Outside the weather is both sunny and crisp.
The streets house old buildings with the clinical neatness of new apartments.
A collection of early comers gather outside before the show starts. One of them jokes with me about how her German side fights with her African side about time. Who wins? I ask her
She laughs at herself, German. Every time
I am unworried. I get my anxieties out in bursts of panic and prayer in the days before. I allow the last freak out early in the morning of, but I am calm afterwards. There is something futile about panic once the first guest appears.
And anyway, fear has already done the work for me.
How? By giving me freedom.
In answering the question 'Why Berlin?' this is why. I wanted to somehow recreate how I felt during my first MOOD in January, that feeling of 'what the hell am I doing/ who do I think I am/ and “Well I suppose we must all just die on the line”. That Fear. Creating a show from scratch is a foreign country of its own. There is no way to know whether it will work. There is, as the cliche goes, only one way to find out. Few things have made me feel as free.
I remembered those tiny, vivid moments before my first show started, as I stood behind the audience waiting, my incredible host Zainab building anticipation, their backs to me as low chatter first quietened then built into claps
"well, here we go" I whispered to myself.
I said the same thing after I bought my plane ticket to Berlin.
At a certain point, you must just go.
You must treat your dream like a Taiwo, the twin sent into the world first to see if the world is worth it. All the planning and preparations can only catch up to the already erranded vision.
In this my first, new, new city I also wondered (and worried) about translation.
I knew that my audience would primarily be English speakers but would my observations carry? Would they find themselves in my words? Would we spend two hours in the extreme awkwardness of the polite clap and occasional cough?
I went armed with a poem I wrote that covers this very thing. It is called ‘Double Diaspora’ and it's part of my DJ/Poetry collection, where I DJ whilst reciting my poetry.
Can I tell you the truth?
I am double diaspora
I was in exile before I came
and the disconnect followed me here
This is not new
But Berlin proved to be a testament of our connectedness as human beings. Of the existence of the universal Tribe.
I got an inkling of it when I met up with the indomitable Jumoke Adeyanju. Jumoke in her dreads and me in a straight weave. Me wearing a long black dress with sensible slippers channelling my best 'tumbler artist on holiday', Jumoke in a celebration of Kente, purple trousers and blue earrings I loved. But we wore the same tortoise-shell glasses, spoke the same accented Yoruba (German by way of swahili for Jumoke, Butter; me) and laughed for four hours. Jumoke became my host and facilitator in Berlin and also friend.
From the first poem, I felt my Berlin audience with me. It was such a wonderful gift, their time and their attention. The way they leaned into the words.
Let me tell you, language is not great enough a barrier to deter empathy. If you have ever been covered in sadness, ever had it cloak you up to your ears, then you can understand the breakdown of a relationship no matter the country in which they parted.
I think I knew this. I think I knew this. I think that’s why I went. I just wanted to touch it with my hands.
Thank God, Thank God, Thank God.
many thanks to:
my new Berlin friends, let’s keep In touch! subscribe here
Victor O again for the beautiful pictures
Abiola B for my poster art
Osas. I.W who helped me with planning despite her demanding job
Francesca M and Nela D for planting Berlin in my mind