Un-braiding

by Chloe Batten

Enclosed for the winter. hibernation.

each strand runs through softly calloused hands,

firm, reassuring fingers whisper sweet nothings

to my newborn roots, like

warm honey. Chloe, Un-braiding image

enfolding strand

over strand, one leads, one hides,

one follows, one leads

one hides, one follows

all clinging to each other for dear life,

sworn to protect the hair they hold,

to incubate the soul that lies within

my newborn roots.

hibernation.

 

Don’t mistake synthetics

for dormancy. like a cocoon they hide

growth and beauty,

and they too will die.

but as spring melts winter’s spite

and warmer air beckons hair

outside the neat twists and folds,

I follow nature’s cue.

in cathartic ritual,

un-braiding plait

after plait,

old dead hair is laid aside.

my fingers run through soft curls,

and linger.

 

This is home.

the feeling after a deep sigh

when lungs resettle.

feels like warmth and peace

and honey. this is my soul.

like Aunty Solange reminds me,

my hair

it is the rhythm,

the feelings,

I wear.

 

 

Chana Dhaal; a recipe 

By Sadia Ahmed

“For as long as I can remember, my parents have taught me that cooking is an expression of love.”

My parents taught me cooking for someone is an expression of a love. They taught me that peeling vegetables, frying garlic, soaking lentils, carefully spicing everything – making something hot and warm and filling with your hands is one of the best expressions of love. When my sister or I come home from university, you can bet that my mum has prepared a biryani for us. When I came home last year for the Easter break and I had announced, to their dismay, that I didn’t want to eat meat anymore, my dad went out and bought me paneer to make the next day. During those couple of weeks at home, he made me countless vegetarian dishes from vegetable lasagnes to haleem sans mutton. For as long as I can remember, my parents have taught me that cooking is an expression of love. I am never hungry around them. 

I have made a mess of my home kitchen many a time, attempting to poorly imitate my parents’ creations. The story isn’t much different at university. When my friends come over or when I’m experiencing pangs of homesickness, I tend to reach for familiar spices or dishes that leave you full and satisfied. One of my favourites is chana dhaal; I have prepared it many, many times this year. Here is a recipe that reminds me of home. 

ingredients:image1

  • 1 small white/red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 2 or 3 bird eye chillies, depending on taste 
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil (I tend to use sunflower oil) 
  • 2 cups of split yellow lentils (washed and soaked in water overnight)
  • a handful of cherry/plum tomatoes 
  • small bunch of fresh coriander 
  • heaped teaspoon of cumin powder
  • heaped teaspoon of turmeric 
  • teaspoon of chilli powder
  • heaped teaspoon of coriander powder
  • teaspoon of salt 

recipe:

  1. chop onion and garlic cloves finely 
  2. heat up a pan with oil and add your chopped onion and garlic
  3. add teaspoon of salt and stir, leaving to sweat until garlic and onion starts to colour
  4. score chillies and add to pan 
  5. stir in spices and allow them to cook out for a couple of minutes (tip: add a little water to the mixture if it appears to be sticking) 
  6. add your soaked lentils to the pan, stir
  7. add one cup of boiling water to the pan, stir and cover, leave to simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes 
  8. chop your cherry tomatoes and add (note: if you enjoy a tomato flavour, feel free to add a tablespoon of tomato paste in addition) 
  9. stir regularly, gradually add another cup of water, until the consistency becomes thick
  10. finely chop coriander and stir in 2/3 of coriander along with a little water 
  11. taste! season with salt to preference
  12. sprinkle dish with the remaining coriander and take off heat 
  13. serve dhaal with rice, or chapatis, or both, or neither 

This recipe will comfortably serve five of your loved ones or you, five times over x 

Getting Over It vs. Getting Through It

By Samyat Kolawole

“I pushed everything I felt so deep inside … sadness became too familiar.”

I am writing this a year on from an experience that showed me the difference between getting over something, and getting through it.

