I am very good with deadlines and yes, I was one of those people who would have their work ready with usually a week to spare, but not anymore. And so it was that I suddenly realised I had two weeks to draw my exhibition pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I have done nothing but think about and experience the issues I raise in my work: detachment, confrontation, confusion, abandonment, loneliness as well as dealing with the everyday experiences of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and misogyny. Listening to people reiterating stereotypes again and again is exhausting. But the one that gets under my skin is racism. Since I was born, it has covered me and others like a swaddling cloth and soon becomes a pernicious vine whose sole purpose is to down-press, belittle and to stranglehold hope, the very thing that moves us to be better human beings.
At times like these I turn to my own personal collection of proverbs, sayings of my Jamaican Granddad and Granma, of the smells of freshly cut red, green and yellow pepper, of bun, yam and other parts of Jamaican cooking; of laughter, hugs and back clapping, of a glass of Guinness and a drop of rum followed by deep sighs and of worn hands, of coco butter and adult talk in coded language – all part of learning to be canny in a world that doesn’t want you. I turn to old time caribbean sayings, of the poetry of black British and mixed heritage poets and to the sublime music of Miles Davis, Burning Spear and Nina Simone.
My favourite one at the moment is from Angela Y Davis:
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I can not accept.”
So women, who previously had inhabited a richly filled space of an A4 canvas were now striding onto a stage that they was so big it makes you feel small. Thighs wider than your own are populated with vines, sometimes strangling sometimes supporting. Nor did I think about what to do when a Sharpie pens run out half way through shading a breast or an earlobe. After all, the earlobe is now the size of a fist not a five pence piece.