May Pole

May is the month for rain, dance, fertility, and planting.

May Pole is in honour of the God Maya Ya, who embraces fertility, mother earth, and the beginning of the rainy season. During the entire month of May, each neighbourhood in the city of Bluefields and Bilwi in Nicaragua prepares dances that are performed around a decorated tree with colourful costumes and some good vibrating musical rhythm. Games, food and drinks are also prepared. 

In 2011, I was part of the production team of the documentary titled Al Son de Miss Lizzie, which describes the artistic life of Elizabeth Nelson Forbes, who is a pioneer of the Maypole dance in the Caribbean of Nicaragua. 

I invite you to watch the documentary and learn about the mixture of cultures. I hope you can feel the spirit of the God Maya Ya. 

Documentary Al Son de Miss Lizzie

Photo cover: May Pole painting by Nydia Taylor

A Stranger from South to East

Stereotypes on the metro of Helsinki is seen day by day.


Have you ever felt like a stranger in your country, hometown, or elsewhere? I had felt it many times, especially when individuals assume that you are not from “this place” because you don’t “look, dress or talk” like the rest. At first, it annoyed me, but now I just apply the mirror question or ignore it.

Helsinki is already diverse; however, I think that there is still more to be done to embrace this diversity from different levels. Two years ago, the New Helsinki Theatre (NHT), was created with the aim to bring together professionals of arts, the audience, and the different theatres, to produce together performing arts that show the richness and varieties of cultures in a venue.

In addition, the New Helsinki Theatre is coordinated by two renowned cultural spaces, with vast experience: Post Theatre Collective and Teatteri Metamorfoosi. In an interview with Davide Giovanzana, one of the founders of TeatteriMetamorfoosi, he said, “One thing that touched me a lot when I started theatre was the community, where a group of people who share the similar dream, ideas, and working together (…), made it happen.

As autumn breaks in with its mixture of colours and variety, so is the New Helsinki Theatre with different activities for the public. Many events are being organized from the middle part of October in the NTH Pop-Up 2021. The first one was the seminar Building Bridges: The concrete action for interculturalism and inclusion in Finnish theatre organized at Arts Promotion Centre Taike´s premises on 15th October by NTH. It was a continuation of the Seminar on Art, Culture, and a Diverse Finland organized by the Ministry of Education and Culture. 

The worlds inclusion and intercultural are trending, but how much do we know about them and how it should be applied to the different fields. Fred Delvin (2017), addressed the terms of interculturality and intercultural as having become confused by only comparing cultures; however, he aims to “train people to work within the continuum of similarity and difference to oscillate between the two” (p.14).

As my conversation flew with Davide he also made a critical point about this topic of building inclusion in the theatre field. “I think there is fear in the Finnish theatre, and it is self-centered (…). The tradition “hyvä veljeys” (brotherhood) affects the actors that didn’t study in Finnish theatre school (…), this mentality affects not only the foreigners (from the theatre) but also the Finnish people”. 

For the ending part of this month, there will more events to attend. From 28.10-28.11, Vuotalo will be the venue of the Pop-Up, it includes the presentation of three performances, The StrangerPunch Up!-Resistance & Glitter, and Eros/sa.  

The Stranger

So, have you recalled feeling being a stranger? If you have not, hop up on this metro journey that we will take from the southern to the eastern side of Helsinki. I am sure that after this trip you will feel related to the stories of the play. 

It was a rainy and grey day when I arrived at TeatteriMetamorfoosi, located in Sörnäinen, Helsinki. I entered a studio that has gray walls and a black floor where five individuals were rehearsing a play that I also became part of while watching. I forget that outside was a gloomy day because the different voices saying 5,6,7…, the body movements, the music beat, and phrases transported me to each scene of the play Stranger

This play directed by Davide Giovanzana, performed by Yasmin Ahsanullah, Maija Ruuskanen, and Anastasia Trizna; light designed by Anssi Ruotanen, and produced by Teatteri Metamorfoosi, describes the story of three women feeling an outsider in their city as they travel in public transportation. These three stories are intertwined with Meursault, the protagonist of the novel The Stranger by Albert Camus. The play Stranger portrays many topics, but the main one is “feeling alienated,” said the director.

