Monthly Archives: February 2017

Blog for Total Theatre Magazine, April 2016

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Hello Darling One,

My name is Selina Thompson, I’m 26, an artist based between Leeds and Birmingham. I make performance about –

I’m finding that sentence increasingly hard to finish.

And I think it is because I am changing quite a bit.

On February 12th, I got on a cargo ship, and sailed from Antwerp in Belgium, to Tema in Ghana. I left there, and flew to Kingston in Jamaica, before sailing back to Antwerp via North Carolina. I returned on April 12th, and my new show about the experience, Salt, will open on May 12th. While I was away, myself and my film maker had to split up, my grandmother died, my biological sister got in touch. While I was away, my hair was searched in customs, I tore the cartilage in my left knee, I listened to people stand outside my door and comment on the fact that I was ‘already as black as one of the niggers’. While I was away I showered outside while hummingbirds flew above my head, a French bulldog burst into my room and stole my luggage tags, and a load of flying fish jumped too high and landed on the ship I was sailing in.

I hang in a place of real ambivalence – constantly energised and primed, always exhausted. Full of anger and resentment that there is no time for me to recover from the journey before it is time to turn it into art, and delighted, absolutely delighted that this is my work. About to go on stage and reveal, reveal, reveal yet also fiercely protective and private about everything that happened, and about our process.

It’s a bit of a nightmare for Sharon, who is handling our PR with her customary brilliance and patience, and I love her for kindness and persistence.

But I am changing. I could not have experienced all of those things – and not be changed by them. I had never travelled before, never been bereaved of someone I really, truly, deeply loved before – had never skyped my parents before! It is a glorious place to make a show from, but perhaps a difficult one to market a show from. Marketing requires that you make things simple, and transparent – and for me at present, things could not be more opaque.

 

*****

 

In my head, we sit around a table – Producer Emma, Production Manager Louise, Director Dawn, Dramaturgs Season and Maddy, Film Maker Hayley, Voice Actress Nyima, Voice Actress Minette, Set Designer Kat, Assistant Set Designer Hannah, Costume Designer Hannah, Sound Designer Xa Na and Lighting Designer Cassie. And me.  We know there is a lot to do in a short space of time. We have three weeks.

So we say “We are not here to make THE SHOW because that could never be made in three weeks. We are here to make a show – to get from A to perhaps G on the A to Z of our journey. Perhaps when we’re in Leeds, we’ll get to J. But we are honest and open about the route we’re going down” We work gently. In the first week I tell the journey of the whole voyage twice and record it. We set ourselves deadlines – turn the journey into chunks, into… not even the skeleton of the story, more the bone marrow. But, we say – that is where the stem cells are.

 

We work with love.

Xana comes round to the flat on Sunday, and we try to work through the show. I am exhausted. We talk for an hour, and then she says to me – “would you like a nap?” So I sleep. I wake, we play with Minette and Nyima, get a sense of how our Elder and Child could sound – we finish, and I sleep again. We wake up, eat take away, and talk through sound palates – thunder drums, Lover’s Rock, the roar of the ocean, rain sticks. Overnight, we both watch Lemonade, and talk about it.

I sit opposite black women in cafes and we talk about secret things, dark things. We talk about our relationship with our mothers, we talk about trauma, we talk about anger and inherited agony and the real, real sting of racism. Not the negotiating of clichéd, racist old white men, but rather the internalisation of all of that, that crushes one from the inside, sees you turn on those most like you. “So if I was in the audience, I would be asking why,” Season asks “Why have you bought me here, to this place of trauma and haven’t I been through enough already?” and later, I answer Dawn “Because we are not crazy, I wanted to prove that and we need to keep telling each other that” There are tears. There are moments of silence where our eyes glaze over. But it is like that bit in Beloved when Amy Denver massages Sethe’s swollen feet back to feeling. Anything dead coming back alive hurts. The right amount of salt in a wound heals.

The rehearsal room begins to fill – Kat fills it – with blue velvet, with 25kg chunks of Himalayan Rock Salt, with Perspex boxes and salt bricks, with safety netting and false flowers, with safety boots and goggles and gloves with deconstructed Ghanaian flags and with cushions and plastic bottles. I walk down from getting my hair done – long, thick plaits, modelled off a still from Daughters of the Dust, then bus down the hill for the fitting of a heavy white pinafore. We fight with Homebase for the delivery of a much needed deck chair.

In the evenings, I tap tap tap and Louise solders, hunts down the rights to clips from Desmond’s, buys things, sorts our schedules and PRS and holds the whole project together in a way that me and Emma can’t quite believe. Emma sits on the sofa adjacent to mine. We hold hands sometimes, make difficult decisions. I tell her I need time off. She makes a round trip to Bristol every week, negotiates text messages full of panicked emojis every day.

