Claremont on a platform.

The Claremont Project in Islington does tons for seniors who can come in from outwith Islington and are made welcome anyway.

Magnanimous me, to support Claremont (use it or lose it) and because I am a voting women signed up for “Women and Equality. Where are we now?”
I had imagined a room full of white-haired and permed silent very senior women with gushing thirty somethings making us suck eggs. I was upset when to an audience of five the presenters from The Fawcett Society in an air of defence began the session by reading aloud a timeline about the state of women in the UK since 1888 or thereabouts. Fine enough but tedious to the hilt if you’ve already educated yourself about your gender’s standing then and now. What could have been powerful was using we senior women as those who over seventy years and more have lived through the lead up to many acts of Parliament which serve to erase prejudice against women. It turned out that the audience was made of women and one man for whom English is not their first language and of people who came into the UK from another culture. We only had less than two hours as some participants had committed to the twelve week mindfulness course which partially clashed on the timetable.

The fault was in the planning when Claremont management invite in speakers with no reference to anything else going on at The Centre, International Women’s Day is long gone; Women coming from the UK’s new Women’s Equality Party are neither Salsa teachers nor art therapists. It is the same as mauve pictures of razor blades stuck on Claremont toilet walls calling to action a ban on Female Genital Mutilation when no-one at Claremont had discussed FGM, nor wanted to, so the stickers aka posters were just flies on a brick wall, meaningless and ignored.

What should have been a massive session was not advertised properly. Most people who use Claremont go of habit to art and dance, poetry and mindfulness sessions and would not have been persuaded to book up for a political session where their opinions may have been sought. Bravo Claremont for the attempt because rising up is a new cohort of women who do have opinions to voice. Those are once the teens of the sixties and we know what those days were like.

So through cleverly managed questions from Vicky we answered questions like “Are you surprised at the statistics about women in the UK?” “What would you ask Theresa May regarding the state of women in the UK today?” There was an air of gloom as we thought about the state of women as the back-bones of family life or indifference from those who decided not to speak and that was sometimes interrupted by passionate speeches based on experience and practical realities.
Remembering that the participants’ ages ranged from 55 to maybe 79 then there was a shed-load of wise old women.

There was the recognition that active seniors are actually working as constant childminders in a country where child care costs are spiralling upwards as families negotiate fixed term working contracts and the unpopular zero-contract hours with low pay. Housing costs in London have not been addressed by any government recently.
We learnt about women in prison, the appalling statistics about death and the history of those likely to offend and the double punishments where women are moved to different prisons away from their children.
Phyllis headed up that May was to be interviewed on LBC radio that same evening so we proposed questions to her. It turned out that the lines were busy at 7pm but I led a Twitter feed.

The session was indeed marvellous because it was passionate, because we let each other talk, because we came together in a setting other than one where the table held water-paints and scrap paper, because as older women accommodating one older man and ourselves, we recognised our worth.

Who could have ever known that in a street where diplomats’ cars have right of parking, where in an adjacent street a vibrant market hollers, sat in a building which needs a lick of paint and a toilet refurbished , that in a hall needing care and attention older people were listening and learning, thinking and considering, sharing and talking,

It was what it was. Thank you, Claremont.

Champions: The Tour

On Thursday I invited Up Your Street seniors some of whom are artists and certainly all have seen many art exhibitions in their lives or so you’d assume plus two champions who’d been my subjects in acrylic and are seniors too. So it was a mainly old girl’s tea party when Eric hobbled in and disappeared after the fruit juice and tour.
Hackney Central Library’s community art space is ridiculous. The space is three trophy display cabinets and two pin board screens. The thing is it’s free, I recently paid to exhibit one A4 painting in a women only show miles away. The work had to be framed and ready to hang and I was given less than two weeks’ notice. I did it though because I was supporting east end women artists who could learn a lesson or two about supporting me. That could be just through sharing a Facebook status photograph and giving me some credit. I thought it was out of order to charge women to exhibit for International Women’s Day especially when the organiser was flippin’ funded. Still, my choice. I did find at the bottom of the email the fee for concessions so pushed in my squids.

