Archives for the month of: April, 2013

I flew this week for the first time in over a year. It is too long to go without flying to another country. I flew from London to Berlin. I had a coughing fit on the plane, well a few. It only took a few minutes for the man sitting next to me to move to another row. I appreciated his honesty. I cannot stand it when people chew gum on public transport and do find myself moving seats if they are really grossing me out. I went to the loo three times in the space of the short flight and coughed my guts out. My mucus output was incredible.

I have had every strand of cold/cough/flu this year, with a few weeks break in between. It did make me think of cystic fibrosis (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cystic-fibrosis/Pages/Introduction.aspx) and Asha’s three children, who had this disease and died very young. I am still having difficulty breathing and my cough is causing a gag reflex. I do not have cystic fibrosis but can relate to difficulty breathing and lots of mucus, even though my output would be less. When I was around two years old I got double pneumonia. From then on I had terrible trouble breathing whenever I even got the slightest cold. I had to regularly use a nebuliser (http://www.asthmafoundation.org.au/Nebulisers.aspx) for ten years of my life, whenever I was a bit unwell, because I literally could hardly breathe. I am reminded of my wheezing, coughing and mucus. I don’t remember ever being panicked over it though. It was just the way it was. Once I hit adolescence I did not need it anymore. Migraines and Crohn’s Disease (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Crohns-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx) took over then.

The nebuliser was an integral part of my childhood. I remember loading it up with water and medicine, screwing the top part of the face/mouth piece in and the vibration and loud noise it made. The side effect was that I had the shakes for a few minutes afterwards. I imagined the medicine pushing my lungs open. I am sure that’s not what happened but my wheezing stopped. I couldn’t move very fast. I had all kinds of illness as a child but I would say the respiratory one dominated, as it was more incapacitating than the unexplainable skin disorders (non itchy rashes, itchy rashes, round red circles on my legs that disappeared taking my pigment away with them for a year leaving white blotches), or the viruses that attacked my alimentary canal from time to time. I had a grandmother who was a pharmacist so I was always well supplied with drugs. If it was not for modern medicine I would have kicked the bucket a long time ago. It makes me think that timing is everything. Had I been born in the 1940s I would definitely not have made it.

I may have a strong spirit but I certainly do not have a strong body. I am disappointed but resigned to the fact that I am feeling too unwell to go out and explore Berlin today. I really cannot bear the thought, and I need to blow my nose again! I am sitting at a desk with a blanket on me. The sun is out. I am appreciating that. I am going to be kind to myself. I always feel better when I am. I feel like I just stated the obvious.

On the plus side the planning for the journey to South Africa is nearly complete. I just need to find some 1940s shoes and a Gandhi sari. The flights and accommodation side of the planning brought up some obvious but interesting predicaments. The intention is to replicate the journey Asha took when she was 89 in 2009 but also revisit all important spots from previous years. I felt like by acting like Asha all the way I did what was honest for Korinna and the piece. Asha advised me to choose my bus journey based on price. She chooses everything based on price. So, I chose the cheapest airfare, which so happened to be a direct flight, unlike her previous journey. I went for a different hotel in Johannesburg because of budgetary restrictions but also because the hotel she stayed in was not Asha’s choice or expenditure but her granddaughter’s. She would never stay there of her own accord. She preferes the simpler places like the YMCA. I  may even take a different route from Pietermaritzburg to Cape Town. Over the years this woman has travelled Africa, not just South Africa, through any means available to her. She is not about restriction. I need to be flexible. I need to work with what I have, which is not what she was given. I need to find her through me. I need to merge us and make a new journey about us. I feel I have been given some kind of torch and I just have to carry it one step at a time because I still don’t know where I am meant to take it. I suppose it will take me.

Scan 40

I watched the feature film Skin (2008) which is a South African film based on the true story of an Afrikaans family who had ‘coloured’ children. Their daughter and younger son were clearly mixed race but their daughter Sandra bore the brunt of the racism and made the papers for being this freak of nature. The family had great trouble accepting her, especially her father. She is eventually ostracised after she has an affair and children with a black man.

It upset me so much I cried from shock, sadness and pure rage. I started understanding why Asha couldn’t just sit by while all this injustice happened around her. Her first protest was essentially a spontaneous act of frustration. It caused quite a stink and stir. She was imprisoned and got out after she let her husband pay the fine.

