By Farzana Hakim
Hi, all. It’s Farzana, your host, with a new edition of Thursday Connectors. It does seem like a long time since I last connected with you! I blame the never-ending lockdown for this. This virus is too stubborn and just won’t leave us alone. Thankfully, at least, the vaccine programme is rolling along nicely. I hope everybody gets theirs soon.
I’m excited, because today is part one of our special women’s edition of Thursday Connectors. The overall theme for this season is ‘Growth’ and I thought, why not link this to the growth of women as storytellers? It’s Women’s History Month and also Women’s Empowerment Month, in March, I wanted to do something special to celebrate women’s voices and their stories. And, because I’m also currently hosting the ‘Hear My Voice Workshops’ for women, I wanted to use my page as a platform to showcase some of the writing emerging from this as well. I’ll therefore be connecting with a wide range of women who have attended the workshops.
Writing empowered me, allowing me to grow as an individual and enabling me to find my voice. I want more women to have a go at writing, because, in my opinion, we women are natural storytellers. I’ll also be connecting with Joy Makumbe, from Zimbabwe, who wrote a poem to fit this theme.
So, lots of special connections coming up!
I believe all women are creating stories every day in every aspect of their lives. We are living and walking stories. Our stories travel with us. Our stories are engraved in our bodies. The sad thing is that our stories are hardly ever told. We are too consumed and tied up with our responsibilities and lives, we simply don’t get the time or the facility to share these. But, through my ‘Hear My Voice Workshops’, I’ve managed to provide a platform for a small number of women, to come together to find ways of talking about and sharing their stories. And, as learning to write from the heart is what storytelling is all about, here are some examples of how creative women can be.
The following paragraphs are two examples of how a single word, the title, can give rise to a beautiful piece of writing in a limited time and word count.
By Dr Afsana Elanko, created in a ‘Hear My Voice Workshop’.
I wish I had the strength to be bold and have the confidence to speak up. Growing up, as a woman, I was always in the background. This started from as far back as I could remember. Whenever I achieved something, no one took any notice. However, if I said that someone else had given me the idea, or had told me what to do, all of a sudden people were listening to me. This was more pronounced and was reinforced in the home environment. Over the months and years, I noticed if I said it was a male person who had advised me, then I had a greater audience. The person who I mentioned never objected, as they always got the glory.
That’s how it all started.
I carried on throughout my life, always being in the background. Although I worked hard and diligently I allowed others to take the glory. The organisations I was linked with were happy for their names to be mentioned instead of mine. It got to a point where I didn’t how to accept my own work as mine, or even to recognise it as mine. Over the years, ‘I’ became ‘We’.
And then, one day, when I was going to be awarded a medal, I couldn’t accept it! People thought it strange but, for me, it was all too alien. I needed a lot of support to recognise that what I had done was truly amazing.
This is how it all started…
By Madeleine F White created in a ‘Hear My Voice Workshop’.
The yolk of the sun spills into the morning, bringing life to a new day, its golden richness waiting to be seeded by this promise of glory.
This morning’s story matters. As she watches the day break and pool across the rooftops, she realises yesterday’s doesn’t. Its brokenness is not her. She is not held by it. The blood spilt last night does not define her; it is not the seed she will build her day around.
The pain no longer holds her and she pushes up from the floor. He no longer holds her. As she watches the sun move across the sky to claim its place more firmly, its warmth washes through her limbs. She will rise. She is woman. Today is a new day.
I am equally proud of the following poem, also created during the workshop as a collaborative exercise. Every attendee was given a few words to begin and end with. Each paragraph is a story of the individual woman named, yet the sentiments are so common to so many of us…
Created in a ‘Hear My Voice Workshop’.
Her story began on a gorgeous winter’s morning
When she decided she would put pen to paper
To start writing her story
She was Afsana.
Her story was like that of any other lovely woman’s
Complicated, joyous, heart-breaking
She was Kimberly.
Her story was no fun
The pain was written on her face and on her hands
For those who were interested
She was Eremina.
Her story however foolish, moulded or construed
Carried the burdens of body, country and honour
Against resolve to be heard
She was Farzana.
Her story was in the stroking of a mango with a joyous emotion,
And sprang from her breast
But suppressed she would not eat it
She is Lark.
Her story is complex
And I’m trying to be helpful
As she’s being kicked out
She is Mika.
Can you hear the voices of the above women in the poem? And can you believe this was created in limited time, with a strict word count? This is the power of creativity and the power of our voices. Just imagine how many stories women carry on their shoulders on a day-to-day basis? With every passing moment, a woman is hiding an emotion, a fact and a desire. The beauty of finding something creative to express these should be promoted and encouraged. Every woman is a storyteller in so many ways, and our stories deserve to be heard.