The Champions Exhibition tour started with an oil pastels on thick black paper almost a metre square of local activist Claire who rejected my acrylic canvas because I had left out her spectacles which define her. Everyone loved the portrait with her wide and hooded eyes not seen at all when she smiles which is most of the time.
The first acrylic was of beautiful Theodora Cadbury who runs brilliantly Xenia at Hackney Museum, a coming together opportunity for refugee and indigenous women to get English spoken. I was able to promote Xenia from experience totally for I was a founder participant. Part of the pull of going was the outstanding and comfortable museum at Hackney which exists for the community. Take note you others.
Zeb Achonu in her lashings of paint and recently You Tube star at London Contemporary Voices to be checked on their Facebook page was next in line for championess. She in nose studs, and vulnerable huge eyes always in scarlet red lipstick founded MUSEfest, a women only musical experience and festival with Hannah Judson. My guests were open-mouthed as I told them how MUSEfest generated a donation to White Ribbon Alliance for global safe childbirth for every woman.
Hibo Wardere, fierce but approachable, campaigner against Female Genital Mutilation, will one day get her two canvases along with a deserved OBE from Queenie. She too is in the cabinet. She rejected my first canvas as she remarked it was half a picture whereas I wanted to capture her eyes which are sometimes doe’s eyes with thick black eyeliner accentuating them. Behind those balls of black is a heart swimming for women and abused girls.

Mary Fahey had hesitantly (first time she showed doubt) asked me if the woman behind the leaves was supposed to be her. It is. It’s Mary the DJ behind a net curtain, seeing what’s going on but surrounded too by plants, She is a garden prize winner from up in Walthamstow Village. If you get to the exhibition you’ll read why these women are champions.
Rosie Bancroft doesn’t know I painted her after Paul Floyd Blake’s National Prize-winning photograph. She is a teenager in my painting which was originally one of my “At the Swim” collection seen at Hackney and Stratford. Everyone wants that picture. Postcards are available as I put her up for auction.

BN Neu pushed until she got seniors noted and recognised as a group force at Tate Modern. She’s not finished yet. How is she not the old woman who can dye her hair purple? I captured her vulnerability and tenacity. People see a champion.
Ah, my beautiful paintings of Hilary, full of textiles and colour and Hyacinth, our Valentine’s baby enriched in her beauty and African-ness. Both paintings are layers of colour. Both paintings depict quiet modest women who know their crafts and share them. Saluted.
Jessica Brassica, lovingly called because she is of the Green. Jessica Green, lover of life. mover of spirits and champion in the domain of bodily health and wellness through breathing and self-knowledge. She’ll have a yoga class of one and keep a level of excellence for that one person who is as important as the crowd. Her beauty is often unseen behind her hair and glasses. In the exhibition she is rightfully exposed. She is beautiful.

Even in her ugliness knocked into her by abuse, Sonita as a painting is fascinating in the story behind it. Here is a young woman in a stained white wedding dress and veil screaming silently. This is from the character Sonita plays in her “Brides For Sale” daring video. We see the child in the bloodied face. Well done, Sonita Alizadeh.
Marcella has rich tones of brown, African brown, in her face with that tight-lipped smile. The brown is layered on mauve layered on yellow all done in the early morning hours when the repeated How to Paint plum in your mouth TV shows are switched off and the urban foxes come out to disturb security lights in their hunt for stale bread. Behind a charming and warm face is a lioness. Our champion was with us in the viewing line as was Claire.

Amanda, art therapist, stood glossed in golden nail varnish behind the Hackney Library cabinet glass, waiting to gently serve us in the community. She stands watching us as we almost miss her on a smaller frame. We did salute her.

Sylvia was hidden for a while but made it to the champions line-up with her striking hair and features accentuated by a golden eagle eye as she misses nothing and notes everything. She is currently working with BN Neu and I on a project inspired by Tammy Whynot regarding technology access for seniors who can’t.

Mother to many Katrina laughs in the cabinet. We automatically warm to this premier champion who without a second thought bundles her family into a van alongside sleeping bags and torches for refugees wherever and whenever. Since we first heard about Lesvos and Calais in 2015 Katrina was on the move, setting up collection points for refugee aid. It was I who was nervous to ask her to be a painted Champion for I was in awe of her. My contribution was to paint refugee scenes in a collection called “Save Our Souls” which was exhibited in Stratford. Every tenner was sent to Kat.