Newspaper clipping 1

The relationship between Europe and Africa goes back so far that I can’t actually see a separation. It is history’s biggest love-hate story. I am only now starting to understand it. I feel like I am lifting and peeking under the rug of ignorance. I know that the only way I can understand something is to feel it. To feel it I need to be in it. To be in it I need to go on a journey and document it. This is the theory behind my practice. Without considering the whole being one cannot be fully moved. You cannot separate mind from body and emotions are my barometer through life. I was raised to ignore them because they did not suit people. People who were abusing me. I choose to draw from experience in order to understand but will always respect that I will never fully understand this history but that I have a certain affinity to its honesty.

This is a video that helped me fill in my historical gaps:

The Frost Interview: Desmond Tutu

 

It’s hard to know where to start because I defiantly started the process before I got the financial green light. The embodiment started in November 2012 after I immersed myself in Asha’s world. It was so organic I didn’t feel it was my right to stop myself. Her life is such a sprawl of experience that containing it felt counterproductive and disrespectful.

Since allowing Asha in I have adopted certain traits:

I had an alien kind of urgency and anxiety that engulfed my chest, putting me in a mild state of hyperventilation for most of the time I spent in Scotland with her.

I have rationed my spending. I look for bargains at every chance, whether it is in a supermarket or a clothes store. I don’t do a ‘big weekly shop’ at the supermarket anymore. I buy what I need, when I need it. I gather as I go along, and now I realise I am doing it constantly. I was told not to be “so hunter-gatherer” at work after I ate a colleague’s spotty banana (just the way I like them) even though she had seemingly discarded it for a whole week.

I feel I can demand things.

I feel myself saying rude, outspoken things to people that are personal and highly unnecessary. I am aware that they can cause upset and/or amusement for everyone involved. I feel a bit guilty over this but am glad I am aware.

I have an innate confidence over travelling big distances under uncomfortable circumstances.

I am even more in touch with South Africa and my accent randomly deviates to South African tones.

I am spiritually more open and find myself tuning into things I know nothing about.

I find a pool of courage that stems from a vulnerability that comes from basic human needs.

I have a better grasp on survival. I appreciate my own ability to do it.

I am able to be more objective and more subjective simultaneously.

My body is being taken over. I am receiving what this emotional colonization has to offer. I am setting my boundaries. I am aware of my right to disagree.

En route to Scotland

Questioning Hoarding

Revisiting the prison

Revisiting the prison

In the summer of 2011, just after I graduated, I was in Rochester for a private view with friends from University. As I stood relaxed with some wine I hear my friend shout from the opposite side of the room something like: “Korinna, this lady’s dual national British and South African”. She beckons me over. I am slightly mortified but gracefully comply. This lady was very elderly. She had a Zulu walking stick/weapon and was dressed very colourfully, mainly in purple. I was dressed very colourfully, mainly in red. It was like a mirror image, only 70 years apart. My friend knew how important South Africa became to me due to an influential relationship I had with an Afrikaans man and she was also aware of my dual heritage and international background. She also very much enjoys talking to elderly people.

We get acquainted. Within the space of ten minutes she, introduced to us as Asha, and her daughter, Jane, fill us in on Asha’s past: being a freedom fighter in South Africa, the prison sentence and her poetry mainly. She says she is a poetess and when I use the term poet instead she corrects me. My friend divulges that I write poetry also. Jane suggests we organize a poetry reading at her house one evening. In the autumn of 2011 we do. It goes well.

After that I remained in contact with Jane. When I became homeless in the spring of 2012 she offered me her spare room for a tiny fee and I lived there for two months. I spent a lot of time with the two ladies and within a few weeks proposed the idea of making a portrait video and performance piece on Asha, where I would embody her and recreate her protests and journeys in South Africa. The proposal was well received. It was up to me to make it happen.

In the autumn of 2012 we travelled by car from London to Aberdeenshire together and stayed in their house there for a week. This was to collect my thoughts over the project and decide whether I was actually going to go ahead. It ended up being too interesting and expansive an experience to decide not to. I began writing my proposal for a grant from ACE and finally submitted the application in the winter of 2013. It was successful.

In the proposal I said I would document and explore the experience from start to finish in the form of a blog.