The Mystery of Home

By Gisele Abizeye

Davis College Akilah Campus Rwanda

Some say home is just a place,

And to others it is a cherished space,

contemplating a little,

Both of them get belittled.

 

The instance you are not safe,

In the place you call home,

Would it be cherished?

Or the risk you didn’t want to take?

 

Realize trafficking exists,

Wickedly thrusting you to an exit,

Your home dwells in your heart,

An emotion that stays hurtful.

 

 Orphans have it the hardest,

Invading their otherwise peaceful minds,

Is the traumatic thought of the least?

Scarcity of all the aspects of home belonging.

 

Call not home a comfort zone,

Because you might end without one,

Some would live without a sense of safeness,

Since they have never had that zone.

 

Literally home is merely a perception,

For it’s dependent on your definition,

Some feel homeless with just the place,

Yet others have it all and still feel homeless.

 

Decidedly, safety is my perspective,

As I don’t need to feel forced admitting,

That I feel safe away from some relatives,

I could have otherwise viewed as my safetynet.

 

Sadly many homeless are  unaware,

They have believed the wrong definition,

That shallowly covers only the surface,

And heavily rejects the whole introduction,

 

Find your home and live in it,

It is  just a unit,

That is missing in your perception,

To fill out the whole definition.

Generations

By: Moe Hay Kaung

Mills College, Oakland CA, USA

A single room. Colliding perspectives. Three generations of women: a 81-year-old who peacefully watches Chinese dramas after a troubling past, a 49-year-old who obtained an international relations degree while facing the 88 Uprising, and a 18-year-old who would soon cross oceans to pursue her studies. Prior to this very encounter, my family rarely mentioned what happened in their past. They have been so fixated on new beginnings that they have felt that it’s unnecessary to mention any final endings. That’s where I disagree and believe that a little discussion about the past can go a long way towards the future, so I gathered all our perspectives into one room.

How was the rule of law during your generation different from now?

Grandmother: I believe that the rule of law during my time involved a lot more threats towards the citizens’ safety than our current one. Nowadays, life is peaceful with a government that dedicates itself to their citizens’ well-being. During my day, citizens were much more careful with their way of expressing themselves. Because of the former government limiting their free speech, they most likely felt vulnerable and terrified of speaking up. They kept to themselves and this, in turn, did not benefit anyone in the country. I am grateful for living on to witness how this all changed.

Mother: The rule of law under the socialist party involved a lot more censorship than the democratic party we have today. They restricted their citizens from speaking out against ideals, and arrested those who did. It’s much more pleasant now that the government lets us voice our opinions. I remember the drastic currency changes and inflation of prices that led to the student protests. These paved the path for a democratic government. But, you should know that democracy wasn’t easy to restore. Looking back, I believe that we’ve come so far and I hope none of us are forced to fight for our rights anymore.

Daughter: I was part of the 53 million Myanmar citizens who witnessed Aung San Suu Kyi gain her freedom after 15 years of house arrest. It was a highly-anticipated moment that soon led to her election as president. In the present day, we have finally re-established our ties with other countries and promoted innovation throughout the country. Meritocracy is gradually increasing in politics, education, and business. Censorship has faded into oblivion. Overall, the transition from 1989 (the year of Daw Su’s house arrest) to 2018 showcases undeniable changes that led to our revival.

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What was a significant event that occurred during your time and what impact does it have on our present?

Grandmother: Before the uprisings, the government unfairly raised the value of currencies and took advantage of the citizens’ belongings. As a result, our economy was unstable and the future of our country was uncertain. When our hard-earned money repeatedly went into their pockets, we knew it was time for a revolution. The rebellions against our former government, without a doubt, had an impact on our present. I am against what the government did, but it did drive the citizens to fight for reform, so I no longer complain about it as much.

Mother: The student protests inspired the 8888 Uprising. The struggle for democracy was no longer limited to just students—everyone in our country was involved in this. I wasn’t part of this struggle because of my fear of being arrested. Regardless, it was empowering to see everyone gather together to create change. These uprisings gradually led to our present-day democratic victory. When Daw Suu returned to visit her mother in Myanmar, she witnessed the uprisings and decided to help citizens fight against injustice. When the time came for elections, the majority believed that Aung San Suu Kyi must reign in order for democracy to become a reality in Myanmar.

Daughter: When Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, it killed tens of thousands of people and left over a million homeless. The current government at that point had no choice but to put their egos aside and allow the UN and aid agencies to assist them. This event is still strongly remembered by present-day citizens, as the government initially rejected the offers made by those willing to help. I believe this is just a fraction of the series of events that rallied and influenced the citizens to vote for Aung San Suu Kyi.

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What was the situation for Myanmar women and how is it different for them now?

Grandmother: There wasn’t a role for women outside of their households back then. Only if a woman received a great deal of education, then would she get to secure a respectable role in society. If not, women spent the duration of their lives maintaining their households. These days, the doors have opened for women to seize educational opportunities. With these newfound opportunities, they have proven themselves to be equal to or even better than men in classrooms and in the workplace. 

Mother: The parents during my generation believed that education was important in their daughters’ lives, but should be set aside when it’s time for them to get married. The majority of society used to believe that women should focus on household duties and family matters. These days, women are breaking past traditions and venturing into the working world. There is much more freedom for women to follow their passions and dominate in their desired fields. I wish it was the same for our generation. If it were, Myanmar would no doubt be much more developed by now.

