Monday 13 July 2020



A few years ago, Leonard Cohen released a song on his 82nd birthday. 'You Want It Darker' is in English but for the repetition of the Hebrew lyric 'Hineni' meaning 'Here I am' or 'I am ready, my Lord'. Behold me, ready, waiting. Some sacrifice may be due. Usually is due. Its nature will be revealed. 

I didn't hear the song at the time. A few weeks ago, when I began 'Black Earth Rising', a fictional episodic drama situated in London and Rwanda, 25 years after the genocide, the introduction of the tone and nature of what was to follow, is utterly imbued with Cohen's song-cloak of darkness, rising. Whose is this voice promising acceptance of terror, I wondered? The singer seemed almost too courageous. Hubris in its making. And in a way, any time we, mere mortals, attempt to unravel mystery and meaning with our bodies and minds as instruments, a foreboding thuds around our ears. We are truly the strangest beings on this black and green and blue earth. Rising and falling with each hidden breath. A million candles burning, for the help that never came.

Michaela Cole, the writer-creator of 'Chewing Gum', star of 'Black Earth Rising' and now writer-creator of 'I May Destroy You' seems to hold this word 'Hineni', spoken or unspoken, as she steps into her work.  Throughout time, words have been our tool for change, for promise, for betrayal. Today, speaking out, speaking up, echoes from one corner of the globe to another, so that 'mere' is no longer appropriate for 'mortals'. A tiny flame fanned fast enough catches fire. Who burns? What burns? What survives? What must survive? The freedom to fight is the greatest we possess. Who are we fighting? It isn't always clear. 

Hugo Blick, an Englishman, wrote 'The Honourable Woman', centring a Jewish woman (played by an American actress) in Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He also wrote 'Black Earth Rising', centring a Rwandan orphan who is told she is a Tutsi to protect her from the truth; she is, in fact, Hutu. The role is played by Cole, a British-Ghanaian actress. I don’t know how this fiction sits with Rwandan intellectuals and critics, because so much of Western-centric drama about ‘Others’ is reviewed within the Western canon through the Western telescope. I say Western, I mean something else. I mean the construct of white, colonial, the historical half story. Almost every Palestinian in ‘The Honourable Woman’ is dishevelled and portrayed as being more capable of dishonour. It’s always tricky to attempt balance - personal politics are difficult to wrangle out of fiction. 

Should we narrow our focus, pick a subject and delve deep like historians do; Samira Ahmed on 'The Art of Persia', Sona Dutta on 'The Treasures of the Indus', Mary Beard on the Romans? Or do we dabble, knowing we will never read the whole library of who we are - but finding a few treasures along the way to guide us, keep believing in the best of each other, while knowing the worst of each other? Hineni, hineni. We are ready. Well, some of us are. Some of us run, hide, disguise, hate, fear, delegate. Some of us write, paint, create, medicate, heal, study, mate. Perhaps it was meant to be this way. Darkness and light. Except that sometimes they are almost indistinguishable from each other. Like when you sleep in the day and wake in the night. Or when there is a pandemic forcing us to slow down even as we race to the finish line. Which is what? Which is where? Sands in time, disappearing fast. Hold on, for a little while longer. The spark can lead to fire. 


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Ah, it is always lovely to read you. You and I always like the same books and movies, so I just started watching Black Earth Rising, have long held an interest in Rwanda, as our Canadian diplomat Romeo Dallaire headed a peacekeeping mission there, warned the UN of the genocide unfolding, got no help and has never fully recovered from it. I note on your sidebar Heartberries. I have been on the waiting list for it for far too long at the library, finally just ordered myself a Kindle copy. Hineni - we are ready for something, just not sure the right something will happen. But we live in hope, because that's how we roll. It is always wonderful to see a post from you pop up on my blogroll.

Shaista said...

Thanks Sherry, I love how we mirror each other across the oceans. I take heart always in knowing you are there, in your cosy cottage, drinking tea, reading, writing poetry and walking by the sea... will look forward to your thoughts on Michaela Coel's work...

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