This is my fragmented heart – a response to what I heard and saw and felt on Friday when I attended Edge Hill University Arts Centre event – The Role of the Arts, Arts Therapies, and Psychotherapies in Supporting Mental Health in Black and Allied Communities. The words around the heart are a quote from Andrea-May Oliver, which blew my mind:
“Ancestors, thank you for walking the path we wouldn’t dare to tread.”
And at the bottom is another quote from Samantha Adams, which forms the title of my piece: “Creativity is the First Medicine.”
As someone who experienced sexual, emotional and physical abuse in childhood and daily discriminations of sexism throughout life, I can attest to creativity as first medicine. When I was in the midst of a breakdown 11 years ago and I could not get the mental health help I needed, art was there. Without art I would have been in a dark hole for a long time.
I made a sculptural piece on canvas and wrote a poem on it. This is the poem:
I am not broken I don’t need to be fixed What I need is presence For my parts to be mixed
Trauma, any trauma regardless of the discrimination that caused it, can be healed with expression in safe arms. It’s hard to go there, to those places of pain, and it must be done gently, allowing the pain to bubble up rather than go seeking it. It’s so worth it. The more we do the inner work, the more we honour ourselves, our ancestors, the people we share this planet with and we can create heaven on earth if we can hear one another’s pain, have a conversation about it, a dance, a song, throw away what is no longer needed in the fire and create together. That’s what we’re here for. We are creative beings. Let’s create some magic!
Once upon a time, in the absence of loving kindness, a black hole appeared. It was deep and dark and its edges were ringed with hurt. Its hunger knew no bounds and was constantly looking for satiation.
One night something hard, yet squidgy, filled it for a while and though it didn’t feel right, it was secret and special. More, it wanted more! And it ate the rage, the fear, the confusion, the shame, the desire. It gorged on hard, yet squidgy, until it could know nothing else. They were made for each other.
Suddenly, hard, yet squidgy, stopped visiting and a blanket of black covered the hole, lifting only to allow it to binge on other shameful things. The blanket was heavy and yet provided a kind of comfort, keeping the status quo.
Eventually a compassionate eye rested its gaze on the black hole, letting it know that it could, if it wanted to, tell its story. It did. And it began to understand its need to binge and that it could begin to feel, not eat, the confusing array of emotions.
As it felt its feelings, the heavy, black blanket disintegrated and the hole began to build structures of peace and fulfilment. What strange, beautiful structures they were. They curled and curved around and out, and developed a weird and wonderful life of their own.
Once upon a time a seed landed on the top soil of a freshly dug garden. Laying on the moist earth, it felt at home and began to send roots down into the darkness amongst the worms and other night crawlers. It lay like this for a while through rain and shine, night and day, until it was time to send a shoot skyward. Almost immediately a bird arrived to sing to the new growth encouraging it to burst forth in the way only this shoot could.
The plant that was a seed drew up the soil’s nutrients and its shoot divided into three leaves of vibrant green with red dots. Humans came to lay turf and their boots halted near the plant. They gazed and murmured, then the boots stepped away. Gently, and with minimal vibrations, they laid the turf around the plant, cutting a circle for the place it had claimed as home.
Once upon a time a creature emerged from the deep blue lake and surprised the birds nearby into silence. Gazing at the birds with a sort of recognition, the creature smiled. The birds saw the creature’s giant lips peel back and sharp yellowy teeth glistened in the sunlight. Bobbing down, the birds prepared for flight as the creature moved slowly forward from the middle of the lake, a wake forming behind it. Feathers began to pop up on its head; they were pink with black dots. The creature pursed its lips together and blew. Twinkling notes filled the air and surprised the birds so much that they almost fell from their branches. Intrigued, they relaxed and waited. The creature emerged from the lake massive, pink, scaly, and feathery, whistling her song and laid beneath the tree. The birds flew down, hopped near, and one landed on the creature’s belly, tickling her and making her giggle.
This drawing I made yesterday feels disturbing. It’s kind of insect-like, yet has an ‘as above, so below’ feel to it. But the grey half is different to the colourful half. It’s like the colour has sucked itself out to exist for a while as colour and will eventually return. The colour is dancing, going, “I am here!” It is attached to the grey thing, is still part of it, but has, briefly, taken another form. It feels separate but isn’t. I think it’s about being human.
Mr Yates, art teacher at Walton Girls’ High School, 1983
I’ve often wondered why I accepted Mr Yates’ statement as Truth when I was thirteen. I immediately stopped drawing and began a journal instead. I had a flash of insight yesterday whilst washing my hair (of all things): he’d stated I wasn’t good enough at identity level. “You’re not good enough.” It was like a magic spell. I believed him. I stopped.
This drawing began as a mindfulness exercise to soothe me after stretching my comfort zone. I like the feel of the paper and the sound of the pen making dots. As I look at it I realise it’s a reflection of all the things I’ve been thinking about lately – spirituality, resonance, parts therapy, to name a few. How do you soothe yourself?
This is my latest pigment pen drawing, Turning Over A New Leaf. My research into the phrase, “turning over a new leaf,” highlighted the assumption that often accompanies the intention to turn over a new leaf. Here’s a definition from Collins:
Chalk pastels are one of my favourite art materials. I love the way they blend easily. This week I’ve been making drawings to create insights around self knowledge. The parts of my self that I’m focusing on are Small Me and Big Me. Below are my images and the words I wrote about them in my journal.