Daughter: The majority of Myanmar women used to sacrifice their dreams for the sake of starting a family. A positive aspect of change is that women are now more encouraged to assume leadership positions in any field of their interest. Esther Htusan, a female journalist from Myanmar, was the first in our country to win a Pulitzer Prize. Aung San Suu Kyi is now in charge of decisions in our country. Powerful women like them prove that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. Nowadays, I see more women working nine-to-five while maintaining healthy relationships as well. However, it is important to mention that other than Daw Suu, there are not many signs of influential women in politics and other male-dominated settings. I have confidence in my own abilities to defy this and I hope I see more women doing so as well.

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What is the most valuable lesson that your generation has taught you?

Grandmother: Before the government interfered, people were able to run their businesses without any difficulties. Because of this, their children were able to stand on their own. I only hope that this mentality continues so that Myanmar’s current generation can sustain future ones as well.

Mother: When you’re passionate about a certain skill or craft, you have to continuously hone it despite the obstacles that come with it. As soon as you are capable, you can use your influence to help change the world.

Daughter: As part of today’s youth, I have a responsibility to advocate not only for myself, but also for social, political, and moral issues that deserve a platform as well.

Following this meaningful reflection on the past, all three generations of women in my family concluded the interview as a tremendous success. Despite our different values and perspectives, we share the same love for our country and its inhabitants. Our personal views on feminism do vary, yet we support outspoken females who know what they want in life. The events that we view as significant may not have a specific correlation, but they were all part of a chain reaction that led to us living on to tell the tale today. The moral of the story (or in this case, interview) is to be open to change. Even if you’re not fortunate enough to initiate it, become an open supporter of those who are bold enough to question the status quo. Better yet, break the mold and become that voice of your generation.

Many Faces

By Odile Uwimphwe

Davis College Akilah Campus Rwanda

People come by it diversely.

When it comes to home, people would give different definitions.

A shelter, a peaceful and calm place in their minds, some would surprise you.

As for some after a long day of work

A bed for the night will do to make the whole description.

 

Confused is the five year old

Trying in vain to understand how and exactly why

The one place that brings joy, happiness, comfort, and familiar faces

The same in which;

He experiences anxiety, panic, and sometimes, if he is not lucky, beatings.

All in one place he calls home “Mama’s home” or “Daddy’s home”.

With one stride of action, with one leg carried in a wrong direction

Joy, happiness turns into terror and the smiling faces turns into dark ones.

Then confused is his mind when he thinks of home as one would be if a mirror gave

A different reflection of the face he was viewing.

As he would be if that mirror was two faced or should I say many faced.

 

Single minded is the worker who, leaving his workplace tired

Exhausted, spent and drained of energy with one destination in mind: home.

A place with a warm, comfortable bed. The warmer and wider the better.

Nonetheless after waking up thinking of the face in the other part of the house, either

His wife or child, he remembers his problems, his money problems and last night’s conflict;

Home is no longer so safe and comfortable.

People cannot be blamed of being logical, can they? It’s no wonder whomever has no place to sleep is called homeless.

As if in a room with mirrored walls, each side gives its own reflection and so does home. So will a person get different answers if he asks a hall full of people: “What is home to you.”

Astonished he would think: “many answers as if many faced!” That is how he will go home with a new realization.

 

My Home is My Foundation

By: Mutoni Oliva

Davis College Akilah Campus, Akilah, Rwanda

 

Here I am standing strong

Holding hands of my own

Feeling loved and united

Screaming loud with my voice

This is what I came to tell

My choice, chance, family

All rolled into one

My home is my foundation.

 

I remember the day I was born

Too young to see the danger

Too blind to see the evil

fear making me run away

From those who loved me

Pushing me down into the vanity,

blindfolding me from every reality

The walls of my foundation protected me

From outside forces

Made me stand tall and never let fall.

 

They removed me from dark zone raising me to a comfort zone

Desperate for their love

Encouraging me to win not to lose

They trusted me when others doubted me

Every time I fell they pushed me up

Even shedding tears never let me drop one

Their support is till the end as always in the start.

 

My home dragged me through hard days

Brought a smile on my face that stays

What would I do without you dear home?

Your love and care stays in my heart

Beautiful sealed with a ribbon of trust

Soft and tender it’s warm and calm

Peacefully resting in my treasured mind.

 

The epitome of sacrifice, kindness of your heart

Taught me the value of the right start

The many compromises which you made for me

No one could see but I had to see

A perfect role that you played in my life

Helped me with my struggle and strive.

 

                        My home,

You are someone who loved me no matter who I was

Someone who cared for me no matter what happens

Someone who understands the deepest of my feelings

Someone who shares the best trust i have ever found

Someone who never change even if the whole world does

That someone it is my first love well known as my home, my foundation my entire world.

 

 

Your reflection is enough for me to know

Your laughter feels my heart with joy

Your love is silent when you show the many things that you do for me

When I close my eyes and I don’t see you I feel that I have lost in all

Your my light at the end of the tunnel

Today is because of your love that makes me stand tall

 

 

My home, your love and longing in life it’s the thing that I want all mine

Promise me that it will never change but will remain the same in hue

My home, your foundation is an inspiration for my life

I am blessed to belong to this sunshine that shines every day

I am not shy to say that with you I am only surviving and destined to fly

You are a home and without I would be homeless.

