On the first day of the course I remember feeling a strong sense of fear. But I wasn’t scared of Amy Gwilliam (Course leader/ DIY Queen) or my fellow participants, I feared being seen. In the vulnerable way that being a creative, forces you to be seen. I feel as though any work you make as a creative is by default is an outpour of your ‘you-ness’. Your experiences, your pain, the perspective through which you see the world. I didn’t quite realize this until I walked into the Mono Box studio on the first Saturday morning, but I was petrified of people seeing my ‘me-ness’. I usually prefer to keep my ‘me-ness’ as a silent inner monologue, or as an inside joke at dinner with trusted friends whom I know will understand my ‘me’. Even when I perform poetry at open mic-nights, I find comfort in the knowledge that social norm does not allow people speak to me for too long. The encounter remains brief and people’s true judgements on my creative outpour stays safely inside their minds.
Now… I was sharing my ‘me-ness’ with strangers that I would have to speak to again. I’m not used to people looking inside me in this way and that is what it felt like developing my show with DIY. It felt like through the sharing my work, I was allowing people to see me for the first time, to feel my pain, my passion, my awkwardness, my desires. The whole lot. I don’t think I realised the extent to which my vulnerability would be on show when I decided that I wanted to make a show on womanhood. But I realised that it was something that I needed to do. For years I have grappled with coming into womanhood. The way in which the world treats you when you are a woman has left my mind boggled since I hit puberty at 10.
For years I have had to navigate between my own desires and societies desires of what I should be because I am a woman. I was taught to love too much, to be polite, to people please, to put other people’s desires above my own, even if it hurt. I have also had to deal with male desire before I should have. As a schoolgirl I was subject to street harassment when walking home, as are many schoolgirls. Most women experience street harassment by at several points in their lives, whilst walking on the street, on public transport or out at night. This experience has had an impact on the way I experience womanhood, as it does many women. It makes me feel shameful and anxious about my body in a way I should not be. However, this experience is not often openly talked about.
People say make the show you want to see, and this is it. Full of spoken word, traditional tribal dancing, twerking and clowning; the pain and beauty of coming into womanhood as a female child of the Nigerian diaspora, open and candid. My show is a story of uprising, my REVULVA(the name of my show).
The DIY workshop gave me a readymade audience of peers and fellow creatives to go with me on this journey. It gave me a platform to showcase and experiment with work that had only taken place in my imagination and be given feedback. As fellow artists we were encouraged to challenge, push and support one another. I valued the privilege of seeing another artist develop their work and relished the opportunity to encourage the process and uplift the artist. We played, danced, laughed, argued and cried together. Literally.
Through DIY I have become more courageous, because now I know I can say the things I want to say out loud. I am grateful for the experience.