Migrant’s Gift by Akila Richards
Artist and playwright Akila Richards shares her work on migration and colonialism through recounting experience within her practice of writing and her embroidered clothing.
Her recent work appeared in digital animation and text on clothes for collective exhibition at ONCA Gallery, Constructed Geographies. The broad theme of the exhibition allowed each artist to reflect on emotive issues around Black identity, migration and heritage, [with] visitors … surprised to find themselves relating to the works and understanding a different perspective, about what it means to be Black or BAME in Britain and the US” (Amy Zamarripa Solis, Artist & Curator).
“Before the project Constructed Geographies, my original interest to Migrant’s Gift was peaked by the film ‘Auntie’. The story deals with Auntie looking after her niece, while her mother is setting up a new life in America. The niece is to join her mum after years of separation and aching to close the bond, that have been kept alive with letters, barrels of goodies and provisions and telephone calls.”
The Wait In Between
Between bouts of longing and numbness
she is gripped
by an urge so strong, that she physically
Wide mouthed, bottomed out and empty
waiting to be
filled with butter biscuits, layers of surprises and round brown hugs
like the barrel
her mummy ships across the ocean every six months.
“I wish to give voice to the multiple hidden stories of generations that have set up in England, America and Canada leaving loved ones, children and their babies behind in the Caribbean and Africa. It speaks from survival to thriving in a very different country, that often treats its migrants with disdain and colonial superiority. Yet these families built communities, changed land – and sound scapes, changed legislation through resistance and movements, have funded economies back home from the small-small funds sent regularly for education, businesses and subsistence that underpin and support countries and nations.”
I created new cultures from south to north.
Carried ice and fire in my heart.
Funded islands and continents back to life.
So what, if I was despised.
For centuries I’ve known, I arrived with wise eyes.
“The personal stories of the families in how the navigated the spaces in between, the shades of opaque helped me to relate to my own reversed experience. I was in the West to an African migrant and indigenous European. Both their longings and desires and the hinterland it presents, were also seeded in me. I looked for a home to create belonging under relentless questioning of ‘Where are you REALLY from?’ These questions have not stopped. However the people and communities mentioned above, have taught me resilience beyond survival, a solid understanding how to belong to oneself in to each other and create an environment that makes us central. The current overt backlash with Brexit, gives rise to hate and a hostile environment that is not new. The landscape however has changed considerably, in the mixing, blending of families and communities and exchange of who we have become, of who we are now.”
Mother’s eastern eyes stand out in mine.
Closed, they observe between.
Father’s southern lips import unspoken longing
translated in my first tongue-tied kiss.
Mother’s mother’s nordic hands hug me till grown then
her ashes migrate under the sea, rising in orange soil.
Father’s mother lent me her stretched thighs re-birthing
east, south, north and the rest.
My hands open eyes, stroke my lips and lift my thighs.
They love each other well, even if the givers don’t.
Alika Richards is a published and award-winning writer, poet and spoken word artist. She performs and reads in a range of settings including internationally. Akila also runs workshops for young people and adults for performance poetry on stage. She has recently written a play from her short story ‘Secret Chamber’ that was performed on 26 October at the Purple Playhouse Theatre. Her intention is to develop it into a full production for touring. Akila works professionally in the creative and community sector.
For more see www.akilarichards.com.