Where I Am From

By Peris Mwangi

Smith College

I am from the brick and tin-roofed house 

From the thickly carpeted living room floor

I am from the cold, red concrete floor of my bedroom 

From the soapy water and scented cleaning detergent

I am from the ancient creaky oakwood bed

From the possession of a duvet I’ve adored for years

I am from the tiny framed portraits hanging from my wall

From the 14-year-old picture album of my family on my dresser

I am from the pictures of daddy’s well-combed afro 

From mummy’s loosely fitting bell-bottoms

I am from the childhood memories of weekends spent at public parks 

From the lakeside camps and bonfires and road trips

I am from the evening painting lessons with mama 

From the sum solving sessions with daddy

I am from the pillow fights and real fights with my sisters 

From the nights we fell asleep in each other’s arms

I am from the dim lights at the fireplace 

From the bright light at my study table

I am from the big bowls of soup and potatoes at dinner 

From the house where candy and cookies are forbidden

 

But now I’m here. 

 

Awakening of a Warrior

By Yvette Dusabimana

Davis College Akilah Campus, Akilah, Rwanda

Nothing can stop her to believe,

Every morning is her new day to dream

Smile on her face, making herself and winding her waist;

She doesn’t know when, or how it will all end

The pain she gains, the scars all over her body

But she doesn’t care, she will rise again.

 

And rise she did, all her pain forgotten

Her tears wiped, her scars healed,

Her wings unfolded, and flies towards the sun,

Darkness behind her, she will never fall again.

 

Home

By Elizabeth Wayua Ndinda

Davis College Akilah Campus, Akilah, Rwanda

In a sleepy hilly village in Nyanza lies the home of Biage (her name means a granary). It is a compound of low roofed houses for each of his sons and grandsons. Each son also has a little grass thatched hut for all of their daughters. By the standards of Randani, (which is corrupted from London; maybe most of the villagers who live abroad end up in London and not Texas or Minnesota as I have always believed) this is a prosperous compound. There are cars parked in four of the compounds, motorcycles in some and even terrazzo pavements in one compound. The number of compounds in Biage’s homestead cannot be counted. It is a taboo to give a number to one’s children. This compound is fenced by the most prestigious plant in the region; bananas.

This is actually the banana republic. Welcome to Kisii County where bananas reign supreme. We do not only eat the sweet bananas but sell them for a living. Bananas are some of the county’s cash crops. Tea and avocado are the others. So too is sugarcane. These bananas are not only exported to Nairobi, but also to other countries of the world. Curiously, we never eat plantains. It is food for the weak. We, the people who call the banana county home, prefer millet ugali or the maize one if millet is scarce. West Africans call our ugali fufu.

Bananas also serve as a transport system for our famous night runners. They are believed to fly with the leaves at night. There are very potent concoctions on clumps of bananas. One is advised not to spend too long a lingering moment near any. The village rises and falls with the health of banana plants. That is why Biage made reference to this plant when she paid a rather surprise call to the home of his first born son one Friday morning.

You see, Biage had heard that his great grandson had been brought home from another Nyanza looking place called Rwanda. As was the tradition, the child had to get a ride on her back to be accepted into the clan. The little boy, unaware of the tradition, declined the offer. The confusion that ensued cannot be explained in words. Biage had left her warm bed at the crack of dawn to brace the dew and drizzle on a motorcycle to fulfill this tradition. She had travelled all the way from Randani to Magena (which can mean eggs or stones depending on the context). She had stilled her cracking bones with each bump on the ride. Her face had been beaming with a smile on this journey despite her circumstances, as this was a chance to bless the third generation of the great Nyatangi clan.

On inquiring why the boy had refused to climb on her back, “She is an old woman, it is disrespectful to make her carry a load as heavy as me.” Any persuasion did not dissuade him.

Now was Biage’s turn to take matters in her own hands literally. Her time was running out.

There is a banana tree outside this gate (pointing at the nearest one) Can that tree bear any bananas without the other lifeless tree supporting it? 

No

The boy’s older siblings replied

Which of these is alive, the banana tree or the other stick supporting it.

The banana tree of course.

While this story was being narrated, the little boy was resting easy on Biage’s back. He had no idea how he got there. Who in this great family had surprised the boy in to obedience without resistance?

 

Home

By: Malaika Kironde

Smith College, Northampton, MA, United States

 

I am from cement floors,

From vast spaces of farmland

And packed, stuffy traffic.

 

I am from goats and cows that roam where their ropes allow them to go,

And chickens that roam freely.

 

I am from kungu FM,

The station that is the primary source of news, gospel and local hits.

 

I am from meat that boils from dawn to noon,

And smells up the whole house.

How else would we make it soft?

 

I am from jiko’s and sigiri’s,

From food flavoured in banana leaves:

matooke nne ebigendareko.

I am from a dining table that is never big enough.

 

I am from gomesi’s, muchanana’s and kanzu’s.

 

I am from the heat.

I was born there and would like to die there.

 

I am from distant relatives, who I seldom know,

And functions that I always go.

 

I am from feeding the goats,

Putting down the mosquito nets,

And boiling water to bathe.

 

From the fresh air, but also the polluted air,

From the view of the lake that provides us with fresh fish.

 

I am from fighting over who eats the eye,

And buying nsenene by the road side.

 

I am from family and love.

