Bahamian writer Letitia Pratt shares her second blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. Continuing her research into Caribbean folklore, particularly the tale of the ‘Hag Woman’, Letitia is beginning to find a voice for the character she’s exploring, as well as drawing connections between folklore and trauma in the region – a thought fleshed out during a visit with acclaimed Barbadian author Karen Lord. Read more below:
This week went by as quickly as it came as I further explored my project. I found myself deep in search for the Hag Woman’s voice. The words were coming, yes, but trickling slowly. This character is taking her time forming herself, and I am letting her take all the time she needs! I spent most of my days at the studio, sketching her out in my mind. She forms like a cloud, and I reach for her, but she disappears between the cracks of my fingers. Needless to say, this project is taking quite a while to materialize.
As I continued working, I contemplated the effects of trauma on my protagonist. Last week I thought about the silencing of feminine experiences under the patriarchy and I thought I’d make it a goal this week to tap into the communal trauma that this fosters. The Hag Woman, while tapping into the powers of her femininity, is responding to this trauma.
These thoughts were inspired by my sit down with Karen Lord (who was gracious enough to do so and learn me some things) who offered an interesting perspective on folklore and trauma. Trauma inspires folklore, and while some draws from spiritual roots, they are responses of a community to explain a shared traumatic experience. What this conversation prompted me to think of is what trauma could inspire a story about a lady who strips her skin at night and terrorizes the town.
I am still developing this idea and by no means is this project complete. Currently, it is not only responding to the traumatic silencing women face because of the patriarchy, but it is also growing in the direction of responding to the specific type of misogyny that black women endure because of their own blackness. This is a community of people that experiences a particular type of misogynistic violence on the basis of their skin. Consequently, I want my protagonist to embrace the power of her skin: instead of “running away” from it, she uses it as a tool to absorb her power (sunlight) so that she can transform into a glorious ball of fire during the nighttime.
This project will take a little more time than I imagined to complete itself (I came here with a plan, I promise) but fortunately, I have the brilliant company of Katherine and Annalee to discuss these ideas with. Even more fortunate is that I have the solitude of the studio, where my thoughts have all the time in the world.