There are pockets of tension around structure – journeys into the underworld, a resistance to linearity – too much language, not enough – trying to fit two months’ worth of experience into less than two hours of show. Balancing the politics and the personal, trying to figure out care for audience when telling a story that is so profoundly unsafe, and so full of pain. I cannot guarantee safe space here, I write. Perhaps you don’t have to, Maddy types back. Perhaps we all take responsibility for it.

 

*****

 

So how does all of this end in a rousing call to see my show?

(I’m having a little giggle, at the notion, I’m not going to lie)

Listen – everything about the show is up in that big bit of description up there. You pretty much know the storyline; the visual materials we’re building it out of – that it was made by a large group of women in a short space of time with a great deal of care. It’s about an epic adventure. You know there’s Desmond’s in it and a couple of the points of reference.

I hope you’ve figured out by now that it’s different to my other stuff – because I am different to who I was.

I still don’t know exactly what it will be like. And I definitely don’t know how you will experience it. I can’t promise that it will be always funny and warm and fun, all those words we use to trick people into seeing theatre. I can’t make those promises, and it scares me somewhat.  I cannot promise you that the show will be a safe space, because the things it looks at are not safe – grief, ancestry, colonialism, slavery, and how all of this is taken into the body – these are profoundly perilous and unsafe things.

But, I’m going to be brave.

And I’m going to say that I think it matters.

I think that what we are making together, my team and I, sat around that table eating Jacket Potatoes and Sandwiches from Café Amore, me pretending I’m enjoying the sludgy brown Nutribullet I made that morning, what we are making matters. That it is not, as Sylvia Wynters puts it ‘Some little piece of ethnic business for you to come and get your doctorate on!’ rather, that it is something that myself, and huge team of other people – including the 200 that donated to the Indiegogo in Feb and Jan are bound up in. That there could be a power and a resonance to it, that carries something of the change that making the work has sparked in my life.

And that that is why you should come to it.

Also, I’m not doing it again in 2016, cus I’m taking a six-month sabbatical in July, so stop asking me to bring it to London and come through, fam. Come through.

 

Lots of Love to you, love of mine,

 

S xxx

 

 

Blog for Sharon (our PR lady)

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I’m sat on a train.

The train is taking me from my Mum and Dad’s house, to a flat in Bristol – and that flat is going to be my home for the next few months. And while I’m there, I’m going to make the first iteration of Salt; my new theatre show.

It is a show about journeys. Seemingly endless journeys.

It’s about me getting in my dad’s car to the train station at Gravelly Hill, getting a train to Birmingham New Street then the train to Euston then the tube to St Pancras then the Eurostar to Brussels then the train to Antwerp then a taxi to a ship then a ship to Abidjan to Cotonou to Lagos to Tema then a taxi to Accra then a coach to Elmina then a taxi back to Accra to get on a flight to Dubai then a flight to New York then a flight to Kingston then zipping all over the Island in taxis on the Knutsford express and then a flight to Atlanta and then a flight to Wilmington and then a taxi to Wilmington Port and then a ship to Antwerp and then a taxi to Antwerp Station and then a Train to Brussels and then the Eurostar to St Pancras and then the tube to Euston and then the train to Birmingham New Street and then an Uber to my Mum and Dad’s house.

It’s about the sister I barely know travelling from London to Jamaica to understand our relation to the biological parents we may never know.

It’s about those biological parents leaving Jamaica.

It’s about my Grandparents leaving Montserrat and Jamaica, andthen coming to the UK, for better or worse.

It’s about my Dad never quite making his journey to Ghana (so I went for him, and his words, that’s enough).

It is of course, about millions of enslaved people making and not making journeys across the Middle Passage.

It is about what is important and powerful and beautiful and what is flawed and ultimately doomed to fail in journeys of pilgrimage in the diaspora.

It is not a journey that began in my dad’s car that frosty morning in February.

For me it is perhaps a journey that began when I read the first few tweets coming out of Ferguson and realised something wordless; full of fear and dread and agony about the world that I lived in.

It is not a journey that will end on the 12th May when the first audience take their seats in Bristol and become a part of that journey with me.

Salt is about how all of these journeys intersect – how one does not make sense without the other, how history lives in our bodies.

Sometimes Salt feels incredibly difficult to explain and to make clear. Taking this huge journey – and struggling to articulate why, other than that I needed to travel, for a long, long time – to pay my respects to something, or to someone. That I needed to be far away from where I started, so that I could look back at it, and see it differently.

But at other times, it is simple – as simple as simple can be. I needed to look back, to be able to see what was around me properly, and hopefully, to be able to change what I will see as I go forward. So I took to the sea – and I am making this show, so that I can take you with me. And we can stand, and look, and think together, change together.

See you there.

Indiegogo Five, Remember me as a Happy Fatty

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THIS SHIP IS DOING CRAZY THINGS

Nah, it’s not, it’s just sailing, innit? But the next time that I am beating myself up about my lack of dedication to my work (which is a common occurrence to be honest) I will think back to myself in this moment, listening to my cosmetics being smashed apart inside various cupboards, sitting between two beds, clinging to my laptop for dear life as the ship I was on sailed through ‘the remnants of a hurricane’ – the captain’s words, not mine – and I will give myself a break.

