What a difference a year makes…

‘I’m going to get that sofa and throw it away’ she said. She being one of my best friends speaking to me just a year ago. She meant well but she didn’t understand that my sofa, alongside my TV and access to mindless time consuming programmatic watching was saving me. When I was on my sofa systematically eating my body weight, I was in as close to a happy place as I was mentally able to be. I didn’t have the energy to speak to anyone, do anything or go out…unless it was to replenish my food rations.

I was depressed. I felt hopeless, frustrated, lost, scared and so completely sad. Let me go back a little, back to January 2014. I was living in Ghana, life had finally come together home, job, routine, circle of friends and it felt good and then I got this feeling that by the end of the year I would no longer be living in Ghana. Fast forward to December 2014 and, you guessed it, I was moving back to London.

When I went back I had a conversation with God and said that I wanted to

  1. Go back to working with the Diaspora and improve my knowledge
  2. I wanted to work on new African countries and visit them as well
  3. I wanted to work in the British government because I wanted to be in a space that forced me to have to understand how it worked and who it worked for

I was in a relationship that had been long distant but at the time I thought ‘this is it’ so that was part of my reason for heading home (second to Ghana) with great excitement as to where next. A few months in I was ‘head hunted’ for an exciting role that ticked my diaspora desires and paid better than I had imagined for myself. It all seemed perfect almost too good to be true…and unfortunately that is what came to pass. So almost literally a year to this week I found myself in a position where my relationship hadn’t worked, the job didn’t materialise, I was in debt and had no solid job prospect.

I remember feeling utterly hopeless and spent a lot of time crying and angry. At the beginning of June my current role got confirmed and mid-June I started work. What was the role I hear you ask, it entailed

  1. Working on a humanitarian diaspora project which focused on Sierra Leone, Somalia and Syria
  2. It entailed me travelling to Sierra Leone to carry out research. I have also been to Senegal for work in this same period as well as a number of European countries I didn’t know I wanted to visit. Also just got back from Turkey but more on that later!
  3. I am the secretariat for an All Party Parliamentary Group on Diaspora, Development and Migration – in essence working with the British government

Would you believe I was so consumed with anger, upset and disappointment it wasn’t until January 2016 that I was able to left up my head from the cloud that had been consuming me and see how completely God had responded to my requests. I hadn’t seen it because it didn’t come in the way I had thought/ decided it would. It didn’t come perfectly formed ticking all boxes and it didn’t come when I had wanted it too.

But it came!

So no let’s go even further back to when I was a little girl and wanted to do certain things when I grew up, one of which was to work for the UN and make a difference (save the world if I’m totally honest). Study and experience have shown me that it is not only the UN that can make real differences in this world though, undeniably, it plays an extremely important part. At the moment working with UN agencies and other key global decision makers is where I feel my way forward lies as a change maker, a voice for those who are not often heard.

So let’s go back to current day, Turkey, Istanbul and an event called the World Humanitarian Summit where a little girls dream came true and I presented the important work and role that diaspora humanitarians make.

http://webtv.un.org/search/elvina-quaison-ghana-world-humanitarian-summit-istanbul-2016-member-states-and-stakeholders-announcements/4909147649001?term=elvina+quaison

Diasporans who are simply people who live outside their place of heritage but are connected strongly and meaningfully to this country which they have this connection too. It was an honour to be given the opportunity and to be able, with 5 other diaspora representatives, to reach out to a hopefully more inclusive, more open humanitarian system to improve the way we respond to crisis together.

To make a difference and hopefully change the world a little in the process which could change an individual’s life a lot. This experience has changed me, altered me in a way I want to hold on to and nurture and help grow and continue to move me closer to being the person God put me here to be. It is a delightful and extremely daunting feeling, but I am grateful for it as I feel alive, present, connected to this world in which we live.

For a long time I didn’t and it is a horrible feeling, like standing out and looking in and feeling completely disassociated from all that is taking place with friends, family and yourself.

What a difference a year makes and yet as I write this I think perhaps I needed that low point, those feelings of hopelessness. Why? Because the whole time I was feeling that way so much was laying ahead of me that I could not have imagined. This realisation hit me when I got to Terminal 2 to check in and wait for the other participants. Just that thought ‘wow, remember where we were this time last year?’

