SAME/Difference is a creative writing and photography project devised by Quotidian artists Maria McManus, Viviana Fiorentino, Nandi Jola and Bernarde Lynn. This project has been implemented for the first time, in Portadown supported by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council through Peace IV funds.
The project examines the concept of identity, belonging, home, diversity and peace-building, through creative writing and expressive abilities and explores the lived – experience of migration. We have been keen to include people from minority ethnic groups whose first language is other than English and that our experienced team of artists supported the group to make creative inquiry of both the challenges and enriching perspective of life in a ‘new ground’ and the lived-experience of ‘home’.
Supported by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council through Peace IV funds.
I have my own house
My own personal space
Buried in my books
Buried in my books.
A memory belongs in a round birds nest of dark brown spikey twigs. Inside filling the nest is a tablet screen where I recall a memory and it is played. I have a memory nest which is complete, which is entitled “Living Memory Up Until I Went To University.” Right now I am creating video footage of my new Nest called “Life in Portadown In My Own House”
Nest One “living….university.”:
Walking onto the door steps I hear them thud under my boots. Through the glass panels of the door, my mum in her cooking apron rushes quickly and with her red coloured index finger guarding her pouted lips, whispers harshly “Sushhh don’t ring the door bell, your sister’s doing piano lessons.” She opens the door and quickly walks back to the kitchen she came from. I gently click the door closed and make towards the living room door, gently pressing my ear to its wood. The music notes leap up and down, up and down like gazelles on the Serangeti.
Next I’m at the dinner table tucking into steaming steak, carrot and onion.
The Four Seasons
The bright yellow daffodils that wave to the wind.
A sea of happiness and togetherness.
Mellow fruitfulness that reminds me of South Africa
Bright coloured leaves
Reds, green, orange and browns.
Crushing the clove between my fingers I stop
And stand motionless, transfixed by memory.
I close my eyes and inhale the sharp sweet yet acrid scent
Which tantalises my nostrils.
And I am transported to another place and time.
I am about nine years old,
Behind the big wooden counter in Granny’s shop.
Behind me shelves reach from floor to ceiling,
Packed tight with anything you could want –
Blue bags for washing or stings, tins of food, bottles of sauce.
But my eyes were drawn inexorably to the row of glass bottles, standing in pride of place.
My fingers trail over the cold glass,
My eyes following them, studying the brightly coloured labels –
Brandy Balls, Pear Drops, Mint Humbugs, Rhubarb and Custard, Clove Rock.
Carefully I lift down the heavy jar,
Cradling it in my arms almost like a fragile baby or a kitten.
I unscrew the lid and immediately the scent envelops me,
Plunging my hand into the jar,
reaching into the deep corners as if mining for treasure,
I touch the hard, sharp corners of the sweets.
Curling my fingers round my treasure,
I start to lift them, but they are tacky, clinging to each other and the jar.
I pull harder, and am rewarded.
My hand rises triumphantly, clutching tightly to my booty.
I drop the sweets into the metal bowl on the scales.
The deep ruby jewel centres glow against the white edges and the dull metal.
Returning to the jar, I dig again, and gathered another handful.
As I open my fingers they clatter into the scales.
The needle moves into position – 4 oz, a quarter pound.
I have enough.
Lid tightly fastened, I reach up and slide the bottle into position on the shelf.
The paper bag rustles as I open it, and pour in the sweets.
Before I close the bag, I carefully select a jewel, and raise it to my lips.
The heat warms my mouth, and the sharp scent sates my senses.
I am content.
Lush green beings
Froth and slide
Slate grey that sparkles in wet
Wisdom in sinews
A potent pattern re-emerging
Nourished and nurtured I bow
We share ancestors you and I
It’s not obvious from the names whispered forward in stories
Our shades shimmer differently in the sun
Our tongues curl around songs of a particular place
Raise your gaze, turn out your ear
One, two, ten thousand years
A beat. A rhythm. An exhalation.
She breathes and we breathe with her
She moves and we move
And beyond her?
Our Mother’s Mother?
We share ancestors you and I
The lost paradise
Broken dreams like sand castles,
Loving words that have been stolen by the wind.
Desires and promises that will never win.
Forgotten by the time and healed by suffering.
Plucked from their garden,
Cut by the roots and thrown into the snow.
Whose fault is it?
The fault died orphaned between four walls.
Selfishness is a merciless murderer.
Red roses became dark
Strange way of love.
Home can be
A sanctuary, prison or hotel
It depends on which story
You choose to tell.
A sanctuary can be
The humblest abode
Up the road.
Who can tell
Whether heaven or hell
It’s the people therein
Wherever they dwell.
A home, a prison
By illness, circumstances
Home a sanctuary
All sweetness and light
Everything you want
Turning out all right.
A home a hotel
For all who drop by
For a chat, cup of tea
Or just to say “ Hi”
A house is four walls
Its skeletal form
A buffer against
Wind, rain or storm.
A house vibrates and resonates
With the light and energy
Of its inmates.
Disharmony and discord
Are registered too
Vibes given out
Beamed straight back
A home is the heart
Of whomever lives there
It’s up to them
To treat it with care.
A home transitions
Throughout the years
Children fill it, fly it
And then bounce back
Even if only for the craic!
But no matter what happens
It always will be
Home sweet home
For thee and me.