Next, it’s an absolute pleasure to be able to connect with lovely Joy Makumbe. She has lovingly crafted a heartfelt poem especially for ‘Thursday Connectors’, based on the theme of women and women’s voices. I’m extremely proud of Joy because, not only has she captured a meaningful dimension of motherhood in her poem, her opening message is also powerful. It will resonate with all of us, no matter where we’re from! Joy’s work comes to us from Zimbabwe.
Hi, Joy. Let’s connect:
Since time immemorial, women are known as mothers and nurturers. We take this motherhood and caregiving for granted and sometimes fail to see the fatigue in a woman’s eyes. We fail to see the silent cry for help mirrored in the depths of her eyes as she looks on bravely. All that she yearns for is support, love, and encouragement. She needs someone to cheer her on and tell her she is appreciated and strong. As women, let’s cheer each other on, knowing that the woman you are looking at, is you.
LOOKING THROUGH MY MOTHER’S EYES
I lashed out like a wounded tiger at anyone who dared liken me to her
I watched her closely as she cleaned and cooked.
Stopping but occasionally to stretch her arched back
I heard her voice, muffled with fatigue, call out to me for help
Ignore her a moment longer I would.
Annoyed that she dared call my name
What is it that she wanted this time?
My tiny head heated up
My eyes saw red
As I charged towards her like a bull
Breathing deeply and aggressively
Only stopping short of knocking her down
Great glee this might have brought me though
The tiny remaining thread of being a child pulled me back.
My mother, oblivious to my mood
But I am sure she did notice
Would assign me a chore or two
Hurriedly, I would go through the chores
Only to return to watching my favourite TV program
Whilst waiting for dinner to be served.
On some occasions I watched her enter the house
A load of on her head, and
Parcels draped all around her arms
Her sweating brow told a story of its own
As she shuffled her tired legs
Glad to have finally made it home.
I watched from a distance
Offering no assistance or pity
She was a mother after all.
This was her duty, this was her role
On some occasions, I watched her drift into a slumber
As she sat on the sofa for only but a moment
Her eyes and face showing the marks of fatigue and sickness
I watched from a distance
Offering no sympathy.
She was a mother after all.
This was her duty, this was her role
Some days when she wanted to know how I was faring
To offer guidance and reassurance as any mother should,
No opportunity I offered to her
As with one word I quickly dismissed her.
Muting and drying up the caring words pouring out of those lips.
Today, as I reflect on my life
It is with shock and disbelief,
Pain and tears in my eyes,
That it slowly dawns on me that,
That woman many years ago
(c) Joy Makumbe, 2021
Connect with Joy on Twitter: @JoyMakumbeTrust
Oh, Joy, I love your poem! It’s thought-provoking and so apt, alongside our theme of women’s empowerment and growth. Motherhood is such a huge topic and I’d love to dedicate an entire ‘Thursday Connectors’ celebrating our mums and, of course, ourselves as mothers. This is something I’ll definitely look into in the near future. Perhaps we could connect again, because you’ve sent over an authentic flavour of culture from Zimbabwe through your poetry. Your voice is emotional as well as powerful.
Finally, before I leave you, I’d like to introduce Andreena Leeanne, an inspirational speaker, poet and compere. She briefly connects with us to tell us why she’s hosting her own creative writing workshop with Pen to Print.
Hi, Andreena. Let’s connect:
“I am delighted to be facilitating this writing workshop that I have designed especially for Pen to Print & ELOP (holistic lesbian and gay centre). The theme for this year’s LGBT History Month is Body, Mind & Spirit, which is why I have chosen for the participants to focus on exploring self-care in a non-judgmental, inclusive and welcoming space. The structure of the workshop is interactive and the participants will all be encouraged to write in a style that feels comfortable to them. They’ll each have a chance to share what they’ve written, if they feel comfortable doing so. Finding creative outlets during these challenging times is essential for the Body, Mind & Spirit. Writing has helped me immensely and I’m sure those who attend will find huge value in participating.”
Thank you, Andreena. Details of the workshop can be found on the Pen to Print website.
Well, that’s it for today. Hasn’t it been a creative month, though? I hope some of you lovely women will be inspired to register for my ‘Hear Your Voice’ workshops. Connecting with you in these times of uncertainty keeps me sane, and I want to extend a creative hand to other women sailing on the same boat. Here’s the link to register:
Stay safe. See you soon!
Learning to write from the heart is what storytelling is all about.