I was always mindful of seniors’ legs as we walked around and as my guests listened to me. Claire reminded me that I was disadvantaging the disadvantaged when I hadn’t waited for Eric with his stick. Some of us had drunk sherry and eaten sugar so we were quite high. I was high on sharing my art. The security guard came and told us off for laughing and disturbing the six people bent over and studying. Likely. Marcella was typically fuming. I had already introduced myself to the security staff and ignored what was said because teenagers were busy chatting and yowling in other parts of the library which is only quiet on a one hour slot from 9-10am. It’s a market-place otherwise.

On the day before, the real International Women’s Day, Tate Britain’s Soapbox lot of 25 had discussed the lack of visible and celebrated women artists’ work in the museums. With Soapbox,unless you’re at the scene, you’ll never know how it went. I was at Anna Alcock’s women and printing workshop in Walthamstow where we mostly senior women of the white persuasion listened to a rant about the same topic. I was surely at the scene listening to myself. This month besides having two exhibitions about women, I am highlighting modern day women printmakers to balance out so many things, one being the twee view of women as crafters like ole May Morris instead of women as machine operators in a man’s world. I e print makers like Antonietta Torsiello.

A Poem A Day .IWD 2017

Annually I write a poem a day from February 8th to March 8th.

The Way It Is Still.

Where is this?
she asked
What kind of hell are these women living in?
she asked
Are we talking backward people?
No mum
This is UK 2017
This is the way it is still
Women harassed on a city street
Non-stop covert sexual nuisances
Innuendos in the workplace
Cameras on our bums on street corners.
Looks like we are everyman’s property
It’s a power thing and a controlling urge.
She answered
Protect my grandchild.
_____________________________________________________

The Woman Club.

Two homeless women passed me
in the typical uniform of triple overcoats
and mounded scarves about their necks.
Walking wardrobes.
They never looked at me but saw me.
They had long ceased interacting with people
and were deaf to the speeches of do-gooders
and hardened to spit and insults.
It was an unfamiliar sight; two down and out women together.
Their partnering up
was a test of trust
absolutely tenuous and temporary
and only mutual for the moment.
Their world is particularly one where middle class ideals of all women joining in sisterhood is a nonsense
because when it comes down to it
they are seen as failures and threats
stinking and unshaved
non-deodorised, non conditioned and undesirable.
Their place on earth is defined by
the perceptions of others
and their affiliation to womanhood, challenged.
________________________________________________________-

A State To Be In.

She said that loneliness
that is the state of her being lonely
was making her very low
but not so as to cry
because she said
her energy had been sapped away.
She said she was exhausted by loneliness
and longing
but that she knew there was no getting over it
not today
It was just the way of it.

Her mother had said loneliness
comes to everyone
but especially to women
because they have people all around
and then not
as children grow and husbands die
and they must learn to go outside of the home
but never did so never do.
A carriage would solve the problem.
She said if you could just cast off
your slippers
grab a coat and a pair of shoes
pop into a cab and go to wherever
loneliness would go.
___________________________

Woman On Woman
_______________

The woman worker miscarried.
It was a private affair
Only her doctor knew
And he wrote dilation and curettage
But she needed two weeks to recover
So he signed her off.
Two years later at the interview
The huffing interrogator asked
Why were you absent for two weeks?
I miscarried
Well do you think you’ll have two weeks off again?
The woman held tight her mouth
Was on the spot
And let the nano-second slide
There was no help for an answer
The employer waited
And the answer should have been
How dare you ask that?
But she replied.
No. Hope not
Knowing the job was gone.
_____________________________

 

Vulval Woman.

____________

I pulled the duvet over my ample portions
and inhaled the warm air
It nestled under my arm
carrying a universal smell
from my special parts
of crotch and overnight lips
unwrapped and nightly worn
and I thought of FGM
as my vulva relaxed and reposed
I’d seen pain and stench and rags and screams
online
I clenched my muscles
and stiffened my spine
My mother-in-law appeared
wily, tiny and toothless
nagging in a high pitched whine
then all at once laughing
ready to do my daughter harm.
In the same commanding tone
she spoke of baptism
and I could not adjust the two.
I saw myself much younger
and wanted to smell flowers
to bring me up to date
away from threats and bloodied parts.