Reflections on Loss of Home, Exile and the Proteus Spirit

By: Annima Bahukhandi

Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi University, Delhi, India

We are increasingly living in a world where the state of being a refugee represents one of largest common condition amongst a wide variety of people. There are those who are refugees due to civil strife and war, those who are forced to be refugees due to international or internal politics wherein exile remains the only option. We are increasingly also seeing a large number of those rendered as refugees due to environmental issues.  On the other hand, now more than ever we are also witnessing a movement of people who recognise themselves as ‘global citizens’ or ‘globe-trotters’ migrating from one place to another, many a times living just simply out of a back-pack. Given such a diverse background, how do we then conceptualise the idea of ‘home’? Does ‘home’ which has traditionally been recongised as a geographical and temporal location continue to be recongised as one? Or does home now become a memory or a metaphor for a spirit that one carries with them? This essay engages with questions on the idea of home, especially in the context where there has been a loss of the ‘geographical’ space identified as home as in the case of refugees who are exiled from their home-land. Additionally, the essay also engages with the flip-side of the problematique, the individual who is neither coerced out of their geographical home nor disallowed from entry back but leads a home-less or ‘multi-home’ existence, what Lifton terms as a Protean existence. The essay deals primarily with two theorists, one is Renos K Papadopoulos (2002) – a psychotherapist who has worked extensively with psychological rehabilitation of refugees. Papadopolous in his book Refugees, home and trauma (2002) offers us pithy insights into the psychological imagination of home and what its loss symbolises. The second theorist is Robert J Lifton (1995)- a psychiatrist who worked on issues of war, violnece and their psycho-social impacts. Lifton in his book Protean Self (1995) provides an analysis of our contemporary times which is marked by an increasing global connectivity and a deep desire in the youth to deal with historical changes through a rootless existence.

I will first begin with Papadopoulos’s text on refugees and then move to the two other texts from Papadopolous’s book that detail the experiences of psychologists who were supervising students in Kosovo to become counsellors to grieved refugees in their country. Finally, I will try to bring the themes together using Lifton’s ideas on increasing global interaction and a rise in what he calls as the ‘Protean spirit’.

Papadopoulos begins his text with the most telling insight about refugees, according to him the only common feature that all refugees share is a loss of home and not trauma or grief.  Home, then becomes their shared condition. Even though Papadopoulos is mostly talking about experiences of individuals who’ve had to flee their lands and settle elsewhere, like the Kosovars yet such accounts aren’t far away from our understanding. Today, a large number of people have settled in places away from what they call “home” for various reasons; however the longing or the pressure to return to a home that refugees feel (due to socio-political reasons that prohibit their returning to their lands) may not be present. This text becomes all the more important, given the socio-political conditions leading to frequent wars, riots or large scale migration around the globe. Refugees aren’t just those others that occupy one’s space temporarily and then move back, they are Tibetans exiled from their lands, living in ghettos in Delhi, they are Kashmiri pundits driven out of the valley, Bangladeshis working as laborers to earn better wages.

Home then is that place which provides a holding environment, a place of continuity which is able to contain the polarity of opposites. It is often the place where one starts from, but it also is the destination one wishes to reach. What happens then when this home, is no more inviting, or worse non-existent? What then does one call “home”? Papadopoulos helps us here, by illustrating that home is not just simply the literal piece of land or the physical structure, but it encapsulates the totality of experiences associated with home: the house, family, relationships, the continuity and the acceptance. So when a person loses their home it isn’t simply their geographical location that gets distorted on the map but the psychological and existential as well. “Nostalgic disorientation” is the word that the author employs to capture the refugees longing for their home. We can see this in the writings of many authors who’ve settled out of their home country yet through their literature there are able to maintain their homeward links. Khaled Hosseini is one such author whose family applied for asylum from a war torn Afghanistan when he was 11 years old. His writings are filled with nostalgia mostly centering on an Afghani protagonists and against the backdrop of a post-Soviet, Taliban regime in Afghanistan. He returned to his home country after 27 years and admitted to feeling like a “tourist in his own country”. Hosseini’s experience helps to understand Papadopoulos’s take on refugees better. Even though, Hosseini’s family was distant from the violence in their country and were able to resettle in USA safely yet, Hosseini’s protagonist’s aren’t doctors practicing in California, they are the young boys and girls still in Afghanistan, fighting against the odds. USA may have accepted Hosseini and he may have readily integrated into the society, yet home still invokes those familiar imageries of Afghanistan and but that home no longer exists, after all he feels like a tourist in his own country. Literature perhaps then becomes the space for Hossieni whereby he is able to fill this gap and bring together the past and the future, the home that he started from and the home that he longs to settle in.

Unfortunately, not all refugees are able to create such a space, most find themselves in an endless search to fill this gap in what Papadopoulos calls their “mosaic” and therapists or clinicians only perpetuate this by falling into the usual, victim-savior roles. Their suffering is pathologized and the atrocities forgotten. It is here, that the experiences of the clinical supervisors who visited Kosovo can come in handy. Helping refugees is about giving an ear to their sense of homelessness, it is about becoming a witness to what some clinician’s felt was like a “war crimes tribunal” and yet it isn’t about just that. From here, instead of rescuing them, you start to allow them their space to grow and heal. A psychological hypothermia, which reminded me of Veena Das’s (1990) work and how one woman told her that “it is our work to cry and your work to listen”. This isn’t just a task for therapists, helpers or counselors, but for all of us, the neighbors, the relatives and society, can we allow these refugees the space for them to heal, can we tolerate their grief, rage and anger without pathologizing them?

Finally I come to Lifton and his take on the lifestyles of contemporary men and women. Lifton in his book isn’t specifically speaking of refuges however I find many parallels between the “protean man” that Lifton talks of and the longing for the home (material and imagined) that refugees long for. Just like Proteus the shape shifter, the protean man is consistently changing, recreating, and reimagining the self. But what propels this inherent need for change? This is where our protean man’s inner world meets that of the refugee. The protean man in many ways is like our refugee, he is pushed by this need to constantly know and get in touch with new forms of ideas, thoughts, people, cultures, yet he doesn’t know where this need emanates from. Just like the refugee longs to fill the gap left by a loss of home, the protean man it seems is in a never ending quest to fill his mosaic, only he doesn’t know with what. Can it be said then that the protean man longs for a home that he never had, yet at the same time while a refugee carries the experience of losing his actual home, the protean man doesn’t also quite know what this feeling of home is due to its taken-for-granted-ness?

