I’ve been thinking a lot about inheritance and ‘elders’ ; nurtured by several moments over the last few weeks. I recently found an audio recording from nearly two years ago when dozens of my family gathered in Zambia for my brother’s wedding. As with many Zambian gatherings, it was a wonderfully chaotic time of meals, conversations and matriarchs gathering together to noisily delegate and argue over meal ingredients, outfits and how your child should be raised - normally pre-empted with ‘why can’t your son speak to me in his mother tongue ?…” I had been snugly cushioned between several aunts and my dear, dear, quietly contemplative Gogo (Grandmother) with her piercing, knowing eyes. I am a grown woman and I still find myself frantically auditing my naughty-moment-meter when she looks at me that deeply (did Gogo notice that third glass of wine I sneakily poured myself ?..yeaa that twinkle in her eyes is a definite 'yes child, I did'). But I digress. I had reached for my recording device, watching in fascination as my young, feisty cousin took on several aunties and elders, challenging their opinions on several issues. The fire that fed her was like an invisible circle that animated all of them. Even though they all got a little more self conscious and subdued once I started recording, the conversations that afternoon were long, noisy, opinionated. I adored every moment of that afternoon. When I found the audio recording, I had to pause a moment and reach for my phone to look at the last text conversation between my Aunty Esther and I. Gentle, generous Esther, with her larger than life laugh had just died and hearing her voice again was an absolute gift. I’ve captured some of these conversations on our Inspirational Women of Portsmouth Podcast series.
I also recently had the privilege of working with the Fabulous Josh on their ‘Wearing Mums Make Up’ creative project that included an opportunity to mentor several women in capturing their stories for a short podcast series. My podcast story reflected on how I often found myself both frustrated and overwhelmed trying to achieve several things on any given moment. I reflected on how my ancestors, my spirit mothers would have watched the mother of my mother’s mother having similar moments of being both frustrated and overwhelmed. She may have done that agitated finger bite I inherited from my Mother as she sat in her frustrated moment. But those spirit mothers would have danced and laughed and spoken life to my name, and all the quirks that would make me me. I am grateful for them.
My Gogo looks at me with the same joy and laughter in her eyes. We have deep-spirit conversations with each other without saying a word. Our conversations normally end with a gentle tap of my shoulder, or with her weathered, frail fingers gently skimming over mine, like she’s passing something on to me that I can’t quite see but feel in my deep exhale. She connects me to what my ancestors saw when they sang about me.
Running the inspirational women of Portsmouth Awards also had me thinking about inheritance, and whether we recognise and celebrate elders in our community, whatever the context. The concept of celebrating and actively learning from ‘elders’ in our youth obsessed culture has been lost, some might say for the good. I think I can safely say that for a lot of us, when asked what a significant elder or mother might have passed on to us, there’s more likely to be a ‘hold my drink’ moment comparing notes on the not so constructive character trait/trauma/ humiliation/ resentment that’s been handed down to us. And yet, I wonder about the role of elders in community. I came across a fantastic saying through an inspirational Zambian Queen Sibongile Tasila Phiri (yes, she is that fabulous!). She recently shared a quote from @Xavier.Dagba : “As you focus on clearing your generational trauma, do not forget to claim your generational strength. Your ancestors gave you more than just wounds”.
We can learn a lot from a safe, life-affirming elder. And these can be ‘elders’ in the symbolic sense. So I am going to continue to promote this concept through the Awards event, even if some people may not entirely understand why. This conviction has been compounded by the recent passing of Anita Godson from Covid-19 Anita founded Lilly & Lime; a Portsmouth-based social enterprise, enabling, supporting and training young people with learning disabilities into sustainable pathways of employment . https://www.facebook.com/lilyandlimeld Although I’ve never met her, I think I would have liked to sit at her feet awhile and listen. Learn. Be challenged. So. Who inspires you? Is there an elder you can learn from ?
Nominate who inspires you by following this link. Deadline Friday 5 February.
Photo Credit @Juciara Awo
Lead Author : Kelly Marie Baker
Kelly-Marie is a tree loving, free spirited mum of two. Based in Southsea, she leads her family on a Home Education journey, learning from life and the world around them. Over the years her creative soul has been fed with the likes of poetry, dance, choreography and, more recently, writing. Her writing is predominantly focused on personal growth and development with a special interest in using the platform to challenge social norms and provoke deep thought. Kelly believes that The Arts are an immensely important tool to communicate complex and delicate issues and is proud to be collaborating with Pamodzi Creatives. Kelly’s favourites are nature, travel, personal development and coffee…all the coffee!