The timeline of the performance is the Helsinki metro that travels from Tapiola to Mellunmäki in 40 minutes. The play takes an hour is almost real-time of the trip. During this journey, the characters observe the variety of passengers and their economic status. They also experienced being an outsider in their community, by being Othered by other passengers of the metro. 

According to Johnson et al. (2004), Othering is a “process that identifies those that are thought to be different from oneself or the mainstream, and it can reinforce and reproduce positions of domination and subordination”. This process includes stereotyping, racialization, culturalism, discrimination, sexism, essentialism, etc. which divide, create fear, grant privilege, and lack of perspective of “others” in the society.  

So, from the 28th to -31st of October, you are invited to Vuotaloto be part of this play, The Stranger. The objective of the play is that you feel related as the stories evolve and participate in the rave at the end of the play, so you can stop being a victim of the constructed society.

As I ride the metro to meet a friend in the centre of Helsinki, my thoughts are about my life as a stranger in Finland; where I had felt belonged but at the same time rejected, however, I feel that this is one of my home. 

Ninosca

“The first time a man disrespects you with his hands, It’s a goodbye”. Ninosca

I wrote a review for the Latin American Film Festival Cinemaissi. I was glad to write this story because of two reasons. First, I met the film director years ago and second because I am a immigrant woman like Ninosca. Here is the article. I highly recommend to see the film.

Billie Holiday: A Voice of Protest

Never silent your voice. Speak out.

I am on vacation, so one of the things I enjoy is watching movies or series. Recently, I watched The United States vs. Billie Holiday, directed by Lee Daniels, with the casting of Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Natasha Lyonne, Evan Ross, and others.

The film is a biography of jazz singer, Billie Holiday. Her performances, her love life, the violence cycle she lived, her period in jail, and drug addiction.

The movie starts with the text about the lynching of black individuals that occurred in the United States since the 1930s until the creation of the Civil Rights in 1950s and 1960s. Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit” is based on the lynching of black a North American; thus, its lyrics were consider controversial. This song was prohibited to be sung on many occasions; however, the public continued to ask Holiday to sing it. She was a rebel and refused to stop singing it. Once, she was on the stage, she knew as well that she will have the support of  Lester Young who was her saxophonist, so it was sung as many times she wanted. This was the ‘reason’ used as an excuse by the Antinarcotic, from the FBI to jailed her, arrested, harass her. Drug was planted on her on many occasions.

Holiday new she was targeted for being a black woman, who was protesting for her people. She knew it was a violation of human rights executed by the government; however, all the above incidents never stop her to silencing her voice as a way of protest.

The song “Strange Fruit” was composed by Abel Meeropol and recorded in 1939 by Holiday. The song is based on a poem from Meeropol which is a protest of the lynching that occurred in the Southern U.S.A., against black people and which had a peak in the early 20th century.  The song compares the victims of lynching with the fruits of the trees.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

This song, without a doubt, was one of the best moments of her career. In 1978, it was received in the Grammy Hall of Fame. It was also mentioned in the list as “Song of the Century”. Many other singers such as Nina Simone, Diana Rose, Jeff Buckley, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and others made versions of the song.

Youtube Video

The song USA Government once wated to be silent is an icon, not only for the last century, but also applicable today as a symbol for all the black individuals that are being shot in this country by the government (police). Today blood is on the road and not on the leaves of the trees.

If Holiday were to be present today, I am sure she will sing the song from her heart. The context for the black community has not changed. There is a hierarchical and institutionalized racism that prevails over ‘human rights’ of the black individuals.

23 of April: Book Day

On Book Day let’s celebrate all the writers we know and those we don’t know.

Today, as we celebrate International Book Day, I would like to know more about books that have influenced your life mindset.

I can’t recall which was the first book I read. But what I surely remember is that my parents read a lot of storybooks to my sister and me. I enjoyed this. I also remember we had records of some of these books.

Years later, I started to read on my own. Since then, I do my best to read as many books as possible, but I feel that I should read more. Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde are two female writers that have influenced and shaped my thoughts as a black woman; however, I continue to read many others that had been recommended by friends or are listed to be read.

Currently, I am reading The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood and Sensuous Knowledge by Minna Salami.

Do you remember the first book you read? Which female writer has influenced you?

“Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection”.

Toni Morrison

Photo by Tomas Martinez on Unsplash