12/ 05 / 2020. | 1.37 am | A Collage of Thoughts and Experiences
Today has been a day of mixed emotions and physical sensations. I woke up tired but determined to get things done. Like, wrap the artwork to send to Sakhile & Me this Wednesday. Yes, a show I thought would be cancelled in Germany got postponed and is opening in June! Anyway, I was getting on with things slowly and then IT (endometriosis/adenomyosis) got me. The pain. I was talking to Lisa and I had to hang up. It had me wailing and writhing on the floor. I could not get comfortable on the couch or the floor or the bench or the chair or the bed. I kept moving my pelvis to ease it. I did some exercises to stretch the muscles down there. It worked a little. And then IT would return. Stabbing me viciously. My entire pelvic region, my legs, my lower back. I was on the verge of reaching for the dreaded tramadol. I hate that stuff. And then it eased off a little, like it sensed the tramadol was coming. I could not focus on reading today, so I settled for mindless Netflix binging.
The evil tiny knives seem to have retreated now. Paracetamol x ibuprofen x magnesium tablets x magnesium spray on my belly… My mind is clear and sharp now. At least it feels like it is. And I can write, I think…
I have been waiting weeks for art materials to start work on my new project. Oh, the frustration of not being able to get things immediately!
Apparently, the Prime Minister announced plans to start easing off the lockdown on Sunday. I didn’t watch. At the beginning of this crisis, I watched everything. Now I avoid anything remotely related to the virus. I get news second hand. Only the need to know stuff. Like the fact that we can sort of go back to work. But only if we have to. And we should still try to stay at home. But only if we can. And we can now stay outside for longer than an hour. Not that anyone was really observing that rule. Especially not when it was hot. This is England afterall. Such confusing and strange times. Is this an episode of Black Mirror or is this real life. Sometimes I think that I am living in an actual simulation. Wait, where is the off switch…
This experience has been like a roller coaster ride in my own house. An emotional one. I feel like I am on it with my friends and family and the whole world. Only they are just simulations. I can’t touch them. I can only see them on screens. If they are really there. I jest, don’t call the doctor just yet… Seriously, it’s intense. I have been sick. People have died.
At the start of the year, everything looked fantastic. Like I was living my dream life. Jetting to New York for a performance at Fridman Gallery in mid-January. The Coloniser performance. What an experience… When I landed back I seemed to have developed an annoying tickly cough that refused to leave (highly suspicious, looking back). In mid-February, I flew to Morocco with my sister-friends Lisa and Enam to perform and exhibit with Black Shade Projects. This was a magical experience and my cough disappeared.
When I arrived back in London at the end of February, I immediately had an endometriosis crisis. The worst one since 2012. Absolute agony on and off for three weeks. It was exhausting and lonely. Lockdown kicked in two weeks into it. That was strange. Then, just as the endo crisis was easing off, I developed what appeared to be COVID 19 symptoms. The cough came back with a vengeance. This time it brought friends. A nasty, stubborn headache, chest pains, difficulty breathing, severe fatigue- so bad I named it narcoleptic baby syndrome- a bad fever for two nights and finally chest pain so terrible that I was afraid to go to sleep in case I never woke up for two consecutive nights. So I didn’t sleep. I sat up all night crocheting. I made a tea cosy and started on a scarf. The crochet calmed me down and stopped my heart and mind racing.
My solo exhibition was postponed and had to be opened virtually last week with Boogie Wall Gallery.
In the midst of all of this, my mother had a hypertensive crisis and pulmonary embolism. Thankfully she is fine now. She went to the hospital just before lockdown started and was out before things got too busy with COVID patients. The frustrating thing is not being able to see her in real life. She has been staying with my sister thankfully, so at least they are not alone. In and amongst all of this, the father of a close friend died from alleged COVID 19. It is awful for him and his family. The terrible shock.
I am okay. I am always okay. I am able to rationalise and keep busy. I feel safe now. I did not when I had THE symptoms.
