I’ve not been able to watch the fall of the British Monarchy and the Republican Revolution as televised by Oprah. Just not happening! Every time I think of the British royal family, I am reminded of Sue Townsend’s classic, The Queen and I, a masterpiece of Republican humour. As you’ve guessed, I haven’t succumbed yet to the Crown!
Instead, I returned to the influences of Black culture in my own life. The poetry, music, and yes, real struggles, of the hoi-polloi! Struggles that are in flux , ebbing and flowing at particular historical moments, like these blood-stained times we live in. Bob Marley told us, “if you know your history, you won’t have to ask me, who the hell do you think I am?”. So it’s in that spirit I share what’s on my mind . A reaction to the current mainstream furor over the shock about racism in the British monarchy. If you want to check out an insider’s view of the British aristocracy, you can check out Jessica Mitford’s Hons and Rebels, an autobiography of opposing political views and dedication to fascism among the lords and ladies!
Without further ado, I want to share the poetry of Georgina Herrera , a contemporary poet living in Cuba. This writer assumes her Black identity both as humanity and as a weapon, forged in the resistance of rebellion to enslavement. Cuba experienced the end of slavery as late as 1886. I have complemented the words of Herrera with the contemporary music of Ibeyi, an AfroCuban/ French duet of sisters, daughters of the renowned Cuban percussionist Anga Diaz. And to these I have combined my paintings inspired by these songs, poems and struggles. I hope you enjoy thinking about the multifaceted nature of women’s contribution to history, in this Women’s month!
Oral Portrait of Victoria by Georgina Herrera, Cuba
(Translation by Kaushalya Bannerji)
What a great-grandmother of mine, that Victoria.
Rebelling and head-down,
she passed her life.
They say I look like her.
That fifth of November
of 1843, Fermina, when all those
downward gazes were not
able to lower her spirits…
What love put that astuteness in her brain,
that fury between her hands?
brought from that land where she was free
like light and thunder
gave strength to her arm?
Valid is the nostalgia that makes powerful
a woman’s hand so
that she can cut the head off her enemy.
Tell me, Fermina. Then what
did you miss most?
What happiness did you recover, when
you flew more than ran, over the green abysses of cane
where you were defiled?
there doesn’t exist a photo of her eyes
They would have shone so hard.
Retrato oral de la Victoria
Qué bisabuela mía esa Victoria.
Cimarroneándose y en bocabajos
pasó la vida.
Dicen que me parezco a ella.
El cinco de noviembre
de 1843, Fermina, cuando
todos los bocabajos fueron pocos
para tumbar su ánimo…
¿qué amor puso la astucia en su cerebro,
la furia entre sus manos?
traído desde su tierra en que era libre
como la luz y el trueno
dio la fuerza a su brazo?
Válida es la nostalgia que hace poderosa
la mano de una mujer
hasta decapitar a su enemigo.
Diga, Fermina. ¿Entonces
qué echaba usted de menos?
¿Cuál fue la dicha recuperada, cuando
volaba más que corría por los verdes abismos de las cañas,
dónde tuvo lugar su desventura?
que no exista una foto de sus ojos.
Habrán brillado tanto.