Inhabiting and journeying through the house,
I live in my brown skin – always.
I live in my rusty house, the rust chosen to echo and fix
memories of the disappearing industrial landscape
of my English husband‘s hometown.
It’s been my home for over 15 years.
Like a hermit crab, I’ve found,
sometimes made myself, several homes in London,
the city I landed in, on a BOAC aeroplane in January 1971.
Enoch was dreaming of bloody rivers.
What greeted me on my journey from the airport
was a cold, cold, grey sky
blackish sludge on the edge of the road
and children skating on the duck pond in Broomfield Park.
I’d moved from Park Road in Havelock Town
named after Arthur Havelock, the British Governor of Ceylon,1890 -1895,
to stay with my generous aunt and her family
in an upper level maisonette in Palmers Green which is named after a field,
Palmer’s Field, in records that date back to 1204.
My parents, eking out their Sri Lankan exchange controlled £50 allowance
lodged in a bedsit nearby.
My two brothers dispatched north, to Manchester, for a sojourn with our maternal grandparents who lived in Fallowfield, neat Platts Fields.
The family rumour is that Nanny was disinherited, why we never found out.
But we learnt, 50 years later, that there were probably two sides to that story.
My Grandpa’s sister spoke Ancient Greek. Her (uncorroborated) history included being headmistress of Manchester Grammar School for Girls.
I did not mean to end up reading like a page out of out of ancestry.co.uk.
Indeed, with a start I realise I can’t nestle in there.
People; kind, curious, nervous, alarmed, racist maybe,
will ask me where I’m from, where I’m really from.
Maybe in one sense they are right,
I’m not really from Highbury in North London.
My art practice is an attempt to answer that question for them.
For me, it’s a question that keeps presenting multiple answers
with shimmering lights and black holes
which I explore when I’m feeling strong.
It’s about living in my skin, more or less comfortably.
It’s about living in this world, on this planet,
from before I was born, to after I am gone.
Wendy Manel de Silva, May 2020