Communicating Challenging Topics. Blog 1 – Kat Francois
We invited performance poet and writer Kat Francois to tackle the subject of how to communicate topics that might prove challenging. Kat previously ran an AMA online workshop on this topic and has lots of helpful insight to share.
In her first blog for AMAculturehive, Kat introduces herself and her history of challenging difficulty.
Fix your crown
Sometimes your crown will
be knocked crooked,
or knocked right off your head,
sometimes you will forget who you are,
and what you are made of.
Sometimes you will forget
that you have endured so much worse,
you will allow others to steal your beauty,
steal your strength,
steal your sunshine.
You will cower rather than be bold,
stay silent instead of shaking the world
with your noise, believe the crap of others
and allow them to coat your permeable
skin in their rotten filth.
That’s when you know it’s time to fix your crown.
pick it up, dust it the hell off,
straighten it, straighten yourself
and face all that
is being thrown at you.
© Kat Francois
I am a writer and a solo performance artist, using poetry, playwriting, spoken word, movement and even singing (not my strongest talent, but just about passable) to create art. I have never shied away from difficult topics in my work.
Spoken Word was my first serious foray into turning words into performance and I connected with spoken word because it gave me an opportunity to voice my opinion in a way which was creative and imaginative. A way to tackle subjects that generally people may glaze over or be uncomfortable with when you try to bring them into a discussion.
I come from a large Grenadian family of seven children. It was a noisy environment, but not one where I was generally encouraged to express an opinion unless that opinion fitted in with the opinions of the adults of the house. I always had a lot to say but also learned to keep a lot of my emotions inside.
I am in my forties now and I have always used art as a way to heal and a way to communicate even before I realised what I was doing. My obsession with dance as a youngster gave me a voice when I had no voice, a form of self-expression that needed no words.
In school I was known as outspoken and opinionated and was even labelled as over-confident. Quite a statement to make about a young black girl from a working class family.
My voice was a voice which had to fight to be heard, whether that was at home or in school. Space was not automatically given.
While writing I was free to express myself however I wished, without being silenced, without restriction. As a child I wrote diaries, letters and stories, I wrote about my life and what was going on around me. Writing became an ingrained trait, I was known to carry around a notebook so I could write whenever the urge took me.
It’s easy as we become older to forget where we have come from, to distance ourselves from our past especially if our past may have been difficult. To forget what it is like to be a margalised child, living in a marginalized community, struggling to be heard. There were many times while growing up when my words, my voice, my cries for help were ignored.
To be a whole person/artist I have learned that I must connect all aspects of myself... fragmented lives are unhealthy lives. Fragmentation can serve a worthwhile purpose in helping us to cope with life's difficulties but connecting all parts of ourselves together, even the ugly parts, is where art is created.
I haven't always been this brutally honest. Art has gifted honesty to me, taught me that I do not always have to hide how I feel to make others feel comfortable. That I can use my art to push buttons and exorcise my demons, to draw people into a new world or reflect their own world back to them. That creativity is a giving tool as well as a healing tool.
Over the years I have become braver and more outspoken and see my art as a conduit for dealing with challenging topics in a way that does not alienate audiences but challenges and at times provokes.
I use my art to deal with issues around police violence, migration and fertility, mental illness, suicide and the contribution of the Caribbean to the First World War.
The stage is a place where I feel safe. There are things I tackle in performances that I would struggle so speak about in conversations. If you happen to catch one of my spoken word performances, you’ll find the issues I tackle may be dependent on my frame of mind at that time. There are times when I am in a silly, fun and jovial mood and the poetry and my banter will be light. Then there are times when I selfishly do not give a damn about the audience and I am using the stage to let off steam and the audience are just coming along for the ride.
If I have learned that I need to be vulnerable, to allow audiences into areas of my life I have not quite figured out myself, to expose the hurt and pain of being human as well as the joy and happiness.
Two years ago I lost a dear friend to a suspected sucide. It is a subject matter I have in my sights among others that I am not quite ready to bring onto the stage but I am writing, creating, preparing for the day when I feel the time is right, I am brave enough and the world is able to digest the words I vomit.
I strongly believe as a performance artist/writer it is my duty to tackle the challenging topics. I tell myself it is ok to be uncomfortable and scared, that those feelings should not stop me from breathing light and creativity into the dark places.
I encourage myself to sit in the uncomfortable, it is just a feeling. It will pass.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”, Brene Brown
Next: Kat takes us through some helpful approaches to communication difficult topics.
Photo: © @Sloetry