molelekwa, Madala Kunene, Bheki Mseleku,  the Xhosa Singers of Lady Frere, Dizu Plaatjies, Kheti, Thandiswa,  Zim Ngqawana, and  Vusi Khumalo for the music they have given me.

Recently, I was asked by the  Kassiani Lythrangomitis from the South African Tourist Board for an interview about my life as an artist and my relationship to SA. Below is the podcast.

Click to visit the Global South Africa  Website

In 1998, I was on tour with Pops Mohamed and the NGQOKO Women’s Cultural Group of Lady Frere – from the Ngqoko Village in the Eastern Cape. This choir is one of the last practitioners of the Umngqokolo (overtone) singing – an ambient trance song that made my hair stand on end, stirring the spirit in my very bones. I remember our tour to Zurich, Germany, Paris…. My mind was so alert as I was taught how to play Umgube (mouthbow) and some of their deep-rooted traditional songs whilst riding the tour bus. These Women knew  how to party. One prominent memory of this tour was shopping in Paris. Parisiens stared as they walked through the chilly moist streets near Monmartre in layers of blankets, beads and headwraps  and I was flipping mental somersaults speaking in broken french to market vendors translating their utterances into  my even more scanty Xhosa to help the ladies get the right sized clothing for their children. But it worked. My brain was so alert. It was a  time and tour I will never forget.


Here is Singing the Praises of Women – a poetic and song collaboration with The Lady Frere Singers, live in Geneva.

One of the other highlights of my SA connections in poetry and music was recording with the late, great Busi Mhlongo – one of the most powerful women I have met. She was a giant on stage. In 2000, still very early in my poetry writing career, I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute a poem to her internationally acclaimed album, Urbanzulu.
The track itself is epic and seemed to call for an epic poem – one that was declamatory and rousing.

To be continued…

The UK “Riot” Maze

My own mixed-feelings and thoughts around the UK riots have been just as compelling to me as the multitude of articles, conferences, panel discussions, arts pieces that have been born from them. I have concluded to think about the riots as a sort of “tilling the soil” for  planting seed of re-imagining, using this ‘opportunity’ to be creative in tackling deep seated social and economic issues head on. I had grown tired of hearing the stock responses, shouting down  or the pussy footing that goes on that tends to go  won when race and class become the focus of a conversation.

One thing that I have found annoying me a little is the Image of the guy in the grey tracksuit and  black scarf walking with a mini inferno crackling behind him. I’m not even going to add it to this post. It’s almost a perverse sort of fetishizing and branding…

Two articles caught my attention this week. The Guardian / London School of Economics / Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Reading The Riots Report and the  Neil ‘O Brien of The Telegraph – How the Guardian destroyed the left’s excuses for the riots

I’m still going through the Guardian/LSE report.  Here are the thoughts that Ieft in the comments page of The Telegraphs critique of the Guardian report.

“This is a less a case of misreading the riots but more of balancing representation. For the last three months there has been plenty to-ing and fro-ing between “it was pure criminality” and “its poverty and disaffection”. Both land on the same landing strip – the lack of a Continue reading “The UK “Riot” Maze”

The UK “Riot” Maze

My own mixed-feelings and thoughts around the UK riots have been just as compelling to me as the multitude of articles, conferences, panel discussions, arts pieces that have been born from them. I have concluded to think about the riots as a sort of “tilling the soil” for  planting seed of re-imagining, using this ‘opportunity’ to be creative in tackling deep seated social and economic issues head on. I had grown tired of hearing the stock responses, shouting down  or the pussy footing that goes on that tends to go  won when race and class become the focus of a conversation.

One thing that I have found annoying me a little is the Image of the guy in the grey tracksuit and  black scarf walking with a mini inferno crackling behind him. I’m not even going to add it to this post. It’s almost a perverse sort of fetishizing and branding…

Two articles caught my attention this week. The Guardian / London School of Economics / Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Reading The Riots Report and the  Neil ‘O Brien of The Telegraph – How the Guardian destroyed the left’s excuses for the riots

I’m still going through the Guardian/LSE report.  Here are the thoughts that Ieft in the comments page of The Telegraphs critique of the Guardian report.

