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An interview about my forthcoming publication: BEFORE I AM RENDERED VISIBLE resistance from the mar

Ros how do you feel about BEFORE I AM RENDERED INVISIBLE, your book coming out soon?

I am really excited. It is such an honour and it has been a long time coming. I am just really grateful to Arkbound and Palavro for making this happen. Hopefully it will encourage other marginalised voices with things to say to write.

You say that writing is a process of remembering and honouring for you. How does that impact your writing process.

I write in a number of different forms, really to serve the story or message e.g whether it is chalking on the pavement for Emancipation Day, International Women’s Day or International Workers Day. Remembering and honouring ancestors and elders is at the heart of what I do. As an older woman myself, I am conscious of those who have gone before: my late mother, my late father, Pa Orlando Martins, and others before them. We of African heritage, have such a rich history. It is capturing these stories of our ‘freedom fighters’ and putting them out there so they are not forgotten but celebrated as lives of struggle, resistance and achievement.

The process it is finding the story that needs to be told, whether it is Fanny Coker of the Georgian House, Bristol; whether it is coming across the late Richard Hart, Caribbean historian, political activist and founder member of the PNP (Peoples National Party in Jamaica (who has now passed), whom I came across incidentally, living in Bristol many years ago now, and realising his story, is a story that needed to be told.

I see myself as a vehicle, facilitating this process i.e how the past speaks to our present struggle and resistance as black people. Life is a cycle. I do feel we are gifted a short time on earth and this for me, is about adding to our common humanity and endeavouring to reduce inequality and eliminate injustice. I’m looking for stories that do this, stories that need to be told, stories that need to be celebrated.

You refer to creative resistance from the margins. Broadly speaking, how do you feel that marginalised people can resist the narratives that are often placed on them in favour of their own empowering stories?

We do and we always have and we always will. It is knowing who you are, this is who I am as a black woman and valuing that. Writing for me is a journey of discovery and exploration through re-discovery, creating and platforming work, taking inspiration from others work or a DIY coming together process to create. Many black artists undertake an exploration of their identity in the world they live in instinctively. You see it in song and whatever creative outlets people from margins have.

I was in Zimbabwe some years back. What struck me was the music and song so evidently intrinsic in the landscape. Literally there was this soul stirring, heartfelt singing everywhere, coming from buildings, from gatherings under trees.

I was in a remote rural primary school, the children walked miles 2 or 3 miles to come to a 3 room school house with little more than a black board, chalk , desks, exercise books from Norway and pencils. The school catered from the very little ones to age 11. I had arrived invited to run creative writing workshops on paper doilies, I brought with me, so they could take home their work. At the end of the school day they said, we have nothing to give you but this. Every student in that school stood up and sang. It was an extraordinary call and response song in Shona. It was such a beautiful gift, it brought tears to my eyes…..

From the margins where ever we are this is who we are, this is what we about, an evocation of that which has gone before. I recall Zimbabwean musician Fidelis Mherembi, reminding me, when we worked together, all those years ago, how music, dance and storytelling is intrinsic to the African spirit, to comfort, to heal and celebrate whatever life events befall us.

Wherever I travel, in the Caribbean, in Africa and in Europe I like to meet African and diasporan artists, to see what it is they are expressing in their work, what they are writing, what concerns them and, what we have in common.

As someone who observes the holes in history how do you reclaim herstories that which has been lost

I don’t think it is just me, lots of us do. For me it is in writing, or whatever we need to do creatively. I look for angles that interest, that are a bit unusual to uncover a story, or should I say, recover a story then raise it through a play, public chalk event, in performance writing, or debate. I engage myself in walking tours of the city through Bristol Radical History group and Countering Colston, walks that render visible sites of struggle of the put upon, disenfranchised, socially marginalised, working people at home and abroad.

The challenge as an artist is to provoke, to engage, to get people to think, dialogue and celebrate the every day struggles of their colonised, disenfranchised, put upon ancestors. To consider what it is I want to others to think about and to experience in the hope it might to add to the sum of our common humanity.

What would you like readers to take away from your book?

Whatever they do. Once you create a piece of work and it is out there, it is for the reader to take what they will from it. Hopefully to be inspired to write and tell their own stories or to be more active in combatting inequality and injustice. I think it is incumbent on us all to play our own role in promoting an inclusive society within our own communities whether this is in our neighbourhoods, at work among artists, or like minded people, to develop communities of resistance.

Onwards in struggle.

Interviewed by Ellena Jenks Arkbound

‘BEFORE I AM RENDERED INVISIBLE’ is a personal archive of the author’s performance writings that chart black struggle and resistance in Bristol and beyond over 20 years, in spoken word, play, social commentary, public pavement chalking and memoir.

Pushing out from the margins, this publication endeavours to elucidates the past and ongoing struggle in our midst it also is a reminder that we have always been a people of struggle and resistance, taking inspiration from those who have gone before.

THE BOOK LAUNCH EVENT for Black History Month in Bristol

takes place at Waterstones Galleries Union Street, Bristol BS1 3XD

6.30pm 22 October 2022

Book through eventbrite.

Event is sponsored by ‘The World Re-imagined’ and supported by Bristol Ideas, Palavro/Arkbound & Waterstones

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