Sukina Pilgrim

The Potential in The Great Pause

Sukina Pilgrim is a Poet, Spoken-Word artist, Playwright, Workshop Facilitator and Event Organiser and co-founder of Muslim female Hip Hop duo, Poetic Pilgrimage. She has facilitated creative writing workshops across the world and has played an intrinsic role within the British Muslim creative communities as a performer and events organiser and has created platforms for many national and international Muslim artists to express themselves and launch their careers. Sukina made her theatre debut in 2016 in a production called Malcolm X at the Royal Flemish Theatre in Brussels which was critically acclaimed and She wrote her first play called Afropean // Human Being that premiered at the same theatre in February 2020. Sukina holds a BA (Hons) Degree in English Literature and Caribbean Studies and is currently pursuing an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes where she is focusing on the relationship between healing and Sufi poetry.

The air is full of promise. Spring is making her presence known like a ballet of swans gliding down a nar-row river. She is singing a flirtatious song, inviting us to come out, to play, to enjoy her company. Flower buds are unfolding and cherry blossoms are beautifying the trees like a body of pink butterflies. My moth-er’s tulips are opening up towards the sun; from seeds deposited in dark earth a few months earlier, to these little bursts of intense colour against the concrete.

The air is fresh and the promise of a brighter tomorrow is sparking an inward joy. We are all excited, in some way. For some, apprehension is mixed in with the excitement like elderflower cordial in sparkling water, but hope is certainly present. We don’t really know what to expect, or how the new normal will man-ifest itself. Some of us are still holding our breath, unsure if a third lockdown is on the horizon. But in this moment I smell the fragrance of hopefulness that spring has perfumed herself with.

Emerging from a cold winter and the darkness of the second lockdown, I wonder if the beauty of the season is so prominent because Spring brings freedom in her handbag; the chance to be amongst other humans again, to look into eyes of the ones we love with no need for a laptop or phone screen. To be able to breathe again. To truly inhale. Spring isn’t simply a season; she is a ticket to anywhere other than here. A return to some form of familiarity in the ways in which we engage with one other.

But before we start day dreaming about our re-emergence into the wide wide world, desperate to be rid of the restrictions of house arrest, I wonder if we might ponder for a moment on what deeper meaning we can take from The Great Pause that we found ourselves placed in. For some the heavy clouds are starting to glide through the sky like those swans we mentioned earlier. Some of our souls are still bruised and achy from the loss of loved ones, some of our lungs are still sore from the virus, some of us have lost livelihoods and parts of ourselves in the deep loneliness of social distance. But after the mist has cleared and our pain has drifted over the horizon; maybe we might consider the idea that we are in a perfect position to ask our-selves; what this global pause meant for us, on a deeper level.

What lessons were hidden in the heaviness, what threads of light were woven amongst the darkness, What did you learn about yourself that lay dormant due to the pace of everyday life? What beauty did you uncov-er beneath the surface? What ugliness confronted you in the mirror of your soul. What hidden talent emerged from the stillness? What old joy was kindled anew? Was there a moment when you realised the way you were living your life was no longer sustainable, that there are aspects of your life that no longer serve you?

Maybe you found that you can make exquisite banana bread, maybe you realised that you are no longer in love with your spouse. Maybe you learnt to grow watercress on your windowsill, maybe you realised that you despise your job. What stories drifted from your heart into your mind as you lay between sleep and wakefulness? Did you daydream? Tell me friend, what did you learn about you? And will you take steps towards crafting a life that serves your passion and purpose. If I have learnt anything during this period it is the fragility of life. Our next breath is not guaranteed. As cliched as it may sound, the present moment is all we have.

As an performance artist and workshop facilitator I was constantly on the move; travelling to the brink of a burnout. Even when I tried to slow down, I found it hard, my foot was on the brake pedal and my car was skidding down the highway unable to stop. Every pore of my being was yearning to be grounded, to be rooted like an Oak tree; strong and steady. And then I was forced to be still. We all were. An invisible virus meant I couldn’t move even if I wanted to. I had been gifted the stillness I needed in the most peculiar way. Grounded with family I had the chance to become rooted in my own garden and gaze at my life as an artist. I was able to explore how I wanted to live creatively moving forward. I was able to ask myself what worth do I give myself and what I am no longer willing to do as an artist. What value do I put on the words I re-lease into the ether like a doves. How do I honour me? I started to create community online, hold sacred space for women in my community, share the gift of writing with people from Bosnia to Hong Kong, India to Canada. I realised the world is not so large at all. I learnt that hearts can connect through screens and love can be the container through, dare I say it – technology. I shared stages with creative souls from around the globe and organised spiritual poetry concerts in a way that would not have been impossible in person. From my bedroom I have been able to connect with the world, share my art but most importantly my heart. I learnt that the darkness has many lessons to share and through collective trauma we can learn to heal.

Before the warm breeze and and dreams of dining Al Fresco steal you from the stillness, I wonder; what did lessons did The Great Pause deliver to your doorstep?

Excerpt from a poem I wrote at the beginning of Lockdown called If Not Now Then When

People with hearts alive
Let us gather
In these darkening times
Let us huddle close
Around fireplaces
Gaze upon each other’s faces
Look into our own eyes
And rest a while.
Reality as we know it
Is shape shifting
Our conveniences drifting
Small luxuries sinking
Soon to be
Lost treasure
At the bottom of the sea
But all I can see
Are the possibilities
For our species.
The reality is
That we are
Being called to dream
And reimagine what it means
To be human beings
Because we have forgotten
For some time now.

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Wilde Westen Kortrijk
Wilde Westen © Michelle Geerardyn