I’m letting the Cantonese side of me speak out more, after 20 years of English…
I, as a British person, only spoke this language to my immigrant Hong Konger parents mostly at home, and on rare occasions I spoke it unconfidently, while reunited with my extended family in Hong Kong, still a British colony then.
The words seem to bring alive a part of me that is still young; they ask if they can fill out to my whole body. My nervous system can calm down, feeling reassured as it hears the distinct lull and melody of my family tongue. I also can feel irritated, like I did often as a child – told off that I’m being naughty again.
I’m uncovering words, drinking in how each word rises and falls in pitch, its tonal curves, the way it stops my breath, opens my mouth, or how it makes my tongue dance in a different way to the usual English words on my lips.
I’m revelling in the way its tails flick up and down, making me rock and sway so I can balance myself.
I’m giving birth to the words and surrendering them to the outer space, in a shape that continues beyond me.
I feel the fluctuations in my mood as feelings surface and dissolve beneath weaving textures and rhythms. I love singing these utterances into my loop pedal, dressing and undressing the layers, gathering and dispersing its meanings.
In the process, memories come up of my childhood. I relearn how to sit, as an adult, between these two languages once again.
I could say that music and dance are my more natural ‘spoken’ languages… English and Cantonese seemed to shape me and hold me in restrictive ways, but in recent years I feel a calling to return to words as a way to articulate my lived experience and to communicate my truth.
Some of my more traumatic lived experience, and those that I carry from my past generations, are yet unable to be expressed in full verbally. They still live in my body, waiting to be expressed and listened to.
The process is slow; each movement or sound asks to be let out; asks to be seen and heard by a community; asks somehow to be processed and understood together.
Homage to a Cantonese collective consciousness; and to those from immigrant families of the colonised – these small offerings; nothing grand, only me diving into my pockets of stuck-ness, voicing them and letting them go, hoping to free them back into the ears of a growing community.
Click on these little links below for a few experiments I’ve recorded so far!
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Photo: Busking in Hong Kong, 2017