Sasha Francis on Victoria Abbott: Sea-change

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances.   Sasha Francis is the writing curator for PAWA 2018.  Sasha recently completed her Master’s thesis in Sociology.  Her work weaves together relationality, radical everyday practice, political activism and speculative materialism. In this piece, she responds to Victoria Abbott’s performance on Friday 16th November. 


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Sea change

Your head rests, a single earbud calls out, 

a note to draw us in, a stone to keep us grounded,

she releases her bags tentatively, draped over arms of anticipation, a sliding waiting for a sign of invitation, intrigue, trying to find her own permission for the approach. In the middle of the floor of this public space, your note reaches out from underneath, invites us in:

then, two chests begin to move together.

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This is a lament for the drowning of women’s voices.  Eyes open, eyes close.

Do you remember the sounds beneath us?  The calm gurgle of a shared moment of things forgotten that were built over, on top off, forgot, denied. The things we drank from and the labour that sustained us: our bodies are made from thick rivers that run for generations, spaces carved by the rush of movement. But you and I are accustomed to remaining unmarked, unfamiliar, untethered like the rain drop: 

and just like that, we forget our shared movement from the sky towards the sea. 

This disruption of place, time and patriarchy glides over me. What water is this, that we now know of together? Whose histories wash over us, untranslatable, as non-human song?  “She’s not blocking the way, people can get around her” as bureaucracy forcefully relocates the waterways.

Cold stone tile on my back; fresh reflective breeze whips at your waist, a fluid curl of the lips.

Can you recall the songs the ocean shared? The movement up-stream of soft breath lost in time, that was stolen, given a new name, settled upon and slowly poisoned. He wants to talk but the ocean has no mouth, just riverbeds and the beauty of sea-changes; her voice is the echo of a rising chest and a nascent invitation that has been so often spoken over, so today a hand beckons beyond.  

In this moment, the ocean on the East Cape stretches before me.  I am walking along the edge of this water-locked land, everything is beautiful, still, powerful.  Pine hills cascade upwards. Time is different. This is a deep memory, a dream, a spiritual touch that compelled song from my throat as it tangled against and with the sounds of the breaking waves in their approach and pull back, approach and pull back. A rhythm of the moon, an invitation, a warning, a strength, a resistance. In this moment, I lose and find my own feminine voice – an inexplicable hum escapes anxious lips. The sounds of the ocean wraps around me like the warm comfort of skin,     home,           the land I am from. 

Then we are reminded of the water melting as ice splits, warms, runs hot like the last remaining natural resistance caving in on itself as a double site of giving in: ice melts as a grief that grows without any capacity to help itself, offers up an accidental pathways for boats to cross leaving in their wake the destruction of landscape life practice. An alienated experience by those who inhabit and inherit the land, left with only an industrial call to rely on the capitalist modes of production and food shipped in over thousands of miles of watered bodies now becoming roads and rising costs that reflect the decreasing volume of knowledge passed from generation to generation.  This is the forceful creation of sedimentary bodies separated from the life that is water itself. The accessibility of extraction increases as the volume of ice in the way melts from heating felt three times faster than anywhere else.  Some things are so big that you can actually see them: the Arctic is an exception, is not an exception. Ice too is now dominated just as agrarian domination of the land split water from its bodies, just as patriarchal domination of bodies split subject from voice.  This is the operationalisation of the tears rolling down my cheek. 

Would you sense the river if you saw her, laying full bodied, in front of you? Maybe we are learning.  You told me that the water sounded like everything around us that wasn’t, though all you wanted was to hear her. The bustle of this life overtook the gentle calm, captured in its net the time it takes to lay and listen, then rendered it a productive catch. But we were born with the earth, the vestigial gills of an embryo in the mother’s womb:

a memory and fertility carried in the water

all looking for some sort of recovery,

your chest lifts, and            your breath breaks the surface.

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