“This is a less a case of misreading the riots but more of balancing representation. For the last three months there has been plenty to-ing and fro-ing between “it was pure criminality” and “its poverty and disaffection”. Both land on the same landing strip – the lack of a Continue reading “The UK “Riot” Maze”

The UK “Riot” Maze

My own mixed-feelings and thoughts around the UK riots have been just as compelling to me as the multitude of articles, conferences, panel discussions, arts pieces that have been born from them. I have concluded to think about the riots as a sort of “tilling the soil” for  planting seed of re-imagining, using this ‘opportunity’ to be creative in tackling deep seated social and economic issues head on. I had grown tired of hearing the stock responses, shouting down  or the pussy footing that goes on that tends to go  won when race and class become the focus of a conversation.

One thing that I have found annoying me a little is the Image of the guy in the grey tracksuit and  black scarf walking with a mini inferno crackling behind him. I’m not even going to add it to this post. It’s almost a perverse sort of fetishizing and branding…

Two articles caught my attention this week. The Guardian / London School of Economics / Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Reading The Riots Report and the  Neil ‘O Brien of The Telegraph – How the Guardian destroyed the left’s excuses for the riots

I’m still going through the Guardian/LSE report.  Here are the thoughts that Ieft in the comments page of The Telegraphs critique of the Guardian report.

“This is a less a case of misreading the riots but more of balancing representation. For the last three months there has been plenty to-ing and fro-ing between “it was pure criminality” and “its poverty and disaffection”. Both land on the same landing strip – the lack of a Continue reading “The UK “Riot” Maze”

London University – Talk London

I was asked by Dr Monica Germana  to speak at London University on a panel for a series of lectures entitled “21st Century Writing London”, I had to speak about London and its effect on me as a writer. I was in good company:   Oladipo Agboluaje, Inua Ellams, Ben Musgrave and Nina Steiger. I seemed to have found it much easier to be able to interpret the city through a poem that I had written as an introduction to “Security”, my first one woman show. It held all the grit and the contradictions an exciting but daunting metropolis flaunts and hides simultaneously.


Click to go to “SECURITY” blog

GOOD HAIR!! Its a Journey – Woven in Time – A docu-poem on the ongoing drama of Black Women and their hair

Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” docu-film got me thinking about how we black women tackle the hair issue in the UK. Story isn’t much different but a short study last year and review of my personal story, spurred me to share this. So this  extended poem written by me, commissioned by BBC Radio 3, is full of radio interviews in some of London’s black hairdressers with contributions from Dorothea Smartt and Khadijah Ibrahiim. Aired in the summer 2009.
After the advent of Chris Rocks  movie  this poem keeps the debate going in the UK.

The politics of hair affect all women around the globe. We are under constant pressure to beautify and manipulate our outer appearance taking our focus away from engaging and empowering our inner world. The first place we can attack is our hair because it’s accessible and is so malleable. But the world is fickle and making those changes will only put demands on us to reach a next level of perfection that will always be unattainable.

Listen to The Journey  – Woven In Time

The trials for Black women though, is also weighted in our historical confidence in our colour  as well as  to our physiques. Our beauty is tied up in a hierarchy of concepts that start with how we value our African features at the foundation.

We must stop falling into that evil corrosive  trap set for us (and unfortunately maintained by us). The trap rooted in a colonial concept of divide and conquer. We must stop resorting to knee jerk reactions, about good hair bad hair when really, its not about the hair, its about perceptions. It’s how we choose to compartmentalise and label ‘other people’ and their habits just so we can feel comfortable about where we place them in our personal world of “well do I look better than them?/are they more inferior than me because I look better than them?” cliches. Get over it. There’s nothing wrong with you either!

I get so tired of hearing the same old regurgitated ‘relaxed hair’ theories   as if it was tense before it was chemicalized) and weave jokes, when we need to look at  esteem issues first, then you can utter finite statements about the choices we make in adorning ourselves.

