Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Teachings of the Drum

Every Tuesday evening, I jump into the curry coloured jeep and head North up the island. I journey to the community of Tivoli, St. Andrew’s, home of Grenada’s most popular cultural drum troupe, the Tivoli Drummers. I head up the island to take part in drum lessons with a group of young boys from the community. Graciously I was invited by friend, founder and leader of Tivoli Drummers, Livingston Krumah Nelson after expressing my desire to learn to beat the djembe I had recently acquired.

Every Tuesday evening I drive North through the winding mango shaded roads where kids make their way home from school; white cotton shirts and school coloured skirts and pants bop in between the lush dripping greens and blues of an afternoon tropical heat.

Every Tuesday evening, my presence on the road weekly provokes peaceful callings, “White Rasta”, “Tuesday Sistren!” “Sistah on the move again."

Every Tuesday evening the boys and I gather to form a large circle underneath one of the Tivoli Drummer’s homes, each of us cradling our djembe between our legs anxious to begin the teachings. We wait for our teacher to give us our first beat. We move from the basic beats to more complicated rhythms that are encouraged and shared by whoever is sitting to the right or left.

Every Tuesday evening the teachings are ripe with learning and I begin to understand how they are so much more than the beats of African and Caribbean Soca, but extend into teachings of community and unity; of relationships and the art of listening; teachings about respecting oneself and others.

Every Tuesday evening our teacher emphasises the importance of listening, not just with our ears but with our hearts and bodies. He makes us place our hands on the head of our drums, eyes closed, and listen to the beats he creates with his heart and spirit.

Every Tuesday evening he talks of respect, being in relationship with our drums. He compares this to the way the boys will treat their future girlfriends. This creates great explosions of laughter. Our Teacher explains, “you must not treat your drum roughly but take your time. Be gentle and soft, showing love and respect."

Every Tuesday evening, I inhale the teachings of the drum, the teachings that inspire and empower these young boys to be more then what they see on the block, on tv, in the school yard; to be more just like their teacher, a man and friend from their very own community, a man that radiates respect, a man they can be proud of as they witness his success as a community man, a well- known drummer and teacher.

Every Tuesday evening I recognize the needs of our young Grenadian boys and our young boys across the globe; the need for strong male mentors; role modals who take the time to share the teachings of love, respect, and being in relationship with one another.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

i am a super moon

On many occasions I am asked where the titles of my paintings come from. Some say they love the titles just as much as the visual and on many occasions the title sells the painting!
Where do the titles come from? My love of words, of writing, of music, of poetic conscious lyrics spilling forth from songwriters, poets, writers, my own play of words and spirit.
“What comes first,” I am asked often, “the title or the painting?” And the answer varies with each painting.

“i am a super moon” came first. I was introduced recently to a beautiful singer, song writer Marie Daulne, who is the founder of the musical group Zap Mama. I immediately fell in love with voice, rhythms, lyrics… I found myself immersed in the music for the day while diving into my own super moon vision on canvas. Feminine moon images continue to fill up my mind as I sketch Grandmother Moon Women in honour of our Elders, our Ancestors, our Guiding Spirits!

In the Tower of Love

Leonard Cohen also became a recent inspiration for the painting above. Last month I found the long lost cd, The Best of Leonard Cohen. I was thrilled to hear Cohen's honey drenched voice flowing into the room. I travelled to my past and bathed in memories of those turbulent exciting emotional years when desire and love weaved its magical powers. Cohen’s Tower of Song became “In the Tower of Love” as I painted my own vision of towering trees and love woven.

Both paintings will be hanging at a One Woman show early December in Toronto, Ontario!
Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Do We Stop the Seduction of our Young Women and Girls?

My mind moves incessantly these days to the young Grenadian women in my life. I can’t help wonder about the obstacles they must battle, obstacles that compete with the changing tides of their bodies, minds, emotions and spirits. Kayla, my 16 year old god(dess) daughter has been living with us for the past month and so perhaps witnessing daily the battles she faces while manoeuvring through the seductive advances of older men and a highly sexualized environment that rewards her for buying into the seduction with a false sense of power and confidence, has me writing and searching for answers.

I recall four years ago when Kayla and I were walking down the road on our way to Grenville. I remember the sexual glares and stares of older men moving up and down Kayla, throwing out comments like, “How you so sweet girl?” “Whats up sexy girl?” “You move nice girl want some company?”
“She’s 12 years old!” I hear myself saying calmly at first and then loudly, boldly, angrily, “She’s 12 years old! How would you like it if your 12 year old daughter, sister, cousin were being stared at and called the way you are staring and calling this 12 year old girl?” Kayla is laughing loving the attention, loving being noticed, talked about; her existence affirmed in an unhealthy and potentially dangerous way but nevertheless affirmed, acknowledged, seen.

I become a female wolf scanning the horizon, head tucked between paws, eyes surfacing, glaring out into the distance ready to pounce, to protect my young from the threats, from a scandalous scene of seduction that seems wrong, unnatural, abusive, violent. So why is it happening? Why is it happening all over the world? Why are our young women and girls being seduced by older men?

I hear the old conditioned, habitual patterns of violence and oppression falling from Kayla’s Mother’s mouth ‘She rude too much. You feel she easy Maureen. She only have men on her mind. I give up. She mind no good!” I hear this often as a way of defining our teenage girls here in Grenada, those girls who reach out and respond and then eventually react to these same men and find themselves either sexually involved or sexually abused.

Why are some of our girls accepting, falling for the seduction? Is it about economics, keeping up with style, survival? A promise of a new shoe, a bag of corn curls, a piece of kentucy fried chicken, a cell phone, free bus ride? Or is it to satisfy more hidden needs like the human need to be loved, seen, heard, affirmed, acknowledged? Is it a need to regain a sense of power even if it is a false sense power? Or is it the absence of positive male role models, or absent fathers, or fathers who don’t know how to love their girl children when they begin to mature into their sexual adolescent selves? Is it the mixed messages they receive daily from television, radio, music, videos, at home and in the streets? Or Is it the lack of social programs for communities, families, youths, single mothers, boys and men at risk?

And why are some older men seducing our young women and girls? Is it because they are afraid of strong independent women their own age? Is it because it makes them feel powerful? Is it the lack of positive male role models, or fathers who are absent or don’t claim them from birth? Is it because they have very little self-esteem, self-worth and therefore seduce someone less powerful, na├»ve, innocent? Is it because as a global society we teach our boys to be strong, powerful, emotionally passive and therefor deny them their soft, weak, vulnerable sides?

I ask these questions as a means of broadening my mind around issues that continue to create confusion, negativity and dislike for the men I catch watching, dissing, tempting Kayla and other young women. I ask these questions to understand Kayla’s slight smile towards the attention, the way she moves her body, the clothes she wears that beg the world to look at her, notice her. I ask these questions because I am tired of hearing our young women being called rude, bad minded, disrespectful while the problem runs much deeper than blaming and labelling. I ask these questions so that we can begin dialoguing with one another in a quest for understanding, transforming, protecting and healing ourselves, our youth, our families, our communities, our schools our country, our world.