——————————————————————–

 

Light and Dark

Haply for I was born a girl
I am everyone’s property
I shall lose my tongue
and curtail my smiles
so that my mouth resembles my
circumcised labia
as a hole only.
My cutter made me dry flat and closed
just the way they like ’em
I am dry and flat and closed
I have no shared emotions not even with my mother
My life is a desert
and if I iron my breasts and clothe my hips
I will have no curves to allure
the hordes of men ravaging our tents.
I believe it is this way for all girls
in every country.
I cannot sing with the nightingales
I cannot sing.
I cannot sit and read
I must peel and chop and roll and grill
I must bow in front of men
and allow my brother my school place.
It is the same everywhere I believe
I cannot fathom any other way
I hide my hair and hardly look ahead.

 

I rejoice I am a girl
My potential is never-ending
My choices are immeasurable
I sit beside boys and let them hear my voice
They listen and approve
defend me in arguments with our parents
and say State Your Case
I am looking upwards and over
Through ceilings and above,
My mind soars
My body grows naturally
with bits and bobs, hair and pubes
and I shower naked at the pool.
If I cover my chest it’s cold
otherwise I am woman in the making
My heels are my strength. My limbs carry me forward.
My mother shares her stories
I learn about my earned place
on this earth my soul.
and cannot imagine being ignored and unseen
unwanted yet sold.

_________________________________________

Choice

______

How shall we celebrate our special day?
We could go to an art exhibition
Again
We do that monthly
But the one we’ll see
Is for International Women’s Day
And there’ll be vagina cakes
and pussy hats
and women in boots who’ll ignore us
But the art will mean something
before we go on to venue number two.
Or we could try wellness just for women
And lay on yoga mats
Do pelvic exercises.
And make shopping lists in our heads.

Let’s ignore the Austen readings
and the Suffragist collage banners
Formed from feathers of Walthamstow swifts
That is someone else’s party.
We shall print in workshops
zumba in centres
and buy Veet on the way for our legs.

__________________________________

The Way Of It.

______________

Tell your mother to brush your hair
The shine on it is the sparkle on the waves
Ask her to tie the ribbon on your waist
It will be tight like your future apron strings.
Tell her you need to play in the mud.
She will frown and tell you of sugar and spice
and place the cookie cutter in your hand
Ask her if the moon is a prince
and she will tell the story of a camel and her father and your father
Let her bathe you in sweet water from a rock stream
full of scents of the lemon grass
and purple aubergine
and date trees
And she will stare as you let the water trickle on your bare arms
then quickly clothe you in wrappings
and scarves and skirts to cover your legs.
Allow her to whisper her ways
as she puts skin on your skin
and you smell warmth and woman
and a grandmother and a wife
and then she can stroke your chin
and sigh
Don’t ask her why.
Ask her instead to pull the fringes
from your eyes
so you can see tear droplets.
____________________________________

Big Offence on No Offence. Crush FGM

So, what did you think of the FGM treatment/pitch on “No Offence”? There was a tanned/ olive-skinned as they used to say Egyptian woman of colour cutter with pink ears. I need to check the actress there.
In real life the police officer under cover as a young woman wanting circumcision to please her husband and to produce for society a boy (Insha’Allah) would need counselling and months off from service after her traumatic experience. In the play she said she was okay.

uys-iwd2016-02-09-19.50.15.jpg.jpegInteresting that there was a quick black versus white argument between the suspected cutter and the cops about vaginal enhancement being okay for white women in Harley Street clinics and so it should be accepted that in other cultures, cutting clits is good too. Too shoved-in a scene.

In this week’s episode of a thrilling serial cop show the cutting was to be carried out for £2000 in a private so-called clinic with an nice line-up of surgical tools and no rusty razor-blades. The PC posing as a client was stifled with a rag of ether or some other gas rather than an injection to knock her out. She was pinned down by the cutter’s female heavies. I suppose it’s all based on a real event.