I’m back at sea, as you have probably guessed!

This is what I expected from the Atlantic, I have to be honest – the Ocean is wild, unpredictable, and if it’s not locked away in a cupboard, it’s going to smash. The water looks freezing cold, everything is breath taking, in the most literal way – breath snatched from your throat as you step outside, when you look out the window, as you hurriedly pick tea, kindle and sugar bowl off the table, as you watch every chair in the room slide towards you.

I realised – about three hours ago – the absolute depth of my overwhelm at the minute, and the colossal size of the task ahead of me – that the past two months need to be distilled in a show that is two hours long or less. I’ve been trying so hard since Friday – it’s Sunday now – to just work, just please, please do something – there is so much to draw from – and I’ve been trying to do this morning pages thing that Maddy set for me –  but it’s just too much, it’s just too much. I don’t know where to start.

Where I was that led to this project – ship one – Ghana – the flight – Jamaica – travel to North Carolina, and North Carolina itself – and now this

OH MY GOD WHAT WAS THAT I SWEAR TO GOD SOMETHING CRACKED

When I was flying to Atlanta from Kingston, I was sat beside a 72-year-old lady who had never left Jamaica before (‘why would I?’) and as such had never flown before. We had a little turbulence during the flight, so the captain asked us to put our seatbelts on, and Mrs Miller said ‘I don’t know why he’s asking us to put our seatbelts on, when it’s very obvious we’re all going to die’ – she was absolutely certain that this was the end, but so very calm about it. I couldn’t stop laughing for a while, and she told me that was ‘a good response to death’. But we didn’t die – and she clapped the loudest when we landed. I think that’s a Jamaican thing, clapping when the plane lands, it happened when I arrived in Kingston too.

So yeh, all that to say that every now and again, I’ll shout to no one in particular

‘OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO DIE’

And then continue to get on with what I’m doing.

Where was I… oh yeah

FORGET THAT I JUST LOOKED OUT THE WINDOW OH MY GOD THIS IS THE END DIVIDE MY BOOK COLLECTION BETWEEN JAMAL AND TONI MY SISTER GETS EVERYTHING ELSE AND TELL MY MUM AND DAD THAT I LOVE THEM SO VERY MUCH AND THAT IF I HAVE TO DIE AT 26 I’M GLAD I GOT TO SEE THEM ON SKYPE BEFORE I GO WHAT WAS THAT BANG

I’m listening to Satisfy My Soul by Bob Marley as I type this – and it’s one of the many songs that my Dad used to sing to me when I was very small, so I just assumed he had written it, and was so surprised when I heard it at the Bob Marley museum, akin to when I was six and realised that Sam Cooke was not in fact Delroy Thompson, he was a totally different man.

I was panicking about turning all of this into a show wasn’t I? I mean to be fair to myself, whilst there is a lot to come to terms with in the past couple of months, it’s not like I am in the middle of a peaceful space of contemplation, this stormy water makes me a bit giddy (haaaah, can you tell?) and it also means that as you do one task, you are also doing other ones – balancing, holding your laptop in place, going to tape or strap things down, trying to get a shit dryer to work, mopping up the tea that spilt earlier when my flask hurtled across the room – the steam was rising from the carpet, and I really, really had a huge exhale of gratefulness that it was the carpet it was raising from, not my calves.

I’m recording the view from my window for an hour every morning and every evening – iphones are a marvellous thing – there’s another artist on this ship, which is lovely too – he has a bit of a Libertines haircut, but I’m not gonna hold that against him.

The question with the show, I think – is what do you keep in, and what do you cut out? What is the narrative I want to shape? How personal do I want it to be? If the death of my nan has permeated every step I’ve taken since I got on the train at Gravelly Hill (there was frost on the ground) and is still causing me to collapse into tears every time three little birds comes on (like this morning) at what point is that grief overshare in the work, and at what point does omitting it leave a void within it?

But all of this might be beside the point, because AT THIS RATE I’M JUST NOT GONNA MAKE IT HOME

Emma, delete my browsing history and you can have all the booze in my bedroom, and the £2.47 that I have in savings (which I think is pretty impressive for an artist),

Adieu, Adieu, my favourite thing about being alive was eating, skin care, reading, spending time with animals and plants, speaking to people I love and having hugs,

 

xxxx

Indiegogo Four, Still at Sea

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I had high fucking hopes of drifting off to sleep like a baby tonight, but it appears that that isn’t going to happen, so I’ll write to you as I’m a big believer in not fighting to sleep – either enjoy just lying in the dark and not having to do anything, or enjoy the fact that night is quiet and still, and do something that brings you pleasure. I like writing, like this, so here you go.

