Legacy: On Becoming A Full Human Being

By Olusha – Femi Hughes, August 2011

Writing the legacy of my family history, based on my own experience, has been an illuminating and a painful journey of enquiry. For it is difficult to write about oneself when there’s an emotional turmoil, a disaster that turned upside down, a people, a history and a culture. For second generation African /Asian /British kids, like our family, we were like branches without a trunk, with no roots, no reference point to the earth or to the four directions, no frame work from which to begin a life.

How does one begin to tell one’s story? One needs to have a narrative that belongs to her cultural traditions, a people with a history and a voice. One needs a person who is the author of her own story, a map of a place she belongs to, someone who has a self that is free from another’s definition of what and who she is. How does one make sense of a self’ or the world, when stories of one’s ancestors were of strange barbarians with eyes in their stomachs, who ate others, who were, early European’s decided, ‘non human? Sub human’s, who apparently, had no history before that fated meeting.

To begin to write, I needed to be free. Free from a ghost, a barely audible whisper that clouded my first 40 and more years – a whisper that became the air I breathed, had pervaded my inner world. A ‘mental slavery’ mirroring, what had been and something yet to be undone. For the ghost of slavery had not been exorcised in me or in the world. It had taken almost a lifetime to convert the murmuring whisper that dominated my world over this time into a coherent mantra: “We tolerate your inherent deficiencies, we turn away from our entangled histories,
Just stop storming, conform to our norming”

Where did this jarring dissonance come from? It leaked from every crack, every orifice, every medium of news speech, it hung in the atmosphere and often turned the temperature to zero. Only when I began to wrestle with and explore the intangible, could I manifest its form, it’s felt sting and sour smell. Giving the ghost of the ‘slave master’ a voice and shape has helped to grapple with its years of torment, its untruth and then to unravel and exorcise its chains.

And now, there is gaggle of voices that want to speak at once. They are fighting for air. Voices, bursting to break the spell of silence, but searching for how to tell many complex truths that stand between us and the truth of our interwoven wholeness. For truth is often shaped in the eye of the teller, yet has a spectrum of colors, of tones and felt textures, some are like music to the ear, and others hurt deeply. Truths can have a rhythm that is specific to a person, a culture and yet one that is wholly universal. In life, much of the difficult and holographic truths are left untold. Only in rare situations and extraordinary moments do they find voice.

For many truths are ineffable, they reside in the underworld of longings, unspoken hopes, broken dreams, and emotions barely able to speak. They are in the vision yet to be described, dreams yet to unfold, but trying to emerge. What will they speak of? Of reconnection and longing for embrace? of a warrior’s dance? Maybe our vision will sing the devotion to Yemanja, our ancient Orissa’, or tell of African Griots, boldly weaving astonishing stories, that burn our souls with love: Stories turning into melodies that find expression, in a chorus of justice and mercy across continents. And so Olusha -Femi is born, as a writer to tell the astounding story that started with Lorraine, whose voice was muffled, and of Olusha, whose voice is set free. – A voice that tells of a mysterious underbelly, dreams of enchantment and becoming a full human being…..

Olufemi Hughes (Olusha) is a Brighton-based poet, writer and sometime storyteller. Born of a Nigerian Father and Indian mother, she was brought up in Scotland. Read her full biography here.  

Olusha-Femi Hughes will be reading and talking about her work at the Writing Our Legacy showcase next Friday 7 October at Unitarian Church, Brighton. You can get tickets for this event here: http://writingourlegacy2011.eventbrite.com/