Things have been frightening, sad and stressful. But somehow I have managed to find joy and laughter with my friends and family. I have never spent so much time on the phone to so many people I love. There have been endless video calls. There is a new community evolving, people from all over the world. Connections that were always there, but which are now somehow stronger and more real because of this shared, unreal experience.
I have been waiting weeks for art materials to start work on my new project. Oh, the frustration of not being able to get things immediately! Ha! I am learning patience again. And how not to be an entitled cow! The project is phase two of Confronting Colonisation. I am actually itching to begin. Lucky for me my studio is downstairs. I don’t have everything I need to begin properly, but I have just enough to play around a bit. Or to sit and look at the strange colourful things I have on the wall right now. The things I made when working on a brand collaboration which are not really me. Far too colourful. But they were fun at the time and they are interesting to look at especially now when things have sometimes seemed dark. When everything is so different. In the meantime, I continue to read and research and construct ideas in my mind for what the work will be. I sit in my flat surrounded by my books and read and take notes. I have rearranged 550 or so books and catalogued them in an app on my phone. I have participated in endless video and Instagram interviews. I have just filmed an interview for CNN. I did a video workshop about how to paint on ceramic plates. Wow, I have been busy.
No one knows when this will end or how exactly the world will change.
My solo exhibition was postponed and had to be opened virtually last week with Boogie Wall Gallery. A beautiful new space in Mayfair owned by a lovely lady called Josefina. It is actually incredible what she was able to achieve despite the fact that the work is not physically there. We had a successful launch and a lovely panel discussion on opening night last Thursday. I called Lisa as soon as we were finished. She was the moderator for the talk and is a great friend. She asked if I was sitting down and then gave me the terrible news that a giant in our community, rapperTy passed away. Ben Chijioke. A beautiful person, a huge talent. Taken by this thing- so they suspect- at just 47. He had so much more to bring to the world. I felt sick and sad and horrified and mystified all at the same time. We thought he was getting better.
I am okay. I am always okay. I am able to rationalise and keep busy. I fall on my books, my friends, my family and my work. My little world. I feel safe now. I did not when I had THE symptoms. I was terrified then. Maybe it is irrational and is some kind of protective mechanism my brain has erected in order to stop me from losing my mind here by myself. I am lucky, I rarely get lonely and I enjoy my own company. Maybe a little too much. I know I was complaining about the pain at the beginning of this. But I have had this pain in my life since I was 17 or so. It is an old friend and it somehow reminds me that I still exist. My closest friends and family are also still here and still healthy. Still in employment or making work and above all, in a safe, comfortable home with food to eat and the ability to connect online for comfort and friendship and love.
The most active is a weekly session with my friends Enam, Myriem and Lisa. We are reading Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s classic “Decolonising the Mind.” What a powerful text!
I have found meditation and yoga to be so helpful. They both reduce stress. And boy do we need serious stress reduction right now. Stress lowers your immunity, ergo keeping it to a minimum is key to coming out of this relatively unharmed. I have participated in group meditation sessions with my friends Othello and Arlene. Two great artists. I have done video yoga on a couple of occasions with Othello. I found this to be a beautiful, healing and bonding experience. I have set up a couple of reading groups too! I love them. The most active is a weekly session with my friends Enam, Myriem and Lisa. We are reading Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s classic “Decolonising the Mind.” What a powerful text! We read to each other and discuss and get riled up. It is beautiful. These are things I never would have thought to do before this situation. I am grateful for them and even more grateful for my loved ones. I’ve never been more grateful for them in my life.
No one knows when this will end or how exactly the world will change. We are still inside the thing. All we can do is take one day at a time and find support in our communities by strengthening old ties and building new ones. Help each other where we can help. Instead of texting to check on a friend, call. If you can get some shopping for a vulnerable neighbour, do so and place it outside their door. Like my neighbour, Dunya did for me when I was in the thick of it. I’ll never forget that. It meant the world. We all must take care of ourselves, each other and this planet. Because in the end, virus or no virus, this is all we have.
Adelaide Damoah | British-Ghanaian artist working at the intersection of painting and performance within the context of colonialism, identity, feminism and spirituality.
Diary visuals courtesy Adelaide Damoah. Do not use without permission from the artist.