A little over a year ago, I was in a relationship with someone that I really cared about. The way I felt about him made our breakup a very difficult experience for me. Because it was so difficult, I tried to just ‘get over it’ – basically, I tried to stop feeling how I felt as quickly as possible. I tried to suppress how I felt; I told myself I didn’t really care anyways, so why would I need to be upset? When I talked about it with my friends, they’d ask if I was okay and I would downplay how I felt and say I was fine. I did this so much that I pushed everything I felt so deep inside that sadness became a lingering part of me; sadness became too familiar. This, along with other things led to me becoming depressed, which affected so many other aspects of my life.

The worst was probably academically. I was in year 13 at the time, which anyone who has been through A Levels knows is the most stressful time of your teenage life. School required so much of my energy, and I felt like I had no energy left – the way I felt had made me feel this drained. There were many, many times where I couldn’t get out of bed. I’d get up for school late, leave school straight away just to go home and go back to bed. I did this so many times but dismissed it as laziness. At school, I was distracted.At work, I was distracted, and at home, I was distracted. This continued for what felt like forever.

“I should have thought practically about what I was going to do to make myself feel better”

It wasn’t until I met one of my good friends that I actually began to talk about and address how I felt. This made me realise how much I had tried to force myself not to feel anything, and that it hadn’t worked at all. Instead, I felt much worse than I would have done if I had allowed myself to get through it at the time, rather than trying to run away from how I felt because it hurt. I would tell myself not to think about it, when I should have asked myself why I feel the way I do. I told myself to get over it, when I should have thought practically about what I was going to do to make myself feel better.

Through this example, I wanted to illustrate the pain that you can cause yourself by trying to get over something, rather than trying to get through it. But what does getting through it actually mean?

This means understanding and accepting what has happened. I see this as the ‘wowwwwww’. The ‘wowwwww he really did this’ or ‘wowww this really happened?!’, for example. You also have to forgive yourself for anything you feel you did that contributed to the situation, as well as forgiving anyone else involved in the situation, even if they have not apologised to you (because you really don’t know how long you could be waiting for an apology, or if it will ever come at all). As difficult as it may be, you have to think about how you feel, and why you feel that way. Whether you have this conversation with yourself, or with a friend, it is an important part of getting through something. You have to learn to be honest with yourself and dig deep into your thoughts and feelings.

One thing that prolonged how I felt was that I didn’t want to be sad any longer but I didn’t do anything to actively make myself feel better. I would say ‘I’m tired of being so upset about this’ but never did anything to change how I felt. What will help you feel better is dependent on you; it could be avoiding things that remind you of the situation or it could be doing things that generally make you feel better. What doesn’t help is doing nothing.

“I’ve learnt to allow myself to feel whatever I feel, without judging myself for feeling that way.”

It is very important to give yourself time. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to ‘just get over it’. They only say this because they don’t understand what you’re going through. Instead, it helps to talk to someone who understands how you feel, or at least can listen to you talk about how you feel. If you feel like you can’t talk to anyone, you can write about how you feel. If you’re religious, talking to God always helps.

The main thing is that you are actively trying to feel better, and in this way, you definitely will – but this is a process and it’s never easy. Trying to get over it seems a lot faster, and it is, but only because you are suppressing how you feel. Suppressing something means that it’s only going to come out at some point, and it will probably be a lot worse. If you’re like me, one day you’ll be drunk and start screaming. (don’t be like me pls)

I’m an emotional person and I actually like this about myself, but I still managed to convince myself that being upset is a bad thing. Now I’ve learnt to allow myself to feel whatever I feel, without judging myself for feeling that way. This has helped me a lot more than I expected. I also understand myself a lot more and have become even more self-aware. This self-awareness made me realize that there is so much power in engaging with your emotions!

All of this doesn’t just apply to relationships – there are a lot of other situations in life where we force ourselves to get over something. Whatever the situation is, the best thing for you is to get through it, rather than get over it. It takes time but you’ll ultimately feel better.

‘If you saw the size of the blessing coming, you would understand the magnitude of the battle you’re fighting.’ …

Day at The Beach, 2018

Day at the Beach, 2018 is the second in a series of sartorial interpretations centering African-inspired dress, and style, in four different time periods.