I didn’t do any diary keeping last week – and I didn’t do any work today – I just couldn’t – I sent some emails and they were shit, and I just didn’t want to write about the time I was having. I sort of stopped eating a bit too. Not properly, lol, cus you know, IT’S ME. But just – no, I don’t want breakfast, I want like half a bowl of pasta for lunch, I don’t want any fruit or salad, I just want tea and maybe more of a pasta half bowl for dinner. Not eating, not sleeping, not writing. So I guess, not very happy.

Pining, a little bit, I think. Pining for my mum and my dad, and the friends that I love.

What to say –

“I was sat opposite the man at the Benin Visa place, white man, with glasses. And he’s got your passport, and mine in his hands, and the money’s on the table, and he’s saying that the people from Benin ‘are like animals to deal with, like feral children’ – and all I can do – like our money’s there, and our passports are there, so all I can do is just get the visas and get out of there”

Then later

I’m watching an officer tell another officer that Border Control at the Ivory Coast had presumed that we were sex workers, and they’re both laughing and I’m aware of our passports in his front pocket. And I’d have been surprised if we had got through the whole trip without somebody assuming that at some point – we’re two black women after all – and also I’m not too bothered about somebody thinking I’m a sex worker to be honest – but I wish there was a way that I could challenge the laughter that drips with unpleasantness but there are our passports and we’ve already been told we’re not allowed to film.

And another time –

“When he started saying that I looked at you and I could tell that you had just zoned out too, that thing where you let it all wash over you like a warm stream of piss – he’s saying ‘the worst racism is the racism from black people to other black people, you can’t trust them, nothing ever changes there, corruption, corruption, don’t think you’ll go out there and you’re all the same, you must be on your guard’ – there’s no point in arguing with people when they’re on that hype, you just let them get it out of their system, you just shut down”

And quietly, at dinner –

“What do you think the Italian word for black people is? I hear them say something that sounds like nigger a lot – nigger? Nigre? Maybe it’s a sea word? But I’m sure I heard them say Chinaman too I don’t know – “

Or with more of a giggle in a cabin

“And he said – ‘oh Dakar, it’s full of history – very ugly history, but ancient, long ago’ – and I thought, very true, it was a while ago, but the Romans were even earlier than that, but we ent gonna knock down the Coliseum are we? How uncomfortable does my shit make you that you need to dismiss it at every opportunity? How much discord and disruption do our bodies – black, female, mine fat, young and questioning bring to this environment?”

***

 

After certain conversations on board, it occurred to me that colourism was not something that was present in my childhood. So – I knew my hair was ‘a problem’, but skin tone wise, no major hang ups

Selina is that true?

– perhaps a vague sense that my little sister N was beautiful in a way that I wasn’t, and that that beauty was in some ways connected to the fact that she had ‘better’ hair and was lighter – I can remember looking at a pic of her, and thinking how light she was when she was a baby, and how dark I was comparatively.

And a sense that my nose was flat (my Dad used to say someone had sat on it – but it used to really make me laugh – I can remember us saying it to each other, holding each other’s noses and laughing) and there was the gap in my teeth (I did hate that, for years – that didn’t really change until I met someone else with a gap in their teeth, then I got over it very fast).

My hair and my gap teeth were my sources of distress, vis-à-vis beauty standards. And beauty standards are always, really, about whether we think we will be accepted, desired, loved, connected.

I can’t remember ever consciously wanting to be lighter.

And I can’t remember ever being encouraged to think that way either.

I can think of other, slightly more disturbing things – so day dreams about being an actress or a popstar, and the celebrity of popstar who I was projecting my body into being white – and that shit is dark, and I sigh when I think of it – but I don’t feel that that’s about wanting to be lighter – that’s about societal (and as such absorbed) notions of what a successful, beautiful, desirable actress looked like – a small part of my brain that was simply responding to the messages that surrounded it.

But no, not a sense that my black skin should be lighter, I don’t think – I never saw it as dark particularly – N was lighter, maybe, but I was not dark – I can’t remember devoting any thought to it. Maybe because we had such a massive family? I dunno. I never saw being dark skinned as a problem, and remember being a bit taken aback the first time I read about colourism – I get it, of course, and see it now, and I can feel myself responding to seeing visible dark women happily – Viola, Lupita –

But when I think of Dark Skin, the first thing that comes to mind for me, is my Dad, saying affectionately “you’ve caught the sun!” – If I’ve been outside all day, even in English summer (lol) my skin very quickly goes darker – so an hour in Cotonou had me very dark and a head inclined towards me, and the voice inside that head said

‘she’s already as black as the niggers’

And I said nothing – I felt it, bodily – but I can remember thinking five things

The first was my dad, saying ‘you’ve caught the sun’ and looking pleased and sort of in wonder of that fact – the phrase ‘you’ve caught the sun’ almost always came at the end of a good day. Was always a happy statement.

