Tawona Sithole

Seeds of Thought & University of Glasgow
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tawona hgAs a writer and artist, I have many roles – performance poet, playwright, mbira musician, teacher, amongst others. Working in my second language (English) – in a variety of settings, with a range of age groups, social backgrounds, and languages – I am increasingly aware of the multilingual nature of my life and work.

Whether in my own writing, or supporting others, I appreciate self-expression as a journey of inner and outer confidence – from the safety and solitude of writing, to the risk and exposure of performance. I observe the role of language in identity and aspiration, authority and classification; the magical rejuvenating power of the mother tongue, when freed from ‘other tongue’ confinement; the sensitive nature of the two-way relationship between tutor and learner, facilitator and participant, story gatherer and storyteller.

I often utilise drama/performance techniques as a tool for communication and well-being. I am keen to see how these techniques can be applied and adapted, to enhance both the enquiry and interpretation of data in researching multilingually. Working with migrants, I’m intrigued by the ‘actor role’, they and others have to take on, and different ‘stages’ they have to perform on, as they seek settlement. Being a migrant myself, I may share some of the experiences of our partners in the research project.

I see art as a language, instigating and maintaining communication between artist and audience. As I share a play, poem, song or story, I am conscious of my effort to make the work easily accessible to the audience. Therefore, to some extent, I am constantly embroiled in the challenge of ‘translating cultures’. I find it interesting that within the same language, there are many cultural ‘languages’ that I have to try and understand in order to engage with my participants.

My ancestral family name, Ganyamatope, is a reminder of my heritage, which is guided by the importance of humility. My oral tradition, therefore, inspires me to make connections with other people through creativity, and the natural outlook to learn. In addition to this, I have many other languages of learning. English, the medium I was schooled in, has become an unlikely gift from my colonial past, now allowing me a voice and access to the globalised world. Add to this, Arabic, of which my wife is a native speaker. Through the project, I have an opportunity to increase my multilingual awareness, by adding more to my languages of learning. I will have a chance to reflect on multilingualism in my work, and inform my future practice. The challenge of trying to forge a new language of research with the project team is especially exciting.

My main work in the creative arts is voluntary, as co-founder and facilitator of Seeds of Thought arts group (2005-present), supporting and facilitating access to the creative arts. This we do by organising free writing workshops, exhibitions and performance events. I’ve been artist in residence at Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) since 2009, through the partnership between Seeds of Thought and the CCA. I am poet in residence for GRAMNET (2011 – present). I am a visiting lecturer to the University of Glasgow (School of Medicine), and the Glasgow School of Art. My first play, Mwana, was produced in 2012 by Ankur Arts and Tron Theatre. I work for the Scottish Book Trust, teaching creative writing in schools, libraries, prisons and other community settings. I am a board member for Ignite Youth Theatre. As I continue to write, teach and perform, mostly I appreciate my work for the many inspiring people it allows me to meet.