Ela Mesma Company

Dispora Dance Theatre

The Masks We Wear

If you are recovering from ill health or the trauma of the racism and bigotry witnessed this week, we send you love and a warm embrace. How tragic, difficult, hateful and yet hopeful these past two weeks have been.

I felt proud of Bristol this week. In October 2018 I posted a piece of street art on my insta by an anonymous artist. It was a protest revealing the truth about Edward Colston.

Colston (though I imagine you already know this!) was a slave owner who was responsible for the death of thousands of human beings, yet he was celebrated as a hero.

I went to school in Bristol and can remember numerous calls to take his statue down. On Sunday, the public made it a reality! Marvin Rees, the Mayor, called it ‘poetry’ in motion. Colston who had Africans thrown overboard as commodities, now lies at the bottom of the harbour.

I read an interesting article (What ended the Slave Trade – The Teacherist) this week, which presents a convincing argument about why these statues should be removed. To those who say this is an attack on British history. This is history!*

This beautiful poem by my hero Maya Angelou also re-touched my heart this week, and feels very relevant in every way to the themes emerging over the past weeks: https://youtu.be/UT9y9HFHpU0

I am amazed to realise that one year ago, we were making a dance piece whose title would work so very well today. ‘The Masks We Wear’, was co-created with five wonderful young women in Leeds. (Watch their final performance here). Perhaps it is time to bring it back!

The piece explored personal reflections on identity, and the inescapable pressure of being female in the digital age. I worked in collaboration with Vamos Festival and Costuminati, funded by Leeds Inspired. We explored public and private self with five talented young women through masked dance.

As a person of mixed heritage, particularly one with very light skin, I have been drawing on the multiple layers of my own identity to hold the pain of loved ones, to pass on important information to those that might benefit, and to feel my own anger whilst acknowledging my own privilege. I have found this time triggering, healing, inspiring, but tiring.

As a result, the Getting Better Box has evolved further and is now full of anti racism recommendations. I invite you to have a look, and if you feel inspired to send in your ideas to add to the collection. (And of course continue to send your poems, your well-being and dance classes and anything else that you would like to share on the platform).

I have been thinking a lot about polarities and masks not just this week but over these lockdown months. I have been thinking about how much in our pre-covid world we boxed, divided and labeled: Good, bad, right, wrong, masculine, feminine, black, white.

Perhaps in a post covid world we might try to occupy the spaces in between? Can we, rather than label experiences as positive and negative be more balanced? More accepting? More open-minded?

I would like to finish with a passage by Kaya Mindlin, sent to me this week (read the full post here)

“This battle has been in progress for a long time, and a huge layer is being hauled right now. It takes great effort. It will take everyone’s participation – but participation will look different for different people.

How you contribute to this movement depends on your karma, skill, resources and capacity. Be you an orator, a maker, an artist, a writer, a protester, a healer, a religious leader, a politician, an activist, a parent, a therapist, a promoter, a networker, a teacher, an example, a friend… you are needed.

Your role may be visible to many, or to few, or it may be invisible. Maybe you are shouting from the rooftops, donating large sums of money, publishing books, leading workshops, starting protests.

Maybe you are counseling others, maybe you are praying, maybe you are tending to someone who needs care, maybe you are making someone laugh, maybe you are breastfeeding a future contributor. Do YOUR duty and it will have a ripple effect that contributes to the whole. Take in rest, take in nourishment, take in love, take in the divine. Then get to the work that YOU are meant to do”

Sending all my love in these different times: you are super(s)heros!


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