Of my family and I – Mum, Dad, N, Cousin, Aunt, Uncle and me, walking from our hotel in Greece, talking with raucous delight about how dark we’d gotten, and how healthy we looked, that we were glowing.

I think of my body, covered in scars – a doctor diagnosed a long term rash incorrectly, his words: ‘it’s so difficult to differentiate rashes on skin this dark’, and the medication I was prescribed I had a huge allergic reaction too – so now my entire body legs, arms, chest, stomach, all of it is covered in little scars, from where my skin formed sores and bled; huge source of shame and discomfort last year, it took me a long time to think about how I could start healing my skin and body. I think about my modest hopes that some sunlight and a couple of dips in the sea could exacerbate the fading process.

And a little later, of an Audre Lorde anecdote, of a woman drawing her coat away, repulsed, from little Audre on the subway, and it taking little Audre a while to realise that it was she that was being recoiled from, and feeling recognition in that moment.

But above all, loudest, amused

“you think this is black? You ain’t seen nothing yet! Come back to me after a week in Accra! Come back to me after two and a half weeks in Jamaica!

I’m as black as the niggers, you say?

Good!

Good.

Let me get darker still and make you even more uncomfortable.”

 

Always wear sunscreen and use after sun, UVA and UVB are not a joke.

 

***

I don’t know what any of this is – if its healthy, if its racked with denial, if its relevant, but I wanted to write this down and try and let it out of my body.

I’d like to sit down at some point and try to unpick the fucked up relationship that many of the officers seemed to have with West Africa, and the people that they worked with there at some point. I’d maybe want to think about how whiteness divides blackness – ‘not your type of black, their type of black; I think this about all black people, but not you, It’s a black thing, and African thing, so I can say it, because you’re from the UK’ – about the moment when a white authority figure knows he (so often a he, but not always) is in a position of power, and uses that opportunity to say things that are full of hate- knowing that you will have to listen, have to tolerate, and in doing so, validate those opinions because you need something.

There’s loads of stuff, but I’m bored of my own voice now.

Third Indiegogo Blog from the Sea, with Guest Appearance from Hayley Reid

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Hi Hayley!

So I really wanted us to do this joint blog thing, but obviously my insides have decided that today is not the day for anything other than me sort of lying in bed holding my stomach between little bursts of typing and reading (today, This Bridge Called My Back, beautiful as always, Open City by Teju Cole, a little boring, a tedious protagonist, and trying to get to the end of Black Skin White Masks – the Lose Your Mother of this weekend, I want to be done with it now. I’m also dipping in and out of a book called Imagining Home, which is about Pan Africanism – I’ve ignored it all week, convinced it would be boring, but I’m actually quite taken with it). So I thought I would write a little, then you could write a little, and though imperfect, that could form the basis of our first joint Indiegogo blog to the world on land.

I’m feeling very proud of us both this week – I know I keep saying it, but I am! From being, pretty much two strangers a fortnight ago and then two people really struggling to find a common language about a week ago to now being in a place where we are starting to work together on how we support one another as artists and as people. Forging these kinds of connections is not easy work, is not work done lightly. It has been at times a very hard process, with lots of risk, bravery, patience and vulnerability needed by both parties, but I’m feeling happy about where we are now – if a little anxious about the coming weeks – months! There is so much to do, and I think we’re partners in ambition as well as other things – as we sit together on the edge of language, knowing what we’re getting at, but not really having the signifiers to depict it, I still feel that we’re meeting in a common place.

We meet usually twice a day – sometimes just once – at 10am (tea, focaccia, donuts, smiling Luis) and then again at 4pm (tea, biscuits, amused Luis, bit of embarrassment cus he’s going to clean my messy room) – and I’m loving the questions that are coming up – from the filmic:

What are the different ways of capturing movement without moving the camera, how can the presence of people be captured without focusing on the body, can we project onto salt, how can we tell a multiplicity of stories visually?

to the practical:

What should our code of practice be when negotiating with border control and other officials, what is the best way of our working with the therapy support that we have in place, how do we set up guidelines to protect our working relationship and ourselves?

To the slightly more whimsical:

What is the place of subjectivity, solipsism and solitude in the work, what is gained and lost by the use of both film and theatre, what is it to work with the sea as an artistic material?

We are getting there. In our way, we are getting there – and I’m looking forward to being reunited with internet, with other people, with proper actual freedom (eat what we want, go where we want, not have everything so scheduled, being able to film) to actually begin to try things out, to put our planning into practice – maybe to fail, but in doing so, to learn that this is not the end of the world and to then try things another way.

Enough of me – over to you!

 

 

Blog Post: Filmmaker At Sea

 

Hi Selina,

I have really been thinking about how we can document our journey together, be it creative or more mundane daily things we do together. Well, it’s has been over two weeks since we left the UK. By the time we leave the ship on Friday, it would have been exactly three weeks at sea. What an experience it has been, these last few weeks getting to know one another, as passengers and artists on a fully-fledged cargo ship.

