REVIEW|KAMITAN ARTS (@KamitanArts) ‘POETRY 4 GRENFELL’ BOOK REVIEW

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Wherever there is trau­ma, there is love.

Wherever there is love, there is art.

The 14th of June 2017.

I no longer feel the need to go in to the details of what happened in the early morn­ing hours of June 14th. Per­haps to echo the sen­ti­ment of the silent walk, I find myself silent about some­thing that once con­sumed so much space inside me. If you do not know the details by now then let the inter­net gods be your guide.

What I can talk about, what I am proud to talk about, is the things that have happened since. How people from every­where came togeth­er to lend them­selves to relief efforts after the fact. How the com­munity of Latimer and Lad­broke Grove have come togeth­er in solid­ar­ity since that night. How the heal­ing is in pro­cess and we are in a gentler stage of heal­ing than that of the bru­tal anger and sting­ing dis­ap­point­ment that con­sumed so many of us in the imme­di­ate time after the fire. Anger sub­sides into sad­ness, and the naked truth of grief allows us to see bey­ond that which we once believed.

I make no apo­logy for say­ing that some beau­ti­ful things have happened in the last 14 months since the night of June 14th. Silent walks have been tak­ing place on the 14th of every month since, and will con­tin­ue to do so for the fore­see­able future. They begin at the Not­ting Hill Meth­od­ist Church at 7pm if you hap­pen to be curi­ous about the power of silence. Songs have been cre­ated and pic­tures have been painted. The pain of loss may have illu­min­ated the tower that night, but the blos­som­ing of col­our and love has vibrated through the sur­round­ing area since. Where there is trau­ma, there is love and there is art.

“Poetry 4 Gren­fell” is a com­pil­a­tion of poems mostly writ­ten by mem­bers of the Latimer and Lad­broke Grove com­munity. Pub­lished by Kam­it­an Arts, the book is a col­lec­tion of the thoughts and feel­ings of people who were affected by the fire that night. Imma be hon­est, it’s not easy to read. If you’re look­ing for com­fort­able night-time read­ing or some­thing that won’t make you think then you may wan­na hit up the fic­tion sec­tion of your loc­al book­store. How­ever, though the book may not be an easy-read, it’s a neces­sary one. If you wan­na under­stand the thoughts and feel­ings of the people who sur­round the tower, if you wan­na know what people saw and have con­tin­ued to see since June 14th, if you wan­na know what trau­ma is, then per­haps this is the book to help you under­stand.

Right now, in the area of Latimer and Lad­broke Grove the heal­ing looks like col­our. It looks like art. It’s organ­isa­tions like Kam­it­an Arts that have come through to cre­ate this book entitled “Poetry 4 Gren­fell”. It’s organ­isa­tions like Fer­Arts that have opened their doors for people to come and express them­selves. It’s groups like Kids on the Green that are spe­cific­ally work­ing to help the chil­dren of the area. It is import­ant to under­stand the wider con­text of this book and how it nestles itself beau­ti­fully with­in a time and place where people are doing some amaz­ing and self­less work. I don’t know if it gets said enough but I am proud of the post-Gren­fell com­munity for com­ing togeth­er and hand­ling and tak­ing care of them­selves first, and bet­ter than any gov­ern­ment aided relief effort ever could have.

“Now a ver­tic­al mass coffin in the sky

Where forensic tests must identi­fy”

Zita Hol­bourne writes in her poem “Justice For Gren­fell” about the polit­ic­al strings wrapped around this tragedy. She speaks of the dif­fi­culty the vic­tims must have faced and jux­ta­poses it along­side the fail­ings of the author­it­ies.

“The res­id­ents warned of the dangers for years

Whil­st those in charge didn’t just ignore their fears

But threatened young women with leg­al action

Claim­ing their cries were an over-reac­tion”

 In “Today I’m Wear­ing Green…” Nat­alie ‘Nat­ur­al’ Wright beau­ti­fully and sens­it­ively plays though the sequence of events.

“The tales of trau­ma began to seep,

The haunted faces still plague my sleep.

The mother that let her baby drop;

Once she saw her baby was safe,

The fight in her stopped.”

She goes on to com­mend the people who came to donate and volun­teer their time, “Human­ity dis­played”, and I agree with her whole­heartedly. The energy of every­one who came to volun­teer was immense and unfor­get­table.

“They may have been poor but their hearts are rich in kind­ness

You are rich yes you are rich with blind­ness”

Mon­era Tak­la con­trib­utes sev­er­al poems to the book. “Rich in Kind­ness” speaks of the price our com­munity has had to pay. Everything that has been taken with no account being held evokes in me the sen­ti­ment that has been echoed through the years when it comes to people of col­our, people of pover­ty, and those of inter­sec­tion­al­ity, who have to deal with the inter­de­pend­ent sys­tems of dis­ad­vant­age and abuse. It takes subtle strength to mas­ter the anger that comes with this, but it also teaches us the finest of humil­ity and grace.