It wasn’t until the Chair at the WHS called my name (some information glitches made me a married woman and gave me a promotion from project manager to director…from his mouth to God’s ear perhaps) that I realised that this personal ambition was coming true and I was so far from where I had been emotionally, professionally, mentally and spiritually. That low point taught me faith and it is that lesson that keeps pushing me to believe in more and work to achieve more because anything is possible and when it comes to all the good that is waiting for us, we know nothing.

So I want to encourage you to keep on doing what you are doing and being open to that voice, call it your gut, call it the holy spirit, call it what you want but if it is encouraging you to take an exciting but scary positive new path, listen, trust and follow it. After all what have you really got to lose?

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Review: The Black Farmer’s Burgers

I had given up on burgers in terms of buying them and cooking them at home. They never tasted as good as the fresh, meaty, flavoursome offerings at burger restaurants. Now I was already a fan of The Black Farmers sausages and so I did look forward to trying his burgers…and I was not disappointed.

Burger and kale

I first got all bougie with my burger and made a fancy breakfast of sautéed kale with onions, chilli, coriander and a little garlic. I cooked my burger in the oven and then topped it with an egg. It was absolutely delicious. The burgers are succulent and have none of that weird gristly bits or greasy chewy bits that many store bought burgers have.

I also tried my burger for dinner in the classic way. Hand cut chips, my burger and lovely grilled red onions on top. One of my other favourite things about The Black Farmer is as a person who is lactose and gluten intolerant it is such a relief to find burgers, which you would think should be safe to eat with these dietary requirements, actually being safe to eat – scary to think about all the random nonsense they put in our food. I definitely would recommend these burgers to anybody, as they are packed with delicious beef they are quite filling. I was able to happily eat one per serving.

Really looking forward to their next offerings! Try them and tell me what you think.

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That time is now

Time-Tracking-Software

There comes a time when

there is no more planning

or waiting

or visualizing

or strategising

or budgetting

or getting everything just so

 

There comes a time when

you realise that all of that is great

and can be necessary

but unless you just do something

it will all be for

nothing

 

There comes a time when

the time is now

 

That time is now

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Theatre Review: The Colour Purple

This review can be seen on Afridiziak

the-colour-purple-01

The Color Purple is the Broadway remake of the famous Pulitzer prize-winning Alice Walker novel of the same name. The book was turned into an Oscar winning/ nominated film, 30 years ago by Steven Spielberg and made famous by well-known actors such as Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, one of the producers of the Broadway theatre production.

It was with anticipation and a barely constrained attempt to manage my expectations that I attended British director John Doyle’s production of The Color Purple in New York on Broadway. The cast caused me great excitement particularly the presence of Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery, her voice alone made me want to up sticks and cross an ocean to go and watch…which I did!

It was however the talent both vocally and as a strong evocative actor that the lead Cynthia Erivo as Celie stole the show. Her voice is truly awe inspiring, with an extensive range both musically and emotionally making it hard for any audience member to leave unaffected (as we found out from a fellow theatre goer who had been to see the show four times…it only opened officially in December 2015). Cynthia played the role of Celie in the UK at the Menier Chocolate Factory theatre in London where The Color Purple ran and one can’t help wondering what would it have been like to see Erivo there on home soil, if you like, as Cynthia is British with Nigerian heritage.

The production exhibited an excellent use of theatre space and well thought out retelling of the original story so it translated well onto to the stage. This production carries a strong cast, however if in the first half Jennifer Hudson’s character seemed to be lacking a certain degree of presence her voice didn’t and in the second half the audience was treated to a much stronger and humorous Shug Avery.

Danielle Brookes of Orange is the New Black fame in the role Oprah made famous as Sophia was strong, sassy and a pleasure to watch. Her strong bluesy/ gospel inspired voice was unexpected but suited the character and personality of Sophia as a no nonsense woman who was constantly doing battle to assert her right to just be safe, be respected, be treated like a human being. In the period the play is set just to achieve these things we often take for granted today as a woman was a major struggle and still is for many.