Lifton identifies two developments as leading to the protean way of life. One is the break from traditional symbols or historical dislocation and the other is the flooding of imagery. I can easily identify these two as significant in my own life trajectory. Both my parents grew up in different states, while my mother came from a Punjabi family, my father came from Uttrakhand with rich accounts of his life in the hills. As children both my brother and I were raised in Delhi in an environment with cultural symbols from both our parents’ cultures and as well as the environment that our public schools provided. Even though we assimilated both the cultures well we were never able to identify or grow a strong attachment to either the mother’s or the father’s side, we never considered ourselves as either Punjabi or from Uttrakhand, instead identifying as Delhi people. Over the years even that claim seems feeble. The point I’m trying to make is that the historical dislocation that protean man carries, not only puts his claims on a certain past in jeopardy but also give rise to feelings of finding that home, metaphoric more than literal where one is accepted, loved and able to fuse together all the differences. On the other hand, the flooding of information, from different parts of the globe facilitated by the World Wide Web only makes matter worse. It is easier to hold onto a clear sense of home when the outside world seemed is perceived as alien but when that world is brought closer through varied mediums every day, then what is home (inside) and what is outside? Instead, what emanates is a need to explore this world, to find an identity, an identity which feels more like one’s own than the ones in the past yet this need is placed in a world that is viewed as consistently changing and challenging, then is it possible for one identity to ever sufficiently envelope the inherent differences?

Just like for the beat generation, for the protean man travel then is seen as the ultimate answer, the balm for a bad breakup or an invitation to a new one. Home then takes varied forms, it becomes the place one is fleeing or the place one wishes to go to or maybe it’s just a place that is carried always in our hearts and minds. For Papadopoulos, home signifies the totality of all dimensions, but what happens to the protean man’s idea of a home and is it still represented by a totality of experience and if not, how does one carry it with oneself? Travel for me is like an invitation to explore the unknown, to purge myself into the newness of an experience, to open myself to varied forms of living but mostly to also cut out the familiar for the time being. Travel isn’t seen as means to a destination, it is the experience which is exalted and seen as liberating. The task however becomes to balance the quest for meaning beyond the mainstream and the home one comes from.

However, this very strong protean need to pack one’s bag and travel emanates from the growing familiarity, or dependence that one encounters when the environment loses its novel charm. The anxiety is felt as diffuse, the everyday becomes monotonous and existential anxieties overtake. Lifton uses the concept of “suspicion of counterfeit nurturance” to explain this tendency. Does the growing familiarity of a place signal a comforting acceptance that goes against the constant search of the protean life? Is that why vitality is felt in “on the road”? And in case this isn’t possible then is the mocking, self-effacing humour our only outlet? So either you are out there changing the world (is it the self?) or leading a monotonous life peppered with whining and mockery.

This flux of feelings creates a paradox where there is a struggle with the idea of change itself and in Lifton’s own words, “beneath transformation is nostalgia and beneath restoration is attraction to contemporary symbols”. A need to be the father, to know it all, to be the teacher, the harbinger and at the same time a sense of fatherlessness exists, a freedom from absolutes, from right and wrongs a freedom to question, to problematize and dissent if need be.

I do agree with Lifton that the contemporary men and women have immense potential for changing and shaping the world. They are the people who came out in the Tahrir Square, the ones leading the Hong Kong protests, the ones that join the anti-corruption movements and so on. Is this an effort at changing the world at the cost of subvert one’s own pain? Is it perhaps, the protean man’s sense of symbolic immortality which equips him to come out on to the streets and protest against the wrongs which have happened for decades, are these forays into danger and destruction an attempt to create revolutionary world that symbolically immortalizes them? Lifton sure thinks so; we may never fully know however the protean man’s inner struggle sure seems to hold great possibilities for the world. And it seems that only time will tell whether the protean men and women of our times are able to reconceptualise the idea of loss of geographical ‘home’ and create better homes both real and imagined. I’m rooting for them!

Bibliography

Das, V. (1990). Our Work to Cry: Your Work to Listen. In V. Das (Ed.), Mirrors of Violence (pp. 345-398). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Lifton, R. J. (1995). The Protean Self: Human Resilience In An Age Of Fragmentation. London: Basic Books.

Papadopoulos, R. K. (2002). Refugees, home and trauma. In R. K. Papadopoulos (Ed.), Therapeutic Care for Refugees: No Place Like Home. London: Karnac. Tavistock Clinic Series.

 

 

Letter from the Editor: Spring 2019

Dear Readers,

Welcome to our tenth issue of Voices & Visions centered around the theme of “Power.” The journal is excited to explore this topic through the pieces presented, which span from poem to prose, drawing to photography. This issue in particular has a range of pieces from both domestic and international women’s colleges and girl’s high schools, which we hope provide our audience with unique perspectives on this topic. The issue includes work from both students and their teachers, from Rwanda and Australia, as well as from women’s institutions throughout the United States.  We hope that these international perspectives on power will be interesting and illuminating to our audience.

