MY MOTHER / MY STORY

I’m returning to South Africa for the first time.

 

  This journey started as a whisper, a quiet mouth that kept asking questions. Over the years it became a   coherent and clear voice, that kept getting louder. Now it is a song, sprung from a yearning to fill in the missing parts. To understand my mother’s story. It is something that goes beyond memory and imagination, and moves into the experiential and real. Ultimately, it’s a chance to shed light, in order to change the direction of a future. 

This journey started as a whisper, a quiet mouth that kept asking questions. Over the years it became a coherent and clear voice, that kept getting louder. Now it is a song, sprung from a yearning to fill in the missing parts. To understand my mother’s story. It is something that goes beyond memory and imagination, and moves into the experiential and real. Ultimately, it’s a chance to shed light, in order to change the direction of a future. 

With thanks to The Arts Council England, this journey will see me create a new collection of poetry which will explore family lineage, diaspora and the feminine. It will be a cross medium project in which writers, dancers, illustrators and film makers, from South Africa and the U.K, are united.

  Whilst my mother's siblings have memories linked to South Africa where their grandfather (my great-grandfather) was born 120 years ago, my mother has none. Age 7 she and her siblings went into an orphanage where she lived for the next 6 years. There was a relationship with her father maintained, although it was very inconsistent and only lasted a few years, but she never saw her mother again. Stories and a hand-down connection to South Africa stopped with the   diaspora and loss of family connection.   Sometimes I think this project has been formed by my future daughter, clearing the way before her own birth.

Whilst my mother's siblings have memories linked to South Africa where their grandfather (my great-grandfather) was born 120 years ago, my mother has none. Age 7 she and her siblings went into an orphanage where she lived for the next 6 years. There was a relationship with her father maintained, although it was very inconsistent and only lasted a few years, but she never saw her mother again. Stories and a hand-down connection to South Africa stopped with the diaspora and loss of family connection. Sometimes I think this project has been formed by my future daughter, clearing the way before her own birth.

One into ancestry, history and the past, so to redefine a personal and collective story. I am in a time and space where this can be explored. I have the avenues of language and technology to access both memory and reality. I have become a teenager again, the same one who would watch Twin Peaks in her pjs, a notebook in hand, trying to piece together clues and evidence. I have hired genealogists, conducted interviews, married memory and dreams so to fill in the gaps. And it is weighty. Sometimes I feel it shake the bones of me, and I am sensitive with every new bit of data collected. In some moments I am further away from understanding who I am, who my mother is. In others we are the same women, and I have never known her closer. 

This project was never made so to highlight further loss and challenge, it’s a celebration into a future made by us. The next generation of women.

First set of images from Left To Right: My Great Grandfather / My Grandfather and Uncles/  My Grandfather's Brother

Second set of images from Left To Right: My Grandfather /My Mother and her Father/ My Mother (left) and her Sisters