The first week from the 12th to 19th February, we spent the first three days stationary at the port in Antwerp. We had our first Pizza Day with the crew! We were treated to Italian TV; I think we said our favourite was the cooking show, as we were amazed by an authentic Italian cuisine that we were unfamiliar with. We were blown away by the view from the bridge at the port but when we were at sea, it was almost surreal. I began going up to the bridge after lunch, as I found it energising. And you tended to go up to the bridge to write. What an inspiring place to write?

On the 15th February we had our first project meeting, which was great! We spoke about ‘Checking-In/Out’, Pre-Production, and our plans to watch Sankofa (Gerima).

Then on our second day at sea I was overwhelmed by seasickness. It was a nightmare, I couldn’t eat and I was anxious doing pretty much everything, as my body was in flux. Selina kindly gave me some seasickness tablets, which I took immediately. Then one of the seamen (2nd Mate) gave me a box of Valontan (Adulti) and instructed me to take one tablet in the morning and one at night. I followed his instruction, as the instructions on the box were in Italian. Within three days I felt better and was happy eating Italian food, all three courses.

I started reading Sisters of the Yam (bell hooks), which I finished it within the week. It’s a great read; I want to buy it for all the women in my family. It was a life-changing read!

I started an Audio-Video Shopping List, which included what I would like to capture in terms of sound and image. At that stage I was very much responding to my environment, so ‘monotony’ and ‘repetition’ were the themes that came to mind. This influenced the Themes and Feelings log, which in hindsight is a bit depressing but it was a way of expressing myself.

Before the trip, I bought a new camera and didn’t have time to look at the manual; luckily I brought the manual with me. It’s almost 600 pages of camera information, instructions and guidelines. It’s been fun getting to know my camera. It’s more advanced than my older camera and the picture quality is beautiful. I’m really looking forward to filming in Ghana and Jamaica too!

Within the last week we’ve really made a lot of progress as a team, which I am really happy about. We’ve had some really inspiring moments shared. We have watched Nine Muses (Akomfrah), which really found useful in terms of identifying different ways of articulating and using tone. We have talked about our mentors and what we have learned from them. We have discussed what productions have inspired us. Our next meeting we will be talking about Pre-to-Post Production (filmmaker’s perspective) and Scheduling (film and live performance production).

We have recently past through the port at Abidjan, Cote D’Ivore and Cotonou, Benin. We spent moment’s people watching and wondering what it would like to be on land in the countries we have visited only from the insulated vessel.

Next stop is Lagos, Nigeria! There has been a lot talk from the seamen about Lagos, there’s anticipation in the air. I am happy to welcome a new experience and different perspective from the bridge.

Second Indiegogo Blog – This Time Last Year, When I Was At Sea

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Bleeeeeeeeh

I don’t want to work or read or lie here or listen to music. I want to spend the evening randomly flicking from facebook to twitter to Instagram to tumblr and back again with a little Netflix and whatsapp for good measure.

It’s cold.

Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh.

Dinner was boring – wait, no that’s a lie – me and Hayley had a really good chat, and the second course was ummm courgettes stuffed with minced meat and topped with mozzarella cheese, and I’ve gotta be real it was delicious. And sort of gently amusing to me – yesterday Francesco did courgettes all healthy and light with parsley and vinaigrette and nobody had any except for me and I had a tiny bit cus I was curious – and when I saw courgettes on the menu today, I thought, ‘he must be trying to get rid of them’ – so how does he do that? Smothers it all in cheese and meat and oil. Genius. It worked! Me and the captain had seconds. There was also Cauliflower with pasta today. Swing and a miss.

Right – so – today I woke up early and then late – struggled to get to sleep, excitement and then anxiety – woke up at half five and it was lovely – had so clearly woken from a deep sleep, and could tell I had barely moved because I was still all swaddled up like a baby. Was confused by the time, so went back to sleep assuming I’d wake up in a few hours time – only went and woke up at 11:17, didn’t I? But still felt so peaceful and content – so took meds, got in the shower, listened to Lianne Las Havas, la la la I’m v happy – and then was super late for lunch.

There was a tension at the table – yesterday I was like ‘the captain is racist why is he talking about black people all the time, I’ve just watched Sankofa I will not take this insult I will burn this ship to the ground’ so I was angry and late and sick of Italian men talking around me all the time in Italian. But I knew at the table that I needed to sort of – sort my head out a bit, because the world is shaped by the questions and expectations we have of it. And I think maybe I was seeing out an antagonist, so I found one. But this is something which will suck any joy and pleasure that might be available to me out of the next fortnight.

I send Emma and email asking her to rearrange Charlotte, and then wrote her a blog for the Indiegogo. I had no idea what Dario was saying, so maybe it sent, maybe it didn’t. SOON FIND OUT.

