Collage by Traci Currie
In my previous article, I explored how to jump-start the creative side within. I offered suggestions and resources that hopefully perked your interests.
Well, I am taking my own advice and exploring my creative, spontaneous spirit that is waiting to explode. This word wanderlust was given to me most recently by PRC’s executive director, Ayanna Jordan. In a casual conversation she spoke the word and EUREKA! I knew what I had to write.
What does wanderlust mean, you may ask? According to Merriam Webster dictionary it means strong longing for or impulse toward wandering. In Wikipedia it means a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world. I started researching other links on the Internet and was led to the film Wanderlust starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd. There is also Wanderlust Travel Magazine, dedicated to people who love to travel. Did you know there are wanderlust festivals that take place throughout the year in various locations in the United States? The wanderlust links are endless. My goal, however, is not to research other people’s views of this word. My purpose is to explore my own identity through my travels.
Recently I decided to take a one-year leave of absence from my university teaching position to develop myself as an artist. So, when the winter 2013 semester ended I packed up my belongings and decided to begin this excursion for two months in France and Italy. Why these two places? (1) I have loved France for years. (2) I have family in Italy. It is important to know that I began this journey with a concrete plan for my one-year leave, and it actually had nothing to do with wanderlust. However, I have learned in the past few months no matter how much you plan and prepare, some things just don’t happen the way you expect or desire; as a result, you are forced to adopt the simple adage: Let Go! As in, let go of what you think will happen. Let go of your very detailed and crafted five-year plan. I am not telling everyone to do this, but consider this: if you are the person who has ALWAYS lived by a plan and has ALWAYS crafted every step that she has made, just maybe it is time to EAT PRAY LOVE and WANDERLUST across the world so that you can learn something different about yourself. I have always been that person, and it appears that my recent experiences have been screaming the two words: LET GO!
I am more than halfway through this excursion (I left in the beginning of May). I have traveled from Paris, France to Florence, Italy to Marseille, France, and I am not done yet. I can’t begin to tell you all that I have learned in the past few weeks, but I can share one of my major highlights that I referenced in my previous post, Spring Into Action. I said I wanted to sing a Nina Simone song on stage. Well, guess what? I wrote a poem based off Nina’s Four Women and sang (a very small portion of the song) on stage in front of a small group of artists and passersby in the square, Piazza Medaglie d’Oro.
Nina Simone’s story has been sitting in my soul for a while now, not because a biopic is coming out soon or because there is controversy on whether or not the glamorous Zoe Saldana should actually play this fierce icon I admire. No. I have liked Nina Simone since adolescence when I heard her raspy man-voice in a live recording and looked at her dark skin, short ‘fro, thick, round nose, and sullen-lined cheeks. Ever since I saw her sit at a piano and dare to be magnificent both in the U.S. and overseas (specifically in France), I have wanted to confidently act her out on stage. So, since I work with young women and I identify with some of the great concerns of being a woman in a world that still constructs how we should look, act, and think in the 21st century, I decided to create my own rendition of Four Women for this event I was invited to in a small town called Imola (outside of Bologna).
The event’s name was Different Diversity’s Theaters/Different Disruptives Theaters (DDT). DDT was in Italian, and my favorite phrase is, “Parlo italiano un po’.” Mind you, I have been saying this phrase for years and studying the language loosely for two decades. My fluency is still suspect, so this event was the final straw. I realized how important it is for me to learn a second and preferably a third language. It is important to be able to communicate with people cross culturally, and although as a performer I recognize this can happen in many ways, I prefer to tackle this personal concern in the most obvious way – learn another language and begin talking!
Traci’s Rendition of Nina Simone’s Four Women – Imola, Italy
At the event I was a part of a flash mob (or at least I took photos of artists and students from a nearby school participating in a flash mob). The group recited insightful poetry on the side lines to hundreds of people walking through an outdoor market. As translated to me, one older man said that he did not know how to read. However, he seemed intrigued by what was taking place. I saw him talk to one of my translators in passing conversation. He appeared leisure and “about-his-business” on this warm crowded sunny day in the market. It was the most interesting thing, given what I learned about Imola, birth of one of the co-founders of Italian Socialism, Andrea Costa. If you plan on living in specific European countries, socialism might be a topic of discussion. I was given a very brief overview of the existing racism in this small town, due to the growing immigrant population. One person told me the racial incidents are equivalent to those of the 1950s-60s in the United States, and that is a strong statement to make. Although I was not born yet, I have watched enough documentaries, seen enough photos, listened to enough personal stories, and read a few books to realize that such statements conjure specific kinds of images and feelings. I did not feel the tension that was described to me, but I was there for only eight hours.
Am I willing to do the research on Imola and Italy as a whole so that I can be more in tune with what was being described? Absolutely! As a matter of fact, after learning a bit about Imola and performing Nina on stage, I was a part of a round table discussion on the role of poetry in Italy and the United States, and the intergenerational impact it has on the world as a whole. Three of us talked about our connection to poetry and then we opened it up to a larger group of roughly 20 people (a mix of women and men of various ages). Interestingly enough, my partner (being male) observed how very male-dominated the conversation was. I thought that was intriguing since I did not observe the same thing. The other two panelists were men (Italian) and myself (the lone black Jamaican American holding it down for…uuuuum…Me). I do not profess to represent every black or female or Jamaican or American artist alive or dead. That, in itself, can be dangerous. I was too excited about simply being invited and being a part of such an important dialogue. Honestly, I kept thinking (as the circle kept talking), “You wait, Italian Poets, I’m coming back to address you in your language! You just wait – watch out! It’s ON!”
And, it is true. I will return to Italy in September to continue learning the language and about the country, and then I will go to Germany. I have never been to Germany and my only reference to the country is historical (i.e. World War II and the Jewish Holocaust). I just received an invitation, and I’m going! And if by some miracle (and I do believe in miracles) I can find the money to travel to Spain and North Africa in the next year, guess who is running for the border? In other words, I have just entered the Twilight Zone: Wanderlust. And there is no turning back!
Traci Currie is a Communication Studies lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer for 5 years; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes the PRC will help young women reach their highest potential. “This organization is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts here.