“Afrocentrism and my particular African identity more than anything else inform and inspire my fashion photography practice. A lot of the concepts that I choose to explore are me reflecting on society and culture and offering commentary on what I see. Other times it’s primarily aesthetic. In any case I aim to champion being African, being black. I want people to appreciate the aesthetic significance of the visuals while joining in the observation, reflection and celebration.” Uzoma Orji
Production Credits
Photographer: Kene Nwosu (Instagram: @glass_stop)
Creative Director and Stylist: Uzoma Orji (@uzzzoma)
Models: Veronique Belinga (@vbelinga), Data Pepple (@datapepple), Uzoma Orji (@uzzzoma)

Being alone

by Ademola Anjorin

On university, loneliness and capitalism

University is oftentimes isolating. If I wasn’t on the exec and/or active in different societies I imagine that I would be really lonely.

I enjoy being involved with lots of stuff on campus because it gives me something to do. If not for that, I feel like no-one would be checking for me.

I know plenty of students who enjoy their own personal space and enjoy being in their room 24/7 but I can’t relate to that reality. I hate being unnecessarily alone. I do like doing my own thing but still being in the presence of other people whilst completing my own task.

Maybe university will teach me how to not feel lonely when being alone. Either way, I think this is a reflection on neoliberal society where there is so much emphasis on the individual. We are socialised into the idea that it is beneficial and economically profitable to be self-centred, self-focused and self-driven individuals (even though we exist better as collectives).

Capitalism is exploitative both in theory (the profit incentive) and in practice (imperialism, cheap labour, environmental devastation), but also it seems to have a profound effect on our interpersonal human relations. We become really preoccupied with ourselves and with marketised ideas of success that we spend so much time ‘bettering ourselves’ and ‘working towards our goals’ that we do not think about how our contributions can better the collective. We take so much ‘personal’ time because we become wrapped up in the idea of seeing ourselves as individuals rather than seeking out a unit. The only units that are endorsed by disability-exclusionary cis-heteronormative capitalist society is the male-female relationship which in turn becomes the traditional nuclear family after a period of time. Alternative units such as chosen families, housing co-ops and co-parenting groups in queer communities aren’t considered.

I think there might be an art to being able to live a solitary life and still be happy. In an increasingly solitary human existence, it seems like being resistant to loneliness might be an advantage, a survival trait. To me, this is not an art that I would like to master.

A big part of believing in utopias is having a romanticised vision of the future. A utopia I envisage is one where we can enjoy our moments of solitude, but still always have the option of being in the presence of others. I don’t know how the mechanisms of how this would work, but wouldn’t it be glorious?

Anaphylaxis, Shonda Rhimes and Vulnerability as a Black Woman

Navigating the world as a black woman, there is something terrifying about vulnerability. People underestimate us, so we feel the need to overachieve. People stereotype us, so we become hyperaware of how are words and actions are interpreted. Every experience of misogynoir adds another layer to the wall we build between the world and ourselves, our true selves. But, for me, it took a near-death experience to realise how emotionally damaging this has become.

Last night, I said two words I haven’t said out loud in a long time: “I’m scared.” They were uttered between the short, sharp breaths that my fellow severely asthmatic people know the struggle of. In a mixed up Chinese delivery, I ended up eating nuts, going into anaphylactic shock and simultaneously enduring an asthma attack and a panic attack (so just your average Friday night…) In a moment of sheer desperation, unable to breathe properly and entrusting my life to two paramedics, I admitted the feeling that I, as a black woman, am not at liberty to express – fear.

“I fulfil the role of the ‘strong black woman’ and being scared isn’t part of the job description”

Whilst lying in the hospital bed, I tried to remember the last time I’d verbally expressed fear, and I couldn’t come up with anything. I mulled over my inability to communicate fear, and I soon came to realise that in every situation of fear I navigate, I fulfil the role of the ‘strong black woman’ and, in performing this trope, being scared isn’t part of the job description. So many of my relationships depend on me finding the solution, offering solace to others, and performing emotional labour. Where, in all of that, is my space and time to be scared, to show weakness, to be vulnerable?