Fundamentally, I think Black women playing with their hair is part of our survival tool kit. Any judgments made, is the person who is judging business, not ours. Know thy “SELF”. And DO YOUR THANG LADIES!! x

SECURITY GOES TO JAPAN

A promo snippet for Security – the Woman Show in the Shizuoka Theatre Festival 2010. Making history. The first UK show EVER to be performed at this prestigious theatre fest.

Honoured.

CONVERSATIONS: TO INTIMACY AND BEYOND

intimacy flyer hard copy front I have been blessed with an amazing team of people to make the next phase of the development of the Conversations project.

There is so much to talk about in terms of the dream for this project…will flesh it out later.

But I will say that this is  technically phase three of the project because I started to incubate and develop the concept 3 or 4 years ago. Back then the team was myself, Moss Velez, Henrik Jensen and Randolph Matthews at the Poetry Cafe in 2002…
Oops, that’ll be 7 years… my, don’t time fly!

But here we are in 2009 and now I’m looking at forging some strong bonds and digging some deep roots for a sanctuary to exist, where professional and emerging artists can come together and make work in new ways.

CONVERSATIONS: TO INTIMACY AND BEYOND exploring human connection in the 21st Century. Click for more info.

@ The Albany, Deptford, Douglas Way,  London SE8 4AG

Tickets £9, £6 concs

Box Office 020 8692 4446 / www.thealbany.org.uk


Musical Cinema-sculpting by:
Jason Yarde – Saxophone
Soweto Kinch – Saxophone
Ben Hazelton – Bass
Jon Speedy – Guitar
Cheryl Alleyne – Drums
Thebe Lipere – Percussion
Simon Colam – Keys and FX

Poetic Lushness with
Zena Edwards – Poetesting
HKB FiNN – Spoken Herbs
Maxwell Golden – Wordsmithery
Leeto Thale – Poetic Lucidity

Sight-sensatizing by

Your Mum Visuals – Kelly Budge and Matt Williams

AN ARTISTS MODUS OPERANDI

Dedicated to the artist – the warrior engaged in daily struggle for all the truth in creativity, untainted and ego-free. Seeing past the masks of the industry to the reach the heart and spirit of the open ear and eye.

The Artist

So here it is
Nothing more nothing less
This
My body
These bones
This muscle
This voice
These eyes
These feet Nothing more nothing less

But

this,
This body
With this spirit
This life
This light
This
Is all that I have

This sound
This painting
This vision
This song
This lyric
This potion
This magic
Is all that this body and spirit have
To offer
Nothing more nothing less
And yes

This power
This beat
This breathe
This passion
This fire
This desire
Is all I can stand
And I stand

Tall
In my light
In my darkness
In my might
With my tongue
With my body
With my God

With my song
With my poem
With my dance
With my drum in my heart
With my muscle
And my Dream
With my People
With my Tribe
With my Culture
Veiled and revealed

I burn candle
I burn night
I burn stages
I burn bright


With my song
With my poem
With my dance
For my People
For Tribe
With my drum in my heart
With my muscle
And my dream

With just my body
And my spirit
I fight battles
And win wars
And the mighty
Shall tumble and fall

Under my poem
And my song
With my dance
With this
This, my body
These bones
This muscle
This voice
These eyes
These feet
Nothing more nothing less

So here it is
Nothing more nothing less

The Artist© – written by Zena Edwards

ITS ALL POLLOCKS!

pollock.moby-dickCorr Blimey! It’s nuts!!

Emails, phone calls, meetings, emails fone calls, meetings, femails, mone talls eetingz teephails lone malls peetfings…!!
No food. No sleep… as for writing a poem? When’s that miracle supposed to happen?!!! ……aaaarrggh!! 😮

And I wake up some days thinking. “What the (expletive)!! What The (beep beep) am I doing all this (can’t say that) work for!!!
I’ve been busting a gut trying to get figure out how to get an agent, meetings for new projects and getting the two other blogs up and running. Conversations and Security.

