Who are we now? ZODWA's story
"I was born in Zimbabwe, and raised between there and England. So, when talk started of Brexit, I was looking for plummeting stock markets, hyperinflation, the NHS closing it’s doors, outbreaks of civil unrest, a mass exodus of citizens seeking refuge into America and the end of democracy as we know it."
Choice by Zodwa Nyoni
Zodwa is a longtime collaborator with Tangled Roots. She is a poet and playwright based in Leeds, currently under commission at The Tricycle Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East.
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Choice, the act of choosing between two or more possibilities.
We do this several times a day. What drink to have, to call or to text someone back, to stay in or to go out. The possibilities vary, as do the outcomes. But we make the choice and continue with our day.
Then, there are the much bigger choices. To leave a partner, to go to university or to move a new country. These choices still affect us a month, a year or decades later. They linger, and we don’t easily move on from them.
Brexit was about choice. Whether it was a well-informed choice or not, a decision was made. Now it’s about the consequences of that decision.
But what really struck me about this whole process was never being sure of why the choice was being presented. There were different motivations spoken of, from globalisation to immigration, lows wages and de-industrialisation.
Maybe it’s because my circle of friends and family are global citizens. I was born in Zimbabwe, and raised between there and England. So, when talk started of Brexit, I was looking for plummeting stock markets, hyperinflation, the NHS closing its doors, outbreaks of civil unrest, a mass exodus of citizens seeking refuge into America and the end of democracy as we know it. All because of this big bad EU dictator that was allegedly destroying the lives of British citizens.
When I think about the last 11 years of going through the immigration process in this country and knowing what lies on the other side of a rejection letter. I think about how blessed I am to be here. Despite the struggles, anger, frustration, hopelessness and limitations on my ability to be educated, to travel and to work. I know that my counterparts in Zimbabwe don’t even have the luxury of choice on varying scales. I wake up with a few every day.
I am still going through it with the Home Office. I have been delayed in my personal goals, but I have forged a path to education and a career in the arts. My ambitions crowd the space that I can inhabit. But until the day that I can freely move outside of the borders that I am in, I must find happiness for the sake of my mental health.
I am also aware that my experiences do not measure up to the plight of refugees and asylum seekers who’ve fled war and prosecution, but somehow make it to Europe.
So, I try my best, and as often as I can, to remember that I can write this piece knowing that I am not going to be imprisoned for it. Last year, I travelled to Greece, Germany, France and the USA. The visa applications were gruelling and expensive but I got through it. If I am sick, I don’t have to decide between paying to see a doctor or feeding my family. I can tell my nieces that they dream big and ignore gender stereotypes. I can report a crime. I can see sanitary towels on supermarket shelves. I can listen to music and dance.
Things are far from ideal. But pausing to giving myself a little perspective on why I make choices and the choices in themselves; allows me to reflect on what I do have, so that I don’t jeopardise losing it all.
Who Are We Now? is a project including a series of FREE life writing workshops, performance and publishing inspired by the last couple of years of political and social turmoil. The project helps writers (new or skilled) to produce work based on their real life experiences.
If you would like to take part email