Mbeke and I first met a year and a half ago during a celebration hosted by 7C Life RealiZation Centre. A few months later, during the full moon, we travelled together to a resort in Sepang to take part in a session called ‘Gratitude of Life’ where we immersed ourselves in seawater. The purpose of this session was to express our gratitude to Mother Ganga and set our intentions for a successful and happy life. It is said that during the full moon’s heightened gravitational pull, the power of our intentions increases which allows them to be manifested quickly. During the journey back from Sepang, we discovered that we lived in the same area and, in the aftermath of this trip, our friendship developed. She asked me to submit a story to an anthology she’s working on (please see below for details) and I was deeply honoured. She shares her story with us in this interview.
Aneeta: Please share with me some of your history. Where were you born and where did you grow up? What do you do for a living? And where are you based now?
Mbeke: I was born in South London in Clapham North where I spent my early childhood living in a large house on Prideaux Road. My mother and father migrated to the UK in response to the call for help to rebuild the country after the Second World War was over. Many people in the UK had refused to do what they saw as ‘menial jobs’ after having held positions like pilots during the world wars.
In response to the growing industrial changes that were taking place and the need for workers, representatives from the UK went to the colonies and asked for help to ‘make Britain great again’. My parents and many others responded to the call to rebuild the ‘motherland’ and left everything and everyone they had known, moving 5000 miles from warm tropical spaces to cold, hostile ones in The UK. Many of them had intended to stay for 3-5 years to make some money and return ‘home’.
Once they began to have children, working, paying bills and forming their new communities, returning home became less straightforward. With children, and grandchildren in some cases, the UK became their new ‘home’. With the new financial demands, there was often little left to save and many people kept up an illusion of grandeur by sending back photographs taken at famous studios and monthly barrels filled with goods for the family members who they had left. I was one of the children born in the UK and so became a first-generation Caribbean (UK) child.
I grew up with feet in both worlds. Living a very Caribbean life at home eating plantain, yam, green banana, and Caribbean soup and with a strong sense of personal conduct and responsibility. I often heard ‘You can’t walk on the street dressed like that’ and every weekend, I knew that I had set chores that had to be completed. Each evening after school, I had homework to complete before I could go out to play. We had to ‘earn’ our playtime! On the other hand, I was in school with many white children who seemed to speak to their parents and some of the teachers, in a way that I would not even dream of! They ate food that seemed strange to us and everything seemed to go with chips!!! Their food was unseasoned and they had something called ‘tea’ after school!
Aneeta: What do you do for a living … and for life?
Mbeke: I am a writer, performer, and Educational consultant. In 2019, I recorded two poems to music created by Xolo spkq who is a long-standing friend.
This was such an awesome experience and going forward, I plan to do more of the same! Between 2017-2019, I had a number of chapters, reviews, essays and poems published. I continue to write and to share my experiences knowing that someone, somewhere will be touched, motivated, moved or driven to change or to reflect. I am honored to be able to do this. I am currently working on an anthology of writing by women who have lived and worked abroad which will be published in 2020.
As an education consultant, I share my experiences with those who are developing their teachers, leaders, and students. Managing this world comes with no guarantees except for that of uncertainty! To manage uncertainty, many of us need new skills. I am a professional coach and trainer and know that these two areas support the development process in a totally wholistic manner. Contact me if you’d like to discuss these services. My contact details are:
Twitter : Waseme1
I have lived in the UK, Jamaica, Cameroun, Ghana, and Malaysia. I am currently in the UK where the universe has seen fit to position me for now
Aneeta: How interesting. Would you care to share more, please? Especially stories from your travels.
Mbeke: Let’s start with this…
- Meeting a Muslim woman in Malaysia who sometimes wore her hair in braids which she had plaited by Nigerian women living in Sarawak!
- Challenging the history teacher in Ghana who had been raised to believe that ‘slavery was a good thing’ and subsequently taught this message to his students.
- In Cameroon, I asked young girls washing by a river if I could take their photographs. They said I could and lowered their tops revealing their chest. I was shocked and traumatized knowing that some tourists would have paid them or other young girls, $1 for this image! 30 years later in Bali, in an art shop, there is the image of a very young Asian girl in the rice fields with her chest revealed and her eyes averted. Women’s bodies (however young), available to everyone! My latest paper, entitled ‘The Photographer’s Responsibility’ sets out the full story and will be published in Anastamos in February 2020.
Aneeta: What is your publishing history?
Mbeke: My first poem was published when I was 11 years old. I came second place in the Black Penmanship Award with a poem called ‘What being black means to me’. My collection of poems Exploring all of me was first published in 1987 and republished in 2019. I am also the author of Make the Changes, Feel the joy and How to Work and Live abroad successfully (e-book). I have chapters in This is Us: Black, British, and Female(2019), Trusted Black Girl, Challenging Perceptions and Maximizing the Potential of Black Women in the UK workplace, edited by Roianne Nedd (2018