Then I went up to the deck, and sort of all about loved my way out of the sort of tension I was projecting around the captain. And felt a sense that perhaps he wanted to thaw some kind of sensed ice too – asking if I wanted coffee, telling me that I could get tea any time I wanted. I could feel the sort of awkwardness of two people trying to figure out how to ease tension when they are strangers.

Luckily, a butterfly did I for us! There was a butterfly flying around the boat – and I was curious if this meant that we were close to land – because what is there here for a butterfly? He explained to me that the wind from the desert blows them out here – I’m so intrigued by the boat and its relationship to nature around it – seagulls hovering, dolphins dancing, tiny birds frolicking in its waves. Flying fish jumped onto the boat today. The officers were talking about a time when they found an iguana in the boat –

Dario is watching a film, I can hear him laughing, I think he is having the time of his life. Someone was playing Beyonce really loudly today, and someone else was playing Evanescence, I enjoyed both.

And the captain told me about sailing down the Panama Gulf, and the ship that he was on being covered by blue butterflies, that were stunningly beautiful and migrating – said butterflies were then eaten by crows. He shrugged after he told me that – a sort of sad ‘circle of life’ shrug. He says something I really like which is ‘we are not fish’ – when Hayley was sick ‘yes, you sick, that’s because we are not fish, and this is for fish’, when talking about the danger of the sea ‘it is dangerous, because we are not fish, this is not made for us’.

He showed me on the map where we are – near Cape Verde, which might explain why everything is so stunningly beautiful – and showed me other boats heading towards us and away from us – his friend on another boat (they were trying to pass each other closely so that they could talk on the phone) – a boat carrying oil, that was sailing around Africa – he said the price of oil is low at the moment, so even though it will take them until the 23rd March to get to their destination, it is cheaper and easier to sail around Africa to deliver oil to the Persia gulf, rather than to sail through it. He told me that for a ship of this size to sail through the Suez Canal was 20,000 euros. V pricey.

We somehow got onto Africa – which is where he started his career. Africa – and Lagos in particular – are a source of tension for him, though I do feel that after our conversation, perhaps I have a clearer idea of where it is that he’s coming from. He told me that he started doing the route we’re on now essentially – and then went away, spent 12 years working in the Pacific – and then when he came back to Africa, nothing had changed. He spoke of looking out of one window of his ship in Lagos, and seeing huge amounts of wealth, and then looking out of another window and seeing poverty. He spoke about corrupt officials, and the ridiculousness of having to pay for a visa to be in the port, but said visa not allowing you in the country – and about having to bribe officials anyway in Benin and Lagos. He spoke about stowaways from Lagos – how if you figured out that they were there before you left the continent, you were fine – but if you took them back into Europe, massive fines would be spread between himself and the crew, and they would have regular inspections, huge amounts of stress. He said that a friend of his had found a stowaway, and another had found 4 – very recently – so Lagos must be a real source of anxiety for him at the moment.  I don’t know if anyone from the west can see Africa clearly – and I especially don’t know if a white man from Italy can. But I do respect that things like this are part of the stress of his job.

I asked him what made a good captain – that you can command respect – that you get your crew working hard, and focused on the job in hand. He told me he was a father first and a captain – or master, as he puts it – second. His son also ‘lives this life’. Any problems at home – wife, girlfriends – must stay at home. If things are really bad, buy a ticket, and go home – but when you are, your mind must be 100% on the job. It only takes 30 seconds of you not concentrating, and people die. And he is responsible for everybody here. It occurs to me that often, this job must be fairly lonely for him. And this all being said, I think that part of the sometimes silence at dinner – is down to the fact that conversation is kept to work – there is a distance they keep from each other in order to focus – and I can respect that. Me and Hayley disrupt that a little, I think.

– Sometimes, Luis will bring me and Hayley something – like Cake, and we’ll say no BECAUSE WE ARE FULL – and he’ll take it in the questions, and I’ll hear Francesco go ‘No?’ and Luis will go ‘No’ and then there’s a pause, and it makes me want to laugh quite a lot, as I think that even while they understand that we like the food and have stopped eating because THERE IS LOADS OF IT they still are like ‘why aren’t they eating?’

Back to the captain – we spoke a little about Syrian refugees and Italian pensions. That was tense – but I did not push it. Governments fail their citizens, encourage said citizens to blame refugees for their failures, which allows them to continue to exploit the political instability in the countries that cause refugees to flea, and generate vast amounts of wealth concentrated in the hands of very few, cutting people off from one another and subconsciously codifying the notion that wealth belongs only in the hands of white people, as they’re the only people that are stable (never mind the fact that said ‘stability’ only exists because of enforced precarity in other countries). I know this. I could probably explain it so that he knew it too – because deep down, he does know it. But who wants to argue?

There was also a bit when he was referring to Dakar and it’s ugly history – but it was an ‘old old history’ and I had a bit of a – I KNEW IT! Moment, because I knew that was what he thought of the project (not that it matters really) – I didn’t say ‘the romans are old but you lot are still banging on about Caesar/ we’re not gonna knock the Colosseum down, are we?’ But I could have. I wonder at the disconnect between – ‘Africa = chaos’ and that ‘old old history’ – but also, it again, is the luxury of the time to know it and understand it. I am not where I am politically overnight. It took me ages to think this way.

