Trinidad-born, Brooklyn based multi-disciplinary performance artist and writer, and current artist in the Fresh Milk International Residency Programme, Thais Francis reflects on the first week in Barbados. She writes about her hesitation to confront her “quarter life identity issues” with a group of eager students from Workmans Primary School. After an eventful time with the children, she focuses on the challenges and rewards of writing her first feature screenplay. Read more below:
“You look like my auntie!”
“I look like your aunt?”
“I like how you does say Auntie…say it again?”
“Where you from?”
Their names are Nyesha and Ramaya- one is bedecked in her brownie outfit, the other wears her school uniform topped with three plaits and ribbons. Nyesha thinks I look like her aunt, and Ramaya has picked up on my accent. She asks me the question that I dread answering. What do I tell her? Do I go into a spiel about emigrating from Trinidad…or do I just say Maryland? My brain goes into overdrive and my “quarter life identity issues” resurface. More classmates join them, and all stare at me expectantly. Innocently invasive brown eyes filled with questions and excitement. They are reminders of the beauty of being 9 years old.
“I live in America”.
They are satisfied with my response. We then all walk over to the open field.
When I first saw the students at Workman’s Primary school, I was elated. The ribbons, uniforms, brown skin-all images of a past life tucked away in the folds of mind. However, it wasn’t hard to remember and transform with them. With Ms. Bradshaw’s class of 17 students I found myself using theater, music and dance to add more color to the kaleidoscope of their lives. We used our bodies to mime and form shapes that were parts of speech; we became a human orchestra, and created a dance to work on focus and memory. They referred to me as “ma’am”. After the class, I thought about that. “What is a ma’am and how did I become one?”
In other news, here in Barbados, I have learned how to light a stove, with a match. Like, I can strike a match and light a stove. I’ll be sure to show my granny this new skill when I visit- she’ll be impressed.
However, the main reason I am here is to work on my first feature screenplay. It’s actually weird, and frustrating, but sometimes cool, sometimes I like what I’m saying…most times I don’t. Mostly I’m excited to complete it, and then have people read it and rip it to shreds in a few weeks. I’m still figuring out what I’m saying- but I’m really into it the overarching idea, and the realness of the characters. I’m at page 78, luckily I worked on this A LOT in Trinidad and Abu Dhabi a few months ago-so I’m really happy I’m not starting from scratch. It makes this process less overwhelming.