Some of you may have been wondering why I haven’t written for some time. The reasons are vast and deep but at the heart of it lies a single truth – last year sorrow pecked its way into my heart and built a nest. I lost someone I would describe as my beloved and although she was elderly and ready to depart, I wasn’t ready or prepared to say goodbye. Over the course of the last few months grief has arrived in waves, most often when my back has been turned to the sea.
After nana died I sat in a room surrounded by greeting cards and cried. Condolence cards and black bags filled with a lifetime of nana’s clothes sat there and kept me company as I tried to find the words to put pen to paper and write. But the words had abandoned me; as had the desire to write. So strangely, I turned to each of the cards before me and started to tear them up – crying as I did so – and without even realising it at the time I found a new way to write poetry. I used the cards to make hand-made paper. Then I used the hand-made paper to collage. Then I used the process of collage to sculpt and craft poetic ideas on the page in a way that I didnt know was possible.
And so this is what I’ve been doing on the weekends, late at night and early in the morning whenever I get a chance to create. And as I’ve been going through this process I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on and being with grief itself. I’ve started to think a lot about how deeply private grief is for each individual on this planet, while also recognising the way in which grief connects humanity in a universal way that is undeniably powerful. And so I decided to reach out….
..into the unknown, to ask whether there are 100 people out there who might be willing to send me a sealed empty envelope with my address and a stamp on one side, and on the other side at least five words reflecting on their own grief for someone or something. When I have 100 envelopes I am going to use the stamps, words and envelopes to create 100 creative responses over 100 days (as part of NZ’s annual #100DayProject)
The sealed empty envelope is significant, because it represents the private nature of grief, its potentiality to be a space that both protects (memories, love, emotion, pain) and distorts our sense of what life and relational transactions are about.
Choosing a minimum of five words was significant because it was on the fifth of July that I realised my nana had only a few more days to live. The choice of words placed on each individual envelope and their gifting to me by each of you (the senders) is deeply valuable – yet to those transacting the postal service the words are unlikely to look particularly special or important: this is significant as it speaks to the heart of the experience of grieving while navigating spaces that are, for others, very ordinary.
The stamp is significant because it represents a binding together of oneself with ideas and concepts that will travel a great distance. Thinking of scholar Epeli Hau’ofa’s work – the stamp in this instance facilitates the connection in time and space between you (the sender) and me the receiver – via what is known as the va.
And that’s it, for now at least…..if you would like to be part of the project please send me a message via Leilani.Tamu@gmail.com – there’s no limit on the number of envelopes I’m willing to receive so please spread the word. If I end up with more than 100 it would be amazing as it just means there will be more to create and more to treasure after the 100 days is up.