Just the other day, Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of the incredible Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder tweeted:

“Entertainment industry, time to stop using the phrases “Smart Strong Women” and “Strong Female Leads”.  There are no Dumb Weak Women.”

“our Black Girl Magic does not exist in spite of our vulnerability, but because of it”

I completely agree with Rhimes – we need to stop coded sexist language in phrases like “strong female lead” from pervading our language, to prevent them from pigeon-holing and diluting women’s complex narratives. Given that I have more than the 280 character limit of a tweet, however, I’ll expand on Rhimes’ take, and add that there is power in not only applauding well-written female characters for capturing women’s strength, but also for recognising that there is power in weakness. This is, perhaps, the most compelling aspect of Rhimes’ storytelling – in both Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating we see black women who are strong, and competent whilst simultaneously vulnerable, and, at times, ‘weak’. They, like all of us, have their strengths, flaws and all that comes in between. In showing the plurality and complexity of black women, Rhimes is showing us that our Black Girl Magic does not exist in spite of our vulnerability, but because of it
Letting my guard down won’t be easy but, from now on, I’ll be embracing my vulnerability, and admitting it when I’m scared more often. I just hope that other black girls and women are able to do the same, without needing a near-death experience first.

 

This blog was first published on BEBB: Be Educated Be Bold.

remember to resist

by verse writer

 

powerful.raised fists.broken chains
that is my poetry
it is laced with truth
drenched in tears
soaked in sweat
filled with ink
that can make you think
of loving yourself over and over again
of unlearning and learning what you blindly accepted
of understanding and realizing that you are bold and brave enough to tell your story
so cheers to my creative writing teacher in year four who taught me to always tell mine

you have now reached the cover of of ivory and ink
let your small hands rub the rubber
i mean the paper
on which my first character wrote hers
she called hers have you ever been free?
because women like her cry out their pains but are silenced
women like her are never truly free
might never be able to exercise their agency
so please ensure you replace the personal pronouns you thought were hers
the ‘shes’ and ‘yous’ especially with…

oh wait.

she has none
so lanaire speak up ! with passion! with anger !
have you ever been free?
you, yes you
woman plaiting for cornrows for the little girl
in the candle lit room
silently wondering why wax melts
you were never taught science were you
no , your fathers and brothers mistook you for a bride
child not bride
seven hundred and twenty days
after the painful cut
remember to resist

nigerian history has a reputation of conveniently forgetting our women’s names and achievements
and so does your history and your history
do you still doubt me?

have you heard of nana asma’u ?
a poet and fighter for women’s education
please excuse my mispronounciation
but you’ve heard of her father
usman danfodio- a teacher and scholar
and don’t you just know funmilayo ransome-kuti
as just the first woman to drive a car?
but she was the leader of the egba market women
or are you aware that the aba women’s protest of 1929?
was an anti-colonial feminist protest made of women who fought and resisted patriarchy
disguised as a white man

you have now reached the end of ivory and ink
you must pay attention to the next poem
it is for men and women who place
western beauty standards on a high pedestal
for you, I have 2 simultaneous equations
equation 1 : whiteness + me = light
equation 2:. blackness me = darkness

remember to resist

Nigeria has one of the highest bleaching rates in the world

so Lanaire , perform this poem with anger , with passion, with might:

i sang my hymn like this
all women bright and beautiful
all women great and small
all women wise and wonderful
the Lord God made them all
slim thighs, no thick thighs and wise noses
arched brows that resembled the curves of girls and their mothers
clear in lace wrappers
but sometimes hidden in their covers
i learnt that beauty can be made of all shapes and sizes
can be light skinned or dark skinned
could have acne or freckles
could have rosy lips or big dark large ones too
which western media once viewed as taboo

powerful.raised fists.broken chains
that is my poetry
it is laced with truth
drenched in tears
soaked in sweat
filled with ink
that can make you think
of loving yourself over and over again
of unlearning and learning what you blindly accepted
of understanding and realizing that you are bold and brave enough to tell your story
so cheers to my creative writing teacher in year four who taught me to always tell mine