We exist today in a world that is fraught with issues around power: Who has it? How can we give others access to it when it has been denied to them before? What does it feel like  to be under the power of others?These questions take on more resonance when they are answered by writers and artists from women’s colleges and high schools throughout the world. . Through these submissions, we hope to present a range of intersectional perspectives on power, ones that not only illuminate the negative aspects  of power, but also the ways in in which power exists outside of human structures and norms, a reminder that solutions can still be found in our art.

Camille Butera
Editor-in-Chief

Factory on Grove Street

By: Gabriella Tucciarone
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

A red, bumpy, peeling-paint kind of factory.
The windows at night peek on the empty streets.
The light from the furnace in the factory flows into the road
Reaching the end by the bridge, where the light eagerly tries to climb.
On cold nights, the light shivers in the wind and hops within itself for a little warmth.

One particularly cold night, the old and stern furnace was mad with craving, and it began to eat itself.
As I was en route for home, I saw this old and nervous building begin to taste itself.
The flames licked the inside walls.
The windows clouded with smoke; they no longer peeked for empty night-time walkers.
Slowly, the flames ate the ivy that clung like veins.
The leaves on the ivy exploded like capillaries,
Into small bombs of ember that left small stains of ash on the sidewalk.
The furnace belched a giant puff of smoke as the roof was catapulted into the sky.

I noticed that the entire building was winking as it collapsed onto itself.
The wooden frames were shaking as its knee started to give.
The building had started bowing, and dipped down to bid me farewell.
As I put my hat on and walked away, I looked back at the trembling turmoil of a once great building and dear friend.

 

A Lack Thereof

By: Sarah Grissom
Mt. St. Michael’s College, Ashgrove, Queensland, Australia

For the 23 mediocre years in her life she had flown under the radar. Wandering eyes skimmed over the fifth and youngest child; her average grades were nothing to cheer for and her friends were merely companions with whom she could chat. School had passed and no one’s gaze ever lingered long.

The leaves were falling crisp and dry upon the dusty summer front lawns, where a lack of water meant lengthy days, leering and lamentable. Making her way slowly along the towns centre in her bland south-of-the city suburb, filled with unruly characters, she fit right in. Her clothes just like the rest, almost threadbare from talented and tainted generations alike, passed down through the years which barely scratched the surface of satisfactory.

For the 76 mediocre years in her life she had flown under the radar. Amounting to nothing more than predicted, amounting to nothing like what she had hoped. Resting weightlessly on her bed she passed, just as unnoticeably as she was born.

A Seat at the Table

By: Elizabeth Wayua Ndinda  
English Instructor at Akilah Institute, Kigali, Rwanda

This table…
Where is the table?
In a bar with men at 10 pm,
Sipping beers or wines or spirits.
Which she can’t.

My spirit sinks.
Tall, round, no arm rest or padding:
Her seat at the table.
Her rear doesn’t fit on the chair.
Her face oval like an egg.
Her skin spotless.
Shifty eyes, tight lipped.
Her lean figure is stooped so far,
She might be tying her laces.

My soul nosedives,

Scans around; their faces…
Vultures ready to feast
Ever hungry beast,
Each one of them.
She, the misplaced prey.
They are about to play
Introductions game: Name, Position, achievements.
Her, Lame Mrs So, Marital status, number of kids.

Our inspiration plunges into the sea bed.

Squeezing or shoving to get a place at the table?

The Praise of Power

By: Sophie Kamariza
Akilah Institute, Kigali, Rwanda

My mother is knowledge
Not only fetched from college
When around, no barrier can stop me
Even carrier won’t promote me
I don’t care for levels or positions
And I won’t be scared with oppositions.

For me, no need for sense of protocol
My presence brings all control
I influence the whole world
Because difference is all I need.

Though walking silently in the yards
Following my fans everywhere
My crown is not hard to wear
For all those pursuing me for years
My footprints last forever
Whoever accepts me can’t lose favor.

I am called Power
Not roaring, but blowing even to the poor
All traces of towns are mine
When I hide I am not gone
When back I am multiplied by nine

In front of difficulties I find possibility
Never caught in doubts during confusion
All because belief is my infusion
Catch me, own me and get dominion
Save me, protect me as a good companion
Make me a priority: authority will come toward you

for glory

By: Kerry LeCure
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

i. the lust

consider: a girl with a smile like starshine, who straightens her hair with shinbones, has teeth like ivory. she drags her fingers across her clavicles leaving pale red streaks, her voice is whisper-soft, wonderful, even—or is it full of wonder? i don’t know, anymore—but it leaves tiny earthquakes in its wake. she is quicksilver in the marrow of my bones, but it’s difficult to breathe when she’s murmuring words into my thighs. i think that she paints her lips with blood, that her organs are made of pure surgical-grade steel, but it becomes so hard to tell when she’s got one hand in my hair and the other under his shirt. she ate my heart on a wednesday. i never got it back.

ii. the sloth

he traced words along your spine when he thought i wasn’t looking, languidly, wanted to eat you whole when your clothes were paint-splattered. i never told him that i’d noticed, that i didn’t care, because the way he reached for you was nauseating. instead i breathed lazy smirks and half-hearted sighs, hummed along with the bark in your voice, leaned into the callouses on his fingertips. i loved him, too, but it was the way that his heartstrings tangled around themselves for you that kept me quiet.

iii. the greed

we let ourselves be consumed, or maybe—we consumed you, endosymbiosis. you love the blood and grit of the bandages between your fingers, because it reminds you of a time when you were so powerless, he loves the way sweat slides down his chin, i love the sound of change hitting cement, and we’re the mob, now, knocking down doors. or rather—you’re the mob and you’re knocking down your own doors, forget about who you were, who you are, who you will become. you try so hard that i forget, too, even when his hands are on your hips, even when i’m reminding you to breathe, breathe, breathe.

iv. the gluttony

you wrapped your fingers around his shoulder blades. i’ve heard they were knobby and cold and i would know them in death. you were all teeth and shit-eating grins, bite anyone who got too close (kiss anyone who got too close). his tongue was wicked, sharp, paper cuts against bruised knuckles, globs of blood rolling down fits and chins and you savored every moment of that, soaked it up, because it reminded you of yourself, like how you licked your hands clean when they got too dirty when you ate his heart for breakfast. ate my heart for breakfast, but that’s the part they forget. that’s the part everyone forgets. it’s easy to forget because you’re always wanting more: breathe in, breathe out, remember that to take a step forward, you’re supposed to take five back. or something like that. it’s been so long.

v. the envy

i missed you like a limb, he missed you like he’d miss his own heart. it’s quiet these days with only the rain to keep us company, sometimes when the moon is halfway across the sky i catch him with your paintbrushes, his eyes running mad. sometimes i wish i was as selfish as you, a pack-up-runaway girl made of stardust, sometimes i wish he’d cling to my hand the way he clung to yours.

vi. the wrath

he wakes up sometimes and won’t talk for hours, only paces and tries to work through the white-knuckled frustration, and when i say he needs to get over it, he’ll tell me that we’re the same, he and i. we’re the same, we share the tension in our fists, our jaws, our shoulders. we’re bruising touches, clashing teeth, blinding smiles, keep it all bottled up until it’s too late. i haven’t seen him like this since he first saw his mother’s reaction to his girlfriends, plural, because we’re all a little selfish, we all wanted until we couldn’t take anymore, except now you’re gone and he pulsates red-hot rage and i’m only made of quiet fury. i don’t miss you anymore, but i’ve heard he does. you forgot to call.

 

vii. the pride

i do not forgive you for filling up all the spaces of my heart, but sometimes i forget that you didn’t asked me to—forgive you, that is. and when i kiss you, you taste of the stars and the sun and the moon, but you murmur into my skin that i am bruised knees and crinkled paper shoved into pockets. you remind me that it takes two to tango. that my toes are just as bloody as yours. my bones creak in the evenings, sharp pops and blurry cracks. they feel so old these days, but i let you pretend they sing songs for you.

Open House

By: Jas Ganev
Castilleja School, Palo Alto CA, USA

Sunday.
The slamming of car doors,
The trudging of feet through mud,
The screeching of rainboots against a “Welcome” mat.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time.
The shaking of realtors’ hands followed by
Fake smiles, false stories, and made-up names.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time. Exploring mansions.
The whispers behind half-open doors,
The click of the camera,
The delighted laugh echoing through the halls.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time. Exploring mansions. Creating her temporary fantasy.
A beacon of light shining through billowing white curtains
Onto the glistening marble floors,The flights of spiraling staircases,
The hundreds of hand-carved doors.
Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time. Exploring mansions.

The widened eyes that become slits, shifting from awe to anger and greed,
Knowing that this house will be someone else’s,
Yet we will still drive by again and again.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time.
Are we bonding, or am I bound to you?

Sunday.
I want to go home, Mommy. I want to go home.

Breaking Through

By: Hannah White
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

Breaking Through_HannahWhite.jpg

Artist Statement: My photographs are autobiographical in nature, influenced by personal memories, emotions, and current experiences.  They revolve around issues of identity, change, and being out of time. Breaking Through is a self-portrait that signals the possibility of removing self-barriers and scars of the past and moving forward.  

Remembering and Forgetting

By: Elizabeth Wayua Ndinda
English Instructor at Akilah Institute, Kigali Rwanda

For a long time, I could only think of what I had been told to think. And this is what I had been told: To remember my past as that is how I could know how to plan for my future. Growing up next to a dumpsite ensured that I had the sites putrid stench almost woven in to my DNA.

First there was the fetid smell of rotten banana peels; the ones that could break your kneecaps if you slipped. Then there was the rancid smell of rotten avocado which had been crushed my scavengers in this rainy season to ensure the perfect mix of green black and the brown of mud. Next there was the smell of decaying pads…which sometimes had big clots hidden within them, some thick yellow pus or even little feces. It appeared as if human being buried not only their wastes in the dump but also their souls.

There were also babies’ diapers. They came with all sorts of cargo. From liters of pungent Urine, to runny green diarrhea, to the firm yellowish type that you could easily confuse with pawpaw. Some rodents usually did…eating gleefully.

One day, a street child visited the landfill on a different mission, Instead of scavenging for food, he had a sack; ready to harvest. I remember wondering why the air stung my nostrils. My nose ached. Why could he not just put me down? Through a hole in the sack, I looked longingly back at my home, my filthy stinking comfortable home.

 

The neck gets sore from looking in one direction.

 

As the site of my home grew dim, I ached. From the shoving and pushing of everything the urchin had picked, I was almost squashed. The weight of the other stuff was almost overpowering. …I must have slept for a long time or lost consciousness because the next time I came to…there was an excruciating pain in my chest. This was completely alien to me. For a fleeting moment, I wondered why all those men of the cloth had lied to us about heaven, the afterlife, paradise. Did I really go to hell? Where was the fire? Could there be pain in heaven.

My eyes slowly gained focus on the familiar objects that had been uprooted from the garbage dump. Instead of enjoying the air, I ached for what I had always had. How I miss my stinking hole. Tears well in my eyes, nostalgia is almost killing me; then I remember:

 

The neck gets sore from looking in one direction.

 

My very existence depends on whether I remember or I forget. What should I do seeing that I do not even know how to choose?

A Bird in Hand

By: Emma O’Neill-Dietel
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

I tugged at the braids coiled around the back of my head. They were thick and itchy and the bobby pins made my head ache. The church was sweltering hot and my black dress draped heavily across my knees. I had asked Maeve if I could wear shorts, and she said no, because it would be disrespectful. Maeve also braided my hair, since Mom was too busy getting ready. She was probably also too busy being sad, since it was her sister who died.

My aunt Eileen always wore her hair down. Maeve liked to braid it when she was my age, but Aunt Eileen always let me undo the braids when Maeve was finished. “Freedom!” she used to say when I finished. It made us both laugh. Aunt Eileen had long, smooth hair that was brown with little stripes of grey at the top. My own hair was frizzy and the color of the dirty linoleum tiles in my elementary school hallways.

Maeve saw me fidgeting with my hair and swatted my hand away. I glared at her. She took my hand in hers and squeezed, a little too hard to be friendly.

“Can I please undo it?” I whispered. Maeve pinched the skin on the back of my hand. I almost cried out, but I stopped myself just in time. Music swelled—well, it was too dreary to swell. It really just got louder and sadder, if that was possible. The men sitting in the row in front of me stood up and gathered around the casket. Maeve loosened her grip on my hand. I inched my other hand towards the back of my head as the men lifted the casket and began to carry it down the aisle. People around me shifted in their pews to watch them leave so I did too. I saw Uncle Frank, cousin Theo, and a few other men I only slightly recognized lifting on either side of the enormous wooden box. It didn’t really seem like Aunt Eileen was in there. If she was, she would pop out like a jack-in-the-box and make us all laugh at how dramatic we were being.

While Maeve’s head was turned towards the men, I used my hand that wasn’t pinned under hers to yank the bobby pins from my braid. They came out with little clumps of hair still attached. The men carrying the casket that was somehow holding Aunt Eileen reached the doors at the back of the church and my hair finally fell out of its coil. It was still braided, but I could almost feel the strands of hair unbraiding themselves. They were reaching out like plants growing towards light. I extracted my other hand from underneath Maeve’s and began to use both hands to unweave my hair. Maeve suddenly snapped back towards me.

“Fallon!” she hissed. I heard a soft thud as an attendant closed the doors behind the men and the casket. The pastor began speaking again but I couldn’t pay attention. Maeve was furiously pulling my hair back into place. I could feel the stare of a church lady behind me hot on my neck.

Maeve finished fixing my hair just as the pastor instructed us to make our way out to the cemetery behind the church. Maeve shoved one last pin into my hair where it jabbed at my scalp like a sharp-beaked bird. She grabbed my hand and I tried to wriggle away to no avail. I was much too old to hold someone’s hand, even if that someone was my sister and even though we were at a funeral where it seemed like everyone was holding hands and hugging. We filed out of the pews and joined our parents, who had been sitting in the front row. My mom was holding a tissue up to her eyes and my dad was holding her hand in both of his like a small and wounded bird. He was holding it tightly but in a way that meant she was protected, not captive. When he saw us he let go of her hand with one of his and put his arm around both of our shoulders.

“Come on, girls,” he said. “Let’s see Auntie Eileen off.” We walked outside in an awkward family clump, too close together to step normally. Maeve finally let go of my hand when we got to the hole for the casket. I saw her wind her fingers together and pick at her cuticles. If Mom had been watching she would have said something, but she was too busy staring blankly at the hole in the dirt.

“Remember when we used to play here?” I asked Maeve.

Maeve shushed me. “This is still a funeral, Fallon.”

“I know,” I said, “I’m not stupid. I’m just saying, remember how we used to play hide-and-seek behind the gravestones? That was really fun. Maybe someday kids will play around Aunt Eileen’s gravestone.”

“Don’t be morbid, Fallon,” said Maeve.

“What does ‘morbid’ mean?” I asked. My dad looked down at me as if he had just begun listening to our conversation.

“‘Morbid’ means something that is related to death,” he said. “What do you think is morbid, Maeve?”

“Fallon was saying that she hopes kids will play around Aunt Eileen’s grave someday.” Maeve looked at me and then back at my dad like I was a baby and she and my dad were both grown-ups.

“I think that’s a wonderful thing to hope, Fallon,” he said. “I think Aunt Eileen would like that very much.” My mom nodded, looking up from the hole in the dirt.

“Aunt Eileen and I played in this cemetery when we were your age,” she said.

“I didn’t know that,” I said. I tried to imagine my mom and Aunt Eileen when they were my age. They were only two years apart. From pictures I knew that my mom looked a lot like me and Aunt Eileen looked a lot like Maeve. If I concentrated really hard, I could pretend that I saw Aunt Eileen as a little girl poking her head over a gravestone and smiling at me. Her smile went up to her eyes the way that Maeve’s did when we were younger. The more I thought about it, the more the imaginary girl smiling at me looked like Maeve, not Aunt Eileen, and then when I looked at the casket my first thought was that Maeve was inside it. For the first time since Aunt Eileen had died, I started to cry.

My dad noticed and he knelt down and lifted me up into a hug. I wrapped my legs around his waist like I had when I was much smaller. My mom reached past me to hold Maeve’s hand. When I had finally stopped crying and my dad set me back on the ground, I saw Maeve squirming her fingers out of my mom’s grasp.