Monday, August 18, 2008

History, herstory, our stories

Three pebbles worn smooth by the lapping waves from a favourite beach evoke precious memories of home for Jamaican poet, Donna Smith. In her bruisingly candid poems laced with a healthy dose of dancehall energy and lascivious humour, Smith opened the floor at the Women in the Arts festival in Johannesburg last weekend.

The pebbles, a parting gift from a dear friend, hold joyous memories which Smith often uses as a source of strength when homesickness sets in. Three simple pebbles hold precious memories and emotive images of good times gone by.

How is it that we are able to infuse such intense emotion into innate objects? A dear friend recently emigrated to the Middle East. The reality of her move set in when 91 packing boxes later, through tear-filled eyes, she watched her life being loaded onto the moving truck. The boxes, some to be shipped, some to be stored, held rich cornerstones of memory, life histories now in transit to another destination. Her tears, painful but cleansing, were clearing the way for new chapters in her-story.

Stories form the bedrock of our lives, shape our identity and invite us to imagine. Through dreams, memories and visions, we are transported back in time and if we wish into the future.

So, what stories will you tell your children and their children? What keepsakes that signpost significant people and moments in time are you gathering? Consider unleashing your creativity and take thoughtful moments to gather symbols that personalise your life story.

Over the past decade in Africa, memory work has become a powerful healing tool for families living with and affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In creating memory boxes and memory books, families and particularly children, are more easily able to process the reality of death and the trauma of loss.

By creatively encapsulating life-stories through personalised notes, photos and quirky mementos, the essence of life is captured for posterity in boxes which are as varied and colourful as the owners. The process of creating memory boxes also helps children shape their identity and more freely talk about their feelings through cherished attachment to symbols representing loved ones, hope and ultimately peace.

Our history as Caribbean people tells of movements, forcibly or otherwise, which uproot our collective memories. I often wonder what our parents who emigrated to the US and Europe in the 50s and 60s would have put in their memory boxes.

In these days of quick fire, instantly accessible and instantly disposable experiences, the call to document personalised textures and nuances of our very life source is becoming more urgent.

By creating time capsule memory boxes, we can all be storytellers weaving valuable threads of life into history, herstory, creating our-stories for generations to come.

1 comment:

Ruthibelle said...

I've always maintained that life is a cycle of stories. THis article speaks to the essence of that. Apart from hearing all about y lovely young days from me, my kids wil inherit alla my blogs, my million and one diaries (I've kept diaries since I was a teeny tiny girlette), my scrap-books that I've been making, my photo albums, and all the books I have yet to publish (still writing them)...