I am going through a decolonisation of sorts. It started when I realised I had been colonised. Something like the Portuguese leaving Mozambique when they rolled out of the country, they poured concrete down the stairwells so people couldn’t use them anymore, blew up the roads and bridges behind them, left a path of destruction as they evacuated before the peace keepers came in to hold the space as the country re-organised itself, healed from trauma, held elections and tried to get back on track. Immediately after the destruction the country had the lowest GDP on the planet and land mines were everywhere. When I visited in 1994 when the results of the first elections were pending, it seemed every person in every village had lost a limb.
I have been a bit like Mozambique. A path of destruction was left by the one I loved, and there are still land mines going off when I least expect it, and while no limbs have been lost, there have been multiple wounds to the heart and head. But I have held my own election, and while the votes are being counted, I am making provisions for a declaration of independence. It has already started by reverting to my family name more than a year ago now, selling the site we lived in and divesting myself of personal possessions. De-colonisation requires cleaning up and noticing what has been taken, reclaiming and renaming. I had got to my own lowest GDP in the days and now am rebuilding my stocks. Colour and movement are on the horizon.
This experience of decolonisation at a personal level is giving me new understanding of what is required at a macro level. Everything from re-naming streets and buildings and places to reverting to language and building narratives of both resistance and resilience. Listening to griefologist Rosemary Kudnarto Wanganeen this week I learnt about her views on having to go into the pain of a patriarchal and coloniser mindset and understand the experience of victimhood first as a necessary prerequisite to healing. As she acknowledged, this is a tough but necessary step in the journey to liberation. It requires a dismantling, an unlearning, and moving to practices that support learning, understanding, personal psychological work and acts of solidarity. She takes an historical overview from the time of the Roman Empire and it resonates in both the private and public spheres. This is an orientation to trauma and liberation to enable the past, present and future to co-exist. The inner journey is the only way out.
As a nation we have plenty of work to do to go deep, as we try and right the wrongs of the past and that too is going to have to be a journey inward. To own our past and face our history is going to be painful and we will need to be held by the wise and the broken, the healers and the healed, by the ones who can sit in the fire and stand in solidarity. I am trying to tune into the voices of these leaders – as I firmly believe my inner journey to healing is in the mix too. Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson articulated what Aboriginal activists groups in the 70s were saying:
If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
My hunch is this statement works just as well for us as individuals as we look in the mirror and experience a shift in our inner work once internal co-existence settles into the synapses. We can’t erase what has been done, but perhaps we can reclaim it as a lever for liberation. Then maybe some new sparks will fly.