The Color Purple was a complete production with a strong cast, vibrant score with two particular songs that struck a chord ‘The Color Purple’ sung by Cynthia Erivo and ‘What About Love?’ a duet between Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo. The set was intriguing with its backdrop of wooden chairs (a staple of any circa 1900 farming home) and a strong script that combined the nostalgia of memorable lines from the film yet maintaining its own voice and personality which brings the audience a new pathway into Alice Walker’s phenomenal story of self-discovery, faith, growth and love.

This musical is a must see whether you purposely hop on a plane for a cultural New York break or take it in while there for other reasons. Moving, funny, dramatic and incredibly entertaining The Color Purple is a winner.

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Theatre Review: I See You

This review can be found on the Afridiziak website.

i-see-you-02

I See You by Mongiwekhaya at the Royal Court is a play I was excited about seeing due to first time director  whose acting triumphs have had me curious about her. Having seen the thoughtful and innovative direction of I See You it is clear she is multi-talented.

I See You takes place in post-Apartheid South Africa on what should have been a normal Friday night out, but spirals into a series of poignant life lessons for university student Ben played by Bayo Gbadamosi, when he is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

This is a powerful play with a strong and talented cast that tackles face on the issues of human struggle, race, class, pain, identity and so much more. During the course of this night these themes are explored with Ben, ‘Cheese Boy’ being the middle class young black male, with no real idea of what South Africa was like under Apartheid, no real perception of the struggle blacks went through to achieve change and a personal pain that makes him wish to reject his culture through the loss of his mother tongue.

Ben encounters Jordan Baker’s Skinn in the club, a sassy street-smart white girl, who bounces between English and Afrikaans. There are a number of moments where various South African languages are spoken with no translation, yet rather than isolate the audience it helps the non-understanding audience member empathise with the confusion of Ben who also doesn’t understand, a situation that is used against him, viciously.

Through officer Buthelezi we are able to see the impact of the aftermath of fighting for and achieving something so big and meaningful it can’t help but leave scars. Scars that keep you awake at night, scars that throb leading to lashing out violently, scars that can leave a person angry, isolated and in pain even though the battle was won. Desmond Dube’s Buthelezi has us thinking at what cost and is it worth it?

The production begins with the characters breathing heavily, as the production goes on the breathing becomes significant as we question what did it mean? Trying to catch breath after exertion, trying to breathe though you feel restricted, trying to find peace to breathe easy? We have all been there and as we journey through each characters own challenges and demons we recognise the struggle of trying to keep your head above water, of trying to just keep breathing, keep living though the pain of doing so can be its own struggle.

I See You intertwines humour with serious themes that no matter how uncomfortable need to be addressed. The challenges class and privilege raise between people of colour who are supposed to be part of the same struggle, too often this is not the case as Buthelezi says to Ben ‘You know white people think we are the same? We both look black. But only one of us is black…Speak to me in your mother tongue and I will let you go.’

I See You intertwines humour with serious themes that no matter how uncomfortable need to be addressed. The interaction between Ben and Buthelezi highlights how human interaction is often based on misconstrued perceptions, you see a person and fill in the blanks of what you believe to be their life story. Some parts may be correct but if you look deeper you discover you and the one before you are not so different. First we must recognise as Buthelezi says to Ben ‘we are agreed you know nothing’ and then do the work of trying to understand another no matter how distasteful, alien, painful and scary this endeavour may be for us we must do it until you get to that point where you reach the core of the person, you reach the place where you can understand and love that person. That point where you can genuinely look the person in the eye and say I See You.

I See You is an excellent production based on a real encounter, there are a number of messages to take away but perhaps the one I shall be reflecting on is to see others clearly we have to look within and see ourselves for who we are and begin the work there.

 

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Theatre Review: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

ma_raineys_black_bottom_v2

It was with excitement and anticipation I went to see Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I love a musical, I love big diva voices and I love black theatre (well I love all theatre but particular interest in black stories).