Uncle Hesham Rah­man was one of the lives lost that fate­ful night. (Inna lil­lahi wa inna ilay­hi rajioon) A piece by him entitled “My Will” is included in the book, and I’ll quote it here with all due respect to all those who knew him. Take from it what you will with bless­ings.

“My Will, for who will remem­ber me one day.

Remem­ber my pres­ence before my depar­ture.

To see a smile on your face when I’m gone.

A pray­er from your heart, no tears or sad­ness near my grave.

If we shared a memory that’s in your heart, always remem­ber it with a smile,

For who will remem­ber me one day, 

Remem­ber my pres­ence before my depar­ture.”

 Shareefa Energy is a spoken word artist from the loc­al area. She is a deeply tal­en­ted and thought­ful artist who exper­i­enced the trau­ma of that night. It may be con­tro­ver­sial to say but there’s a group of artists who wit­nessed the events of that night and I’m grate­ful they did. For only because they saw with their own eyes the ter­ror of neg­lect are they now able to express what so many of us may not know how to artic­u­late. They stand on the front lines as spokespeople to a wider com­munity who wish to main­tain a con­nec­tion to the event that has reshaped West Lon­don.

“Wak­ing up drenched in sweat, shak­ing in uncon­trol­lable sobs…

How long will this trau­ma linger”

She details her exper­i­ence of the even­ing and leaves a last­ing impres­sion. Wak­ing up in uncon­trol­lable tears is a deeply hon­est and some­what thera­peut­ic exper­i­ence, and as she speaks of it, it makes me shed tears of whole­hearted empathy. I know that feel­ing and to echo her sen­ti­ment; “Send­ing love and heal­ing to all in close rela­tion to Gren­fell Tower.” Bless­ings sis­ter.

There are eighty-nine pieces of writ­ing com­piled in this book. There are eighty-nine pieces of peoples’ hearts as they pour their love and belong­ing into this col­lect­ive effort. I pray for those who have left us, for those who lost their people and their place of home, for those who have come togeth­er in unity, for those who sur­round us with love and care, and espe­cially for all those who haven’t been held to account for their actions; may your souls find peace in this life or the next.

The book closes with the per­fect lines, and I want to close with the same by Bian­ca Gor­don in her poem titled “Angels in the Sky”.

“At 32 minutes past the mid­night hour, heav­ens gates opened at the Gren­fell Tower.

At 32 minutes past the mid­night hour, heav­ens gates opened at the Gren­fell Tower.”

Bless­ings x

For details on how to pur­chase your copy of Poetry 4 Gren­fell click here. 

The Poetry 4 Gren­fell pro­ject mani­fes­ted as an imme­di­ate respon­se to help artist­ic­ally deal with the emo­tion­al after­math of the ter­ri­fy­ing Gren­fell fire of June’17 in our North Kens­ing­ton com­munity. Led by a Grove raised pro­fes­sion­al Music and Dance-Theatre female artist and Arts facil­it­at­or, it com­bines Rap-poetry, Dance and Film in work­shops and per­form­ances, all with the aim of alle­vi­at­ing the pain and giv­ing a plat­form to the sup­pressed voices in our RBKC com­munity since this hor­rendous Gren­fell fire.

Kam­it­an Arts (a Lad­broke Grove based Non-Profit Artist­ic Com­munity Com­pany) has been volun­teer­ing since just after the fire offer­ing Rap-Poetry work­shops to those dir­ectly and indir­ectly affected by the fire, to help them express them­selves, address their emo­tions and pains as well as begin to heal, as writ­ing is indeed thera­peut­ic. These ini­tial vol­un­tary com­munity poetry work­shops is what inspired the Poetry 4 Gren­fell bi-lin­gual book call-out a year ago, which then inspired Kam­it­an Arts to doc­u­ment some of the loc­al oral testi­mon­ies from our diverse com­munity, with a young per­son film­ing it; this res­ul­ted in a Golden Heart Trel­lick Award-win­ning guer­ril­la short “Poetry 4 Gren­fell” (Best Art Film at Por­to­bel­lo Film Fest­ival 2017), Dir­ec­ted by Emmanuelle Mar­cel ‘Ja’bbour, which was screened at their One Year Show on 14th July 2018. Below are some images from the event. Pho­to cred­it : Kam­it­an Arts

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Poetry 4 Gren­fell Team

 

Hesham Rahmaan's Nephew - Receiving the 1st Poetry4Grenfell BOOK offering by Lion'el-Marcel

Hesham Rahmaan’s Neph­ew — Receiv­ing the 1st Poetry4­Gren­fell BOOK offer­ing by Lion’el-Marcel

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afi­fah is a Writer and Research­er based in Lon­don. She has spent over a dec­ade in the enter­tain­ment industry. She has dealt with enough bull­shit to feel like she can give an opin­ion. She Thanks you for read­ing.

About Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afifah
Aisha Afifah is a Writer and Researcher based in London. She has spent over a decade in the entertainment industry. She has dealt with enough bullshit to feel like she can give an opinion. She Thanks you for reading.