Happened to come across this bit of writing from … (eight?) years ago in the back of the sketch book I am using for my residency - it’s related to a Performance Film Installation I had created at Che Camille. The themes are particularly resonant within the context of my residency(1).
7000 years ago the ancient Sumerian myth “Innana’s decent into the Underworld” was scribed. In this the goddess Innana descends into the underworld only to resurrect three days later, bringing spring time and new life. We can only make guesses of what life was like in that time - relying entirely upon on anthropological data. We can (perhaps) suppose that the society was matriarchal, ruled by Mother Nature and the mystery of the female body in all it’s wildness.(2)
Advance 2000 years and the Isis Horus myth tells the same story, except women’s role has been subverted further. By the Christ story women’s role as creator, lifegiver has been entirely supplanted to vessel. (3) Over the past 2000 years man has ruled and on a positive note we have advanced tremendously in areas of intellect and science. This is not without detriment to matriarchy and women in general (and nature). It is no surprise that we abuse our planet. It is no wonder that women (globally) have little power personally or politically (statistically speaking). We have quelled the wild body and everything associated with it.
A women’s body; wild, uncontrollable - like the seasons. We expand, bleed, contract, birth - whether we become Mothers or not our bodies are in constant state of cycle - reminding us of our biological derivative. This wildness of the body has been a source of threat for many thousands of years - it has been accused, manipulated, shamed, but never successfully controlled, not entirely. We have shifted from mystery to misogyny, even from ourselves.
When and how do we represent representations of women and men as partner warriors, leaders, nurturers… on the global playground?
We (as societies) seem to struggle to come to terms with nature in real terms. Our bodies become demonised, controlled. What is the fear that is inherent in our makeup? How do we reclaim this story?
Find. Reclaim. Re-present.
I spent the first trimester of my pregnancy in Argentina. It was a strange and marvellous time. I was thrilled to be pregnant (as shocking as the news had been) at the same time my son’s father refused any part of our story. This was perhaps the most shocking to me, the reality that I was being dishonoured on such a soul level cut to the core. My son’s father and I had made a child (unintentionally but hey ho it was done) and he refused responsibility for him (or me) (4). So in the midst of pregnancy hormones and trying to figure it out I knew I would have to go it alone. At the same time I was surrounded by extraordinary images of Motherhood. Somewhere between the Catholic Madonna and the native Pachamama (Mother Earth) Argentina had retained an absolute reverence for Motherhood and pregnancy - this was an absolute gift. You couldn’t turn a corner without seeing a positive representation of Mother’s with their children. From town squares who’s central figure was a Mother holding her child, to pregnant Madonna’s in numerous churches and Cathedrals, to the special queues for ‘embarazadas’ (5) at theatres, airports and shops- Argentina seemed to recognise a special magnificence around the role of Mother.
Nearly three years on, and I have been shocked to find how prevalent and common Single Mothers are. I am not speaking of separated parents or Mother’s who chose to be parents on their own, or Mother’s whose partners pass on to illness and such, but wherein the father has decided to be absent from their child’s life. There is a deep dishonour there and equally it is a feminist issue, I believe it has very significant roots in the lack of honour for women in general and for Motherhood. (6)
I cried for the first time today. I mean in studio. Let me assure you tears are not uncommon in my life these days - since Motherhood descended I seem to be much more emotional much more easily (7). Must be the sleep deprivation. It’s for all sorts of things - my son (unprompted) said ‘thank you’ for a dozen different things the other day which ended with a kiss for Mummy, of course I wept. And there are the tears of absolute loneliness - when we’ve both had a ‘bad day’ and the house is a disaster and my bank account dangerously close to the end point and no money in sight and I can’t see the wood through the trees, but then I sleep and wake up the next day and my son says ‘thank you again’ and it re-charges me and I emerge smiling. Life.
I was dancing around to ‘Rockin’ Robin’ in the studio today just moving my body as best as I could - not particularly inspired but needing to do it and a thought flew into my head - it was more a vibe then an intellectual possibility - and that was that my son was going to grow up to be happy and absolutely marvellous. I stopped dancing and I wept. The emotion of that possibility was too great. I guess I hear and feel so often what I’m not (societally- explicitly and implicitly), it’s difficult to see what I am, and what could be. That seems strange even to myself who prior to having a child prided myself on my positivity and forward thinking. The transformation surprises myself.
Let me put it on the table being a single Mum sucks, it really does. I make the best of it, and try and find all the joy and positivity for my son and he is a treasure beyond measure - but it doesn’t stop the fact that it is lonely, and hard. And it’s not about whether it’s ‘worth it’ or not. It’s not about that at all. I think sometimes when we try and justify our existence we lose the opportunity to improve it. The thing is - something is broken in our society wherein my role is normalised. It shouldn’t be demonised but it should be more shocking that so many women and children would be abandoned. For that is the fact of it.
(1) Thanks Gary Bolam for images
(2) When I refer to wildness I mean the ‘natural’ course of things, as opposed to the ‘modern’ conception of wild being ‘out of control’ - when one is in ‘wild’ nature one witnesses a state of harmony within an environment - this contrasts (ironically) with the (current conceived of) ‘ordered’ state which is very often disruptive, destructive and out of balance.
(3) I do wonder if some of the problem therein, or part of the problem, is down to translations of translations of ancient texts - to understand meaning of language is is difficult to separate from cultural value systems which don’t always translate - but that is a separate essay!
(4) when I say ‘responsibility’ I do not mean in conventional sense, rather psychologically and spiritually.
(5) Word which means ‘pregnant women’. Lovely - they even have a special term for us :)
(6) I acknowledge there are Fathers who are kept from their children, that is awful - that is a separate issue, and another story.
(7) Just read an interesting article on this today related to the neurological changes that happen when a woman becomes a Mother “What Happens to a Woman’s Brain When She Becomes a Mother” which perhaps more accurately describes my newly developed sensitivity…. http://m.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/what-happens-to-a-womans-brain-when-she-becomes-a-mother/384179/