But it was a nice conversation – and I will try really hard to try and keep talking to people. Maybe I should do like Sophie Gingell, and think of some questions every morning. I don’t want them to think I’m spying or being nosy – but I don’t want to ask them too much about home, if it disrupts their concentration, or makes things hard.

This hasn’t really been about work or my wellbeing, but I really don’t want to forget that conversation, because it was really, really interesting – full of things I never could know.

What else… I wrote up a little script today, and hated the new bits I wrote – I don’t think I can Zadie Smith and write as I go along – I think I might need to try and create a structure? Or maybe I should write what is fertile? Where there are bits already? I’m struggling with words so much – they all feel too grand and po faced

– Let me see if I can get a cup of tea from somewhere, I’m parched, one minute

No tea, anyway

Perhaps I am trying too early to get scary things like ‘first drafts done’ when actually it would make more sense to be doing smaller, more experimental bits of writing at the moment, until I hit on things that feel like they work.

So if at the moment its all images, write lots of richly described images.

If you want to imagine where the elder and the child are found, then write that.

If you want to think about what a conversation with your father needs to sound like – begin to think about questions.

I still think automatic writing is a great idea – thinking about the book sooner rather than later (if that idea sticks, might be terrible) taking things from the fragments, and turning them into text – more painting, and playing.

Ooooh, I’m sleepy. Which is nice. I hope I can sleep well this evening, not sleeping is a dull affair.

p.s. sometimes feeling panicky about snakes and mosquitoes and spiders and sweat and flying too.

And am not homesick, but love home and miss it – oh my little mum and my silly dad and my pudgelet sister and the stupid cat

And Nanny, but she’s gone now, I can’t believe how often I think of her, Oh Nanny what if I forget what you look like and what it felt like to hold your hand? Don’t let me forget those things

First Indiegogo Blog at Sea – this time last year

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Goodness me, Hello!

So if you’re reading this, you are one of the people that donated some money in exchange for access to a blog documenting the research trip for Salt – UK to Ghana (via London, Brussels, Antwerp, Abidjan,  Cotonou, Lagos and Tema), Ghana to Jamaica, (via Dubai and New York), Jamaica to the UK (Via Atlanta, Wilimington, Antwerp, Brussels and London again).

I am writing this blog by copying it if off my laptop onto my iphone and then sending it from the toilet in my cabin, because that’s the only place where I can get 3G. We’re still in Antwerp, docked at the port until Monday.

So this is just a little opener for me to think about what this writing space is going to be – this project is heavily laden with writing – messages in bottles, postcards, diary entries, names in sand and recipes for the Indiegogo, a massive script to be constructed loads of reports to hustle money on the side, long long email exchanges with dramaturgs, and lots of sort of writing for my own mental health, keeping my brain ticking along calmly and well. So what is this one doing that the others aren’t?

Well I’ll try to make sure it’s not horrible travel writing, or here’s my holiday pics, I’ll save that up for my mum cus literally all she wants to know is how the weather is (dunno, I’ve been in the boat all day) and what we’ve eaten (so much! Donuts for breakfast, and then chicken curry with rice/squid with roast potatoes/beef stew for lunch and then massive slabs of pizza for dinner, MY GOD) and if the rooms we’re in are nice (yes, a bit like halls at uni).

I’ll leave the wanky stuff for my dramaturgs, things like this quote from Saidiya Hartman:

‘vision of African continental family […] born by captives, exiles and orphans […] racial solidarity was expressed in the language of kinship because it both evidenced the wound and attempted to heal it. The slave and the ex-slave wanted what had been severed: kin. Those in the diaspora translated the story of race into one of love and betrayal’

I’ll leave the dead emotional vulnerable stuff for Emma (producer wonder and good friend), things like this:

I saw on Instagram the other day that ****** had done a ritual, manifestations about what she wanted from life. I think if I were to do manifestations for this trip they would be:

That somehow I could be present at my Grandmother’s funeral

~I had to pause a little here, that is a desperately desired thing~

~Still sitting with the pain of saying that out loud, sorry~

That I could be a generous, patient collaborator

That I could be a gentle person

That I would be able to not pop with frustration – patience, patience.

To remain brave, open and excitable

To be creatively open and fertile, spiritually grounded, and

to keep where I am from held deep within me.

 

For you, there will be something that moves between those three spaces, I think – not in the very literal way that I just did, but in a way that is a bit like if Carrie Bradshaw made this trip, but she was broke and fat and black and bang into bell hooks.

Right, I’m going to go and read the trashy book that I bought with me to replace TV. We just found out that Lucas is cheating on Jhenah with Shanae, and it is ALL KICKING OFF.