The theatre was packed, the staging imaginative and the stage was set for a great evening, unfortunately for me the great evening just didn’t really come in the way I had hoped. The play just never took off for me and then it was finished. I understand that the conversations taking place on the stage while the characters are waiting for the great Ma Rainey to arrive to her studio recording session is where the essence of the play lies. However I was not grabbed thoroughly enough by these conversations to get rid of the feeling of waiting for…well…more.

That is not to say when Ma Rainey did put in an appearance the play shifted gears, because it didn’t I still felt like I was waiting for something.

The performance by the session band characters was good, my all time favourite Lucian Msamati was very good but not as great as I have seen him be. The other cast members were new to me, I was captivated by the voices of Giles Terera as Slow Drag and Ma Rainey herself Sharon D. Clarke but I have to say those were my highlights.

There are strong messages within the play surrounding, jealousy, discrimmination, self-belief and self worth, it even mixes in a bit of same sex relations to keep you on your toes. Yet still there was something missing that made it difficult for me to connect. I did not lose myself in the performance I was aware of every use of the n-word (of which there was plenty), perhaps there was discomfort in the use of the word by the actors and this came through as it is not my first time seeing a production based around this era.

I am glad I saw Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but I wouldn’t say it would be added to my must see again list.

 

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Theatre Review: Red Velvet

Red Velvet

May I introduce Mr Ira Aldridge presented through the artistic flair of one Mr Adrian Lester with words provided by Lolita Chakrahbati. Red Velvet provides the stage to facilitate this most valuable and entertaining meeting.

For those who have not heard of Ira Aldridge he was a 18th Century actor born in New York a freeman in 1807. He had a penchant for acting and would perform with a group in New York called the African Grove Theatre where their performances were so popular they drew audiences away from the white productions. So much so that Aldridge nearly died in a fire, arson which burnt down the ‘theatre’.

In 1824 Aldridge made his way to the UK in the hopes of finding something better. Apparently he created a new persona for himself as a Prince from Senegal, he managed to slowly but surely turn his dream of theatre success into a reality around the cities of the UK surrounding London. This tale takes us through his London experience and how it had an impact on the rest of his life and career.

Adrian Lester’s performance of Ira Aldridge is thought provoking, while the production, though focused upon a particular actor at a pivotal moment in history resonates very strongly with what is currently taking place on the stage and silver screen.

There is an excellent scene that vividly brings to the fore the types of conversations that take place when race and representation or under representation try to happen. The play captures beautifully the challenges discomfort and self-reflection that transformatory change causes for all involved.

It would be easy to say well that was then look how far we have come. I need only look at my program advertising upcoming plays to the West End to see that the stage has not really changed its players. A well meaning conversation with a fellow theatre goer, who happened to be caucasian, who also enjoyed the show immensely shows the colour lens that people perhaps do not realise they are regarding the world. The theatre goer shared with me ‘He’s very good, Adrian. Idris Elba is also very good isn’t he?’

Chakrahbati has taken an historical moment and as all good pieces it is as relevant now and speaks to us as it did in it’s time. I look forward to a time when productions with themes like the ones presented here won’t speak so directly to modern times.

Excellent performance well worth putting in your diary!

 

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Walking the path God has laid out for me

I have a few minutes left of my first day of Lent and I am happy to report it went pretty well. I am approaching my Lent as a period of internal and external cleansing, rejuvenation and focus. To this end I shall be giving up some good stuff like the good Catholic girl I was brought up to be. I shall also, however, be taking some stuff on. So you guys out there I am sharing this with you so now you can hold me accountable, in 40 days we can observe what I have achieved.

And so the list….

Giving up

  • Junk food/ Fast food (Take out/ microwave/ oven meals etc)
  • Processed foods (Bacon, Sausages, ham sniff sniff SOB)
  • Sweets, cakes, biscuits and their family members
  • Procrastination
  • Self doubt

Taking on

  • Definite action
  • Writing something everyday and publishing it here (Like this!)
  • Following opportunities God puts in my path with faith and not doubt/ insecurity
  • Excercise 30 mins a day (Gym, a walk, dance, Pilates)

In 40n days I don’t want to be this brand new unrecognisable person. In 40 days I want to recognise myself because I am the me who has been living in my head for the last 37 years. A me who is doing me happily, not that is a life worth living!

