The artist

Where do l start? The collaboration simply worked! 

My interest in using art as a tool for positive change organically shaped itself as l immersed myself in Coventry – or Coventry immersed itself into me! I set out to be a dramatic body adornment designer. My initial plan was to see my adornments on the runway catwalk fashion show and all.

That plan still exists but my take on it has drastically shifted.

I always say l became a BLACK woman when I moved to the UK. Imagine the process of breaking a horse 

It was harsh, hard, gentle, kind, confusing at times depending on who was riding. And the journey continues.

I was raised by loving and devoted parents. My mother was gentle creative and always on point. My father was unconventional in how he raised us, a people’s person, an engaging speaker. I remember him speaking at gatherings, be it in church or social gatherings. When he spoke, people loved it!

He was also good at bringing people together. Doors to our home were always open. Growing up, this is one practise l found frustrating and curious at the same time. The way my siblings and l got used to having people around us, the grumbling, the feeling of loss when it was just a few of us in the house. Mind you, our house was not huge. The sharing spirit was a must have! We shared almost everything! It was fantastically annoying, hard, doable and somehow joyous at the same time 

Little did l know that, these were survival SKILLS. Survival skills that will set me up, help me survive life in the UK. 

The UK has been a major eye opener for me in terms of real life experience to do with the challenges migrants face, systematic racism, hierarchy, white privilege to name a few. 

Back home (Zimbabwe) l had a romanticised view of  England as l was an avid reader of romantic novels… Mills and Boon, Temptation, Danielle Steele, Jane Austin to name a few. 

Imagine romantic walks in Hyde Park. 

Well my reality was a wake up call. 

I soon learnt that there are ready made labels waiting for migrants before they put their suitcases down. Categories/labels/boxing play a huge role in the day to day lives and decisions by the government, private companies, charities, individuals. These decisions biased or non biased have a massive domino effect that my one human mind cannot comprehend, never mind the people in power. I talking about the impact of a child separated from their mother for a year, 25 years+. As a result of an asylum seeker being in limbo for 10± years.

 What is the microscopic but major impact of this separation? 

The impact on the child is, from the moment they wake up there is an awareness that their  mother is not with them, not present, if the food on their table is too much or too little they wonder what’s it like for the parent on the other side of the world. When they stumble and fall in the playground, they wish their mom was there. One would argue every child feels the same when they fall. The thing is with separation every single minute detail is layered. The mind is constantly reaching out and flying over seas, mountains and borders. Not in a dreamy dazed way, but in a state of distress. The mother is in the same state bearing multiple burdens of the system and responsibility for her family on the other side of the globe . 

Going back to survival skills. When l realised that who l am, how l was raised, my culture, traditional values and beliefs is what sustained and is still sustaining me. 

I realised what my community Coventry /UK is missing. 

The immigration process, systematic racism hinders/stifles progress. It breaks (refer to horse analogy) the human.

Unfortunately in the human breaking it leaves a trail of suicide, depression, PTSD, trauma, you name it. It is simply damaging. It requires RESILIENCE and PERSISTENCE to survive this harsh system. As a result there is a gap, in UK culture, economy in general being fed by these marginalised groups. 

Fast forward, l founded Maokwo Arts an organisation that supports artists of colour, migrants and communities. Maokwo was founded from tears and sweat. Lived  experience. Absorbing fellow migrants and minoritized lived experiences. I’m always quick to say. The journey continues, the tears the sweat continues. As l am walking this journey, l am starting to see some results in some areas in my personal space as an artist as an organisation, however this brings up interesting subjects to do with the GRATEFUL minority, Black woman. MUTED. Does it stop here? No.

We are dealing with generations of skewered systems that are deep rooted. We need to keep digging. What does it look like for the next generation? For us NOW?

The collaboration with Heaven has been ACE! It resonated so deeply its mind blowing. I remember hearing Heaven speak for the first time and being drawn to how she speaks and her detailed, factual understanding of the migration STORY. 

Our conversations brought some interesting reads. I also enjoyed listening to this 

During the process of the collaboration l found myself referring to l MIGRATED  exhibition (my first solo EXHIBITION 2018)  Its an exhibition that has toured around Coventry. I see it as a migrating  exhibition that will migrate around the world. Because my aspirations for it have been slow and stagnated at times. I’ve had moments of frustration. What this collaboration has done for me is it has brought more depth and value to the exhibition in my headspace, with it peace. I see it. Life is seasonal. There is a time to laugh cry, scream, sleep. Everything in its time. When we pace ourselves we will find the rhythm. Just like the grass effortlessly grows, the wind blows, the flowers bloom

In this collaboration, there was a great synergy, weaving of our lives. Which was a joy and pleasure to discover. 

Themes that strongly came through where resilience, the deep call to survive, to live, no matter one’s geographical location, colour, tribe or creed. Deep calls unto deep. 

The call to BE, to break down barriers, boxes, categories 

‘no limit, no boundaries’ 

In a nutshell 

This collaboration was 

Super-duper-licious! 

My name is Laura Nyahuye 

‘I have no desire to fit in’