May was the start of my working as a poet full-time. As I reflected on the past month this […]
May was the start of my working as a poet full-time. As I reflected on the past month this morning, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the work I was blessed to have been part of.
At the beginning of the month, I was part of a group performance called The Callings, which took place at The Exuberance Project. The Exuberance Project was a Gordon Institute for Performing and Cultural Art and UCT’s Michaelis. The Callings was a walking tour through Cape Town’s City Centre, with performances and installations taking place at sites which hold important stories about the history of our city. As the description of the performance says”Travelling by taxi around the city, I see them, I hear them calling me. The callings make sense when I find out what has actually happened in a specific place. Sometimes after reading about a place of torture, I go to the city and walk to find the exact coordinates of the place. I imagine what the people looked like, what they wore, what they sounded like, and their feelings. And I just stand there amidst passersby and hustling traffic.”
I performed a poem called “mountain’s song” at the site of the old Slave Tree – where slaves were bought and sold during colonial rule. The site is now simply a cement disc in the centre of an island in bustling Spin Street. Most of us walk across it everyday, without even knowing what it is, what it marks.
The entire experience moved me deeply and intimately. I dreamt about the stories and the work we were doing. I was reminded that the streets we walk, the buildings we work, play and live in, have a history that lives on in them today. We must remember, in order to understand the make-up of our communities and societies today. We must remember so we know who we are.
On Friday May 25, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport and Iziko Museums celebrated Africa Day with a number of exhibitions, performances, film screenings and workshops. A week earlier, was International Museum Day, and the combined theme was “What is your most prized possession and how would you like it’s story to be told?” I ran a poetry workshop with 28 people, writing about their most prized possessions. The poems were then exhibited in the museum for the day. Later that day, I performed a short set with poems focusing that told the stories of Cape Town, and my relationship with the city. There was a wonderful audience who asked thought-provoking and insightful questions.
What struck me about the workshop and the performance is just how much we receive when we think we are giving or sharing of ourselves. Something happens when we open ourselves up and share who we are, what we love and what we are passionate about. That something cannot be put into words, except for me to say, that I left richer because of what people gave – their listening, their questions, their words.
On Sunday May 27, I performed at a wonderful event called House of Joy. Hosted by Emma and Kolade Arogundade in their home, the monthly event offers a platform for performers to share their work in an intimate and respectful setting. It was an intimate event, and I left feeling extremely blessed. I had the chance to speak and connect with nearly everyone who attended, and the conversations during interval and afterwards were each a gift. Again, people opened their hearts to listen and then later shared of themselves too. I think there is no greater gift we can give to each other, than the act of opening our hearts to truly listen to them, to give their words the space to be heard.
With each experience, I can feel the stirrings of something new within me. A deepening of my work, a chance to walk closer to my words, and a new opportunity to slow down and make the time to see people for who they are. To see passed the labels, my own assumptions, preconceived ideas and really look to find out who lives behind the eyes before me.
This is what I believe words can do for us – they lead to us listening to ourselves and each other.
© 2014 Toni Stuart. Designed by Jepchumba