I’ve had some very exciting progressions though, because sometimes, doing this poetry thing is as abstract as a Jackson Pollok piece. (tho I happen to think he’s quite cool.) But you know when you feel like you’re one step away from a major breakthrough? The one that is the catalyst for divine enlightenment? Like you’re about to understand the meaning of life? well the reason for why I do this Poetry malarky is about ….5 of those steps away. But its all good though. a step closer than yesterday.

I’ve had some great chats with the like of Malika Booker, Francesca Beard, connected with Lemn Sissay. And funny enough, I got a request to do an interview from an MA Poetry student on the necessity of network in the development of an Poets. IT’S CRUCIAL! That would be the answer to that. Interview done. I’ll be reflecting on that a a bit later.

But hey, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t writing at all. A journal entry and the odd squeak of creativity will filter though the other mental static. Besides, if I didn’t think all the madness and mayhem was worth it then I’d be bovvered about what people thought of me when I come out my house looking as bedraggled as Lilly Allen on a good night out, after 21 hour, 18 hour, 13 hour stretches at the computer hooking up the blogs. Appreciate it if you took a look at them and commented. Particularly for spelling mistakes cos I can’t see straight anymore…. singed retinas and all.

Back on the other side of the weekend

Peace and Candy

*~Z~*

Check this Pollok Link. Jacksonpollok.org Its WIKKID FUN!!

ALL ABOARD THE ALBANY!!

8759a7144f14bbb57a624684055506b1Now I gotta tell you, there is a multitude of reasons I love the Albany in Deptford. I’d go there just for the food. But what I love about the place is that as a community venue, I feel it is used BY THE COMMUNITY!

There’s theatre, live (really live) music, performance poetry, evening courses, childrens ballet, an OAP choirs, Heads for Business advice service if your just starting out as a new business, a special needs disco… I mean I could go on.

caf373fb0eb5afcbe72019ef264811e1Young, old, disabled, every culture and creed that I believe makes up the area of Deptford, thus representing the city of London, uses this space. It feels like a family home with the same tensions and bubble Love you get in any family home. It’s real. No pretences or pretensions. I put that down to the staff and the programming of events that go on there. I find that too many venues lose their way in how they provide art for their local community because of funding. It’s all about ticket sales –  “bums on seats.”

a21d29abd03e7b4f6e7a7763f535925cIt’s a kind of tyranny when a venue is at the mercy of fulfilling the criteria set by funding bodies. But I get it. I’m not mad at anyone. The Olympics are coming to town and everyone is feeling the pinch as cuts are made to budgets of community venues, charities and arts project a like. I myself know a couple of people personally who have seriously felt the slash of the blade and their organisations are “not waving but drowning” or have well and truly sunk. It ain’t fair.

cd5acf66030d716ab6d68f930f3d2f02But what amazes me – and it really is a testament to the spirit of creativity – there are artists who just keep on keeping on. Broke as broke can get; they’ll build a bridge when there’s a ravine, they’ll build a raft if there’s rushing water, they’ll spit on a fire if they thought it would hold back the flames from consumming an arts project, a gig, event , screening or exhibition. They find a way out of “know” way. Aside from this being very Hip Hop, it is also a testament to those who believe in filling that gap in the spirit of society where the heart of survival exists. Make art. Everybody make art. And The Albany is a place where they hail this motto.

LONGEST TIME

Yes it certainly has been that. Too long. But a good long. A long enough to have me here for 5… I lie, 7 hours, beautifying and updating my other blogs.
http://zenaedwards.wordpress.com and
http://zenaedwardsconversations.wordpress.com/

One woman show has been taking on a life of its own and, really, after two years, it ‘s behaving badly or shall I say uncontrollably and taking on a life of its own. But I do not begrudge it. It the best thing to happen to me.

So here on WordPress, eyes are stinging, sun is up, birds singing and I’m about to make some rice crispies with warm milk 🙂

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