Yes it was a shocking scene.

Evidently some medics are saying that FGM should not be stopped as it’s a cultural event. Sh’up. Leaving girl babies on cold walls for the wolves was a cultural thing. Belting your kids and boxing their ears was UK working class culture so was a cultural thing. Heads out of sands, docs, for FGM is child and sexual abuse. If someone forces your legs apart to scrape your bits that ain’t no culture but criminal. Child or woman dies. We call that murder, you backward shite.

Some describe FGM as barbaric. No space for PC here. I say backward people practise Stone Age ways.

So yes a suspected child abuser or mother assisting her adult son to be a child abuser spills out at her luxurious home during an end FGM party with cakes sporting vulva shaped icing sugar on top, that in her home village a woman died due to childbirth complications caused by genital mutilation. As a deal with the female senior cop the suspected criminal wants the cutter imprisoned and that would be a first as prosecutions in the UK are nil.

There, so many issues about FGM in one episode.

Vaginal enhancement in white women
FGM for men’s sake
FGM to get a son because Allah prefers that.
FGM as culture
FGM as a cause of complications in childbirth
FGM as a private procedure payable in mega-bucks.
No prosecutions yet in UK
Egyptian cutters exist and travel freely
Wider highlighting of what is known as an overseas problem whereas FGM is common in the UK especially amongst Somali and Nigerian women/children
FGM is a crime
FGM is child abuse
FGM is sexual abuse
FGM is practised as a cultural norm.
On a TV programme women police officers deal with FGM criminals.

Hibo Wardere Gillian Lawrence et al are championing the fact that FGM is child and sexual abuse.

No. 23 of 27 Poems for International Women’s Day 2015

  On The Bridges

 

Save a thought for the married woman

Who has trouble defining a cuddle

Who straightens her back to haul water

In cogs

To men at their higher tables

Then eats alone in her kitchen

 

Strength to the wedded child bride

Who lost her place on earth

Through a rung out and brain washed

Female-hood

Genitally mutilated

Before her breasts became bargains

 

Force be with the mother millions

Who have trouble remembering joy

And fearlessly sneak grain

From man guarded sacks

For what child hangs on their frame

 

Rise up the other hemisphere women!

Assemble on your bridges

Adorn your skin with tattoos and piercings

Swap polyester pinafores for First Nations weaves.

 

Let fly the purple and green pamphlets

Over mosque domes and church spires

Megaphone your messages into havens

For the mother-deprived, sprawled and urban

 

Keep up the momentum

Bus in the hijabs and the full-stretched cleavage

The jeggings, the burqas, the suburban sisters

Refresh the statistics and the real situation

On the bridges for every nation.

*************************IWD

No. 22 Poems for International Women’s Day

042

                                       Uplift Me

They told me the Day was to uplift

Women

So out came a troupe of paid

Zumba instructors

With screechy voices

And bottoms wiggling and jiggling like jelly.

 

They told me that women and women could engage

In safe venues

So provided crèche and toddler activities

And herbal teas.

Out came the collage materials,

Smartly squared textile pieces

Pinking shears in pink

Sugar paper

and pictures of Rosie the Riveter

and someone black.

036

 

In the library session

Which was doubly rubber-stamped

and insisted upon

through earnest promotion

mums and daughters would bond

together applying make-up .

049

 

A pantomime.

 

Unfortunately due to costs

The FGM play is cancelled

 

                                                                                               3 mermaid

We will be screening safely Gone Girl

And Tai Chi sessions are free

Do you want to come?

***************************************

 

 

 

 

“Moon Sitting”. No.7 of 27 poems for International Women’s Day

 Moon-sitting

We shall soar and legs akimbo straddle the post Dark moon

In her androgyny

Finger twist hijabian ends and smell woman warmth.

Touching skin we will forgive our mothers

Who taught us how to breast-press,

Curtsey,

Close our legs,

Eat the lesser portion,

Close our mouths, never giggle, wash our scarred vulvas

Repeat useless mantras

Seek no answers

Accept our lot

And burn our extension ends.

for CBH 11dec 2013