The big box of LP records that I left behind in Tasmania contained many musical treasures, but I sold my player a few years ago and so they had all been neglected and forgotten for some time. I’d be giving too many clues about my age if I gave details (as if “LP” wasn’t enough!), though many were collected more recently from second-hand shops and some of the classics came from my parents. What a tragic loss!
Every now and then I have a flash recollection of sounds from my past that remained in that box, and I look back upon a record by Themba Tana as one of the more formative influences upon me and my musical preferences.
I bought “Themba Tana and African Heritage” when I was 14 years old after seeing him perform, and I played it loudly and often. I was particularly struck by the variety of percussion instruments which, according to the album liner notes, included “gumboot with bells”.
Themba Tana is a classically trained musician who was born and educated in South Africa before moving to Canada, where he continues to perform, compose and teach. He specialises as a drummer and is influenced by his extensive travel and collaborations with diverse musicians.
It might seem like an odd theme for an international “awareness day”, especially since it’s also a topic that many people would rather not think about. But May 28th was indeed Menstrual Hygiene Day, and while I’m a few days late to the party I think it’s worth taking some notice.
Menstruation is too often couched in euphemisms or hidden altogether (although it has featured on the Australian political stage recently as activists rally to have a tax on tampons removed). For many girls and women, the issue is much more important than “should I go horse riding” or “watch me play tennis without a care”.
If you’re motivated by this conversation and you’d like to take action, I recommend the organisation called “Days for Girls“, which is trying to make it possible for all girls and women to have access to suitable sanitary products by 2022. (I love how specific that goal is).
You can help by spreading the word or donating money to awesome organisations like Days for Girls. Or perhaps if you’re handy you could sew some feminine hygiene kits for women who don’t have access to tampons, let alone ones that will absorb an entire glass of blue ink.
I’m sure I’m not the only one guilty of perpetuating my own unhappiness by reliving horrible experiences in my mind and dwelling upon situations that have upset me. Recently I gained some new “tools” to help me stop these bad habits and take positive steps forward.
My family and I have had a rough time in the 6 months since I last wrote here on Many Cha Cha. We left Tasmania (and have moved a number of times since) due to the malicious acts of one or two vile individuals who operate without conscience. There’s always more than one side to a story, of course, but there is no version of this one that justifies the upheaval and suffering that my children have gone through as a result of those people’s actions.
The experience left me with burning bitterness and seething resentment, which of course does nothing to alleviate a difficult situation. I realised that in order to move on, I needed to let go. But I was so caught in a cycle of stewing and overthinking that I didn’t know how.
I decided to investigate ways of “letting go” used by different cultures around the world, and I found that there are numerous traditional, symbolic ways to release negativity.
Across the globe, there are common themes when it comes to rituals of release. Some traditions involve breaking, smashing or burning significant objects, such as the Italian New Year custom of literally tossing out and burning the old in order to make room for new. Historically, Italians and Greeks would break glasses and plates around the entrance to their homes in order to discourage negative energy from entering.
Many “letting go” rituals require an object to actually be sent out into the environment, either on wind or water. In China, sky lanterns made from rice paper have been used for thousands of years as a way to cast away fears, while kite strings are cut so they may carry sorrow away into the sky. Both of these methods are also used to send hopes and dreams up to the heavens.
A charming and probably very healing Native American tradition apparently involves digging a hole in the ground near a tree (or perhaps using a knot-hole in the tree itself) in which to whisper all your stories of anger and grief, then filling in the hole and thanking the tree for listening.
My children and I used these traditional ideas as starting points for activities. We made simple kites from twigs, paper and yarn and then ran with the wind, attempting to fly the kites by a flat lake. We blew up balloons and let them go, giggling ourselves silly as they blurted around and deflated. Together we foraged for broad leaves and gum nuts to make little boats. We sent them floating out onto a glassy billabong beneath soaring eucalypts.
Perhaps it was the symbology or the “ritual” aspect of the activities that helped me let go of much of my venomous anger. Maybe it was the running or the children laughing or the calm reflections in the water or the rustle of overhead gum leaves. It doesn’t matter.
I have never claimed to be a “foodie”. I have usually viewed meals to be a inconvenient interruption, the same as when the car runs out of petrol and it’s time to refuel. In fact I could happily live entirely on avocado on toast and/or vegetable and noodle soup (Vietnamese style, preferably, served with lots of broccoli).
Of course I like tasty food, and obviously I really enjoy it as a way to learn about other places and cultures. But even while writing this I am struck by how lucky I am to even make the distinction between food as fuel and food for pleasure. Many people around the world are lucky to get a meal of charcoal-roasted yams, served with lots of dirt.
So this book caught my eye: it’s called Shareand it is subtitled “The cookbook that celebrates our common humanity” (edited by Alison Oakervee, most photographs by Philip Webb). It features pictures, information and recipes from the war-torn parts of the world where the NGO, Women for Women International, operates. The book’s profits go to this very worthy organisation, which assists women who have survived armed conflicts in places like Rwanda, Kosovo and Iraq, by empowering them to manage and improve their lives.
The book also features recipes provided by many other well-known names. At first I gave a hearty side-eye to all the celebrity contributions, which include Paul McCartney and Richard Branson. Trudie Styler says in her introduction: “Sting and I spend as much time as we can at our home in Tuscany” and I struggle to find what I have in common with that. But I understand the need to have a “hook”.
A more thorough immersion in the pages made me realise that it’s the perfect cookbook for me. It features beautifully photographed food from far-flung places that makes me want cook in order to broaden my mind. And most conveniently, the majority of the recipes are designed to be everyday, nutritional family meals. Many of them look simple, tasty and not too complicated to prepare.**