Baby socks are sacred
We keep them as family heirlooms
We believe that they are history
They are passed down to the next generation
The prayer that’s read in the baby’s ears
To speak in the ear, so that the call to serve Allah is present from the start of child’s life
On the seventh day after birth, the child’s head is shaved
This is a naming ceremony
The shaving symbolising cleansing
The start of life in the presence of Allah
Family gatherings are a time to talk about such treasures
At birthday parties
We have so many traditions and celebrations in our Muslim Culture
Poetry is Liberty
My circumstance led me, at a certain moment, to say no, and to say it in verse,
Affording to a certain rhythm, a certain touch, a certain correspondence of
Sounds and images, ethos, pathos, and logos, instead of a Masonite, a canvas, an easel or a brush.
My circumstance led me, at a certain moment, to say a big no; to a non-historical, poetic, cultural,
One that did not presume perhaps some naivety; a great conviction about the alchemical power of the word, by a time marked by utopias, where had not yet been the loss of meaning
And the advent of the age of emptiness,
A song of language and time, in the form of no and poetry.
Like something that was in the air, which could be heard without hearing.
There were a rhythm, a metaphor, and the urgency to give back to the myths,
A cantabile tone that came from the songs of friends, songbooks, and Shakespeare,
Who inspires the rhyme by feather pen and a higher EQ.
Likewise, I am here to search for a new unity,
Trying the attempt to reconcile expression and communication
Under penalty of poetry becoming a specialty for specialists,
This will make you lose all sense of wandering and demand, sharing, and circulation.
However, I will never be a Shakespeare! But my poetry has power!
A power that is an absolute and irremediable! Power against a different power!
Power of the essential relationship with life! Power with the world and with death itself,
Remains, however ephemeral!
In each poet exist the history of all poetry. I believe in the magic power of the word
And I am convinced that a wrong verse can alter the cosmic balance of the free poetry.
I look for the word before the word. Poetry has a relationship with eternal liberty,
Poetic activity is revolutionary by nature: -Spiritual exercise is a method of inner liberation!
Without forgetting the orality! The sonority, the correspondences, the rhythm,
Poetry is also to be said and shared!
I believe that the rhythm is before the word, and the word is sung or danced before the written word.
It is… Liberty! …Floating through the lines in a perfect choreography. Musical notes playing the paramount scene to the show. Like poetry was born of dance and the rhythm was the substance of things. The word liberates and creates. Today, as always, poetry is Liberty!
Tatiana Denise Martins
Bathed by the Atlantic waters, I am tropical
Barefooted, free and happy, I am Creole
My biggest virtue is to be humble
The music and rhythm are my kind
I am hospitable, I am generous
My name is Guinea-Bissau
The drums call everyone, come to Guinea-Bissau
Come and feel the warm of our rain, heavy and tropical
Don’t be fooled; my people are poor but the most generous
Our home invites everyone, come and sit, we are Creole
Go and meet beautiful islands, the finest kind
Go and visit Bolama, green, blue and humble
Come and see Biombo, our district is humble
Walk to Pidjiguiti Port of our capital Bissau
Go to Bandim market and taste fruits of any kind
Colours and tastes are exotic, exuberant and tropical
Coffee, chocolate and milky skins…we are all Creole
The heart, without any doubt is the same…so generous
The smiles are unique, candid and generous
Oh, my people! I love them so much, they are so humble
The hairs are braided, the hairs are frizzy, the hairs are creole
Creole is also what we speak, it is how we communicate in Bissau
Our dresses and fabrics are colorful as flowers, we are tropical
As flowers we inspire, as flowers we are kind
Our almost naked kids… oh, amazing! They are so kind
They dance, they smile while doing their chores… oh, so generous
From the trees they take their mangos, they are tropical
From the rain they take their shower, they are so humble
To school… sometimes the only way is Bissau
The Portuguese is for the classroom and for the street our Creole
With countless ethnicities and dialects, the unifying language is Creole
With countless wars without winners the people choose to be kind
With all the poverty and difficulties, our paradise is Bissau
With all the greediness of politics, the people still generous
With all the need to show greatness, the people still humble.
Bernarde worked for many years in social work and community development projects before becoming involved in the field of art, specifically photography. She is motivated by the telling of small stories and the use of the photograph as a pause or as a moment of meditation and also as a method of uncovering autobiographical memory,and is increasingly drawn to using photography as a simple tool for individuals and communities to express their own journey and tell their own story. Bernarde facilitated the photography element in the SAME/Difference project, working with the participants to express themselves through the medium.
Viviana Fiorentino is Italian and lives in Belfast where she teaches Italian literature. In 2018, she was awarded two Italian poetry prizes. Her poems, short stories and translations have appeared in international literature webzines and magazines, in both Itlaian and in English. She has published in anthologies, poetry collections and a novel. Viviana co-founded two activist poetry initiatives ‘Sky, you are too big’,and ‘Letters with wings’ and the forgotten women artists blog, Le Ortique. Viviana worked on the SAME/Difference project as a facilitator in creative writing.
Born in South Africa, Nandi came to Northern Ireland in 2001 and has since worked with extensively in the arts. She is a cultural ambassador and works in schools throughout Northern Ireland delivering cultural awareness workshops. With extensive experience as a poet, storyteller, performer and facilitator, Nandi works to bring an understanding of the African culture, facilitating peace building workshops, reimaging communities, breaking down stereotypes, dispelling myths, tackling racism and sectarianism, promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. Nandi worked on the SAME/Difference project as a facilitator in creative writing.