If you are going through a period of transformation in whatever form tell me about it and let’s support each other!

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Goals, Resolutions, Ambitions Oh My!

This year I am approaching the obligatory resolution writing and goal setting with care. I started 2015 with a good list of ambitious and life transforming resolutions. I also created my goals and, because I am serious about these things, discussed them with my support system to ensure my goals were Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. Yes I had a fine set of SMART goals, a list of eloquent resolutions and I was ready to show 2015 a thing or two (well six).

So a year later as I look back I have my beautiful, structured goals and resolutions, I also have a year of reflections  that I still have to shake my head and revisit because life most definitely did not go to plan.

What does that mean? Do I throw away my goals and not bother with resolutions? What is the take away here? Ok so my lesson learnt was to steer away from narrow specifics that hedge you in and narrow your sight to new or alternative routes and possibilities. Rather, target the essence of what you want to achieve. What do I mean? Here is an example from my own experience.

At the beginning of the year I knew I wanted to work in more African countries so I could learn more and develop my knowledge and expertise in diaspora issues . I narrowed in on the job and the company I wanted, they approached me, it all seemed so perfect until it just fell apart and I still have no idea why.

In its place I was offered another job that on the face of it was good but not quite the initial role. In the end I took the second offer and six months on it is more than I wanted when I had my grand plan. Not perfect and not in the form I had thought it would happen but exactly what I needed. I reached that particular journeys end but the route was not as I would have chosen.

Have your end journey in mind but don’t tie yourself rigidly to the route, in the end doing that can make the journey harder or take you completely off your course. So as we are here at another burgeoning new beginning, think about where you would love to be on the 31st December 2016. Imagine you are looking back at 2016 in wonder at how the year turned out for you. No limits, no boundaries – the how will open itself up to you as long as you are brave enough to follow. What you need to be clear about is WHAT you want, be clear on that and then start your journey to making it happen!

I wish you all the best for your 2016. I advise you to

  • Take yourself seriously
  • Research and pay for assistance/ advice
  • Believe that what you want will happen for you…eventually (Patience + Focus = Success)
  • Be as happy and positive at every point as you possibly can, every challenge is teaching you something – take the lesson and keep moving

These steps will make your challenges surmountable and the good outcomes rewarding. Get in touch if you need any pointers and may the force be with you (I couldn’t resist!)

 

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Take it easy on yourself

What am I doing? As the year 2015 is drawing to a close and my own first year back in the UK does the same I am wondering where am I now? I know I am definitely not where I thought I would be, I am trying to get my head around the multiple opportunities laid out before me and worried that I may screw them up. And there lies my problem.

I am so worried about messing it up, causing disappointment and basically not succeeding that I am a little stuck…or a lot stuck. Some would say the first part of the battle is acknowledging this. Ok, it is acknowledged now what. I can say it so seemingly lightly because I am pretty self-aware and so have identified my faults but remain in a place where I am not fixing them and moving forward.

I hate the feeling it leaves me with, but I obviously don’t hate it enough to make the necessary changes and this fills me with frustration and a sense of foreboding. But most of all it fills me with guilt. Guilt that I am letting myself down, God down and everyone who could benefit from the gifts God has given me down as well. Yes it is an increasingly heavy emotional load to carry and so I am feeling perpetually tired and no amount of sleep helps. No surprise, what will relieve the tiredness funnily enough is action not rest.

I know the steps to take, I know the direction I need to be going in and yet I stand here taking the odd baby step forward and then stopping unsure and worried about what comes next. I’m not going to say 1st January ALL CHANGE, because that is not true.

Actually as I read back over what I wrote above which was about two weeks ago I realise my problem. I can’t just ‘fix it’ like a broken shoe that just needs glue. It took me years to cultivate this element of my personality and so now I have to learn a new way of being, this will take time. So rather than have a ‘Fix it’ attitude I need to look at addressing the elements of myself I can see need adjustment or all out eradication. This already feels realistic to me, not so harsh on my mental being.

Time for baby steps into my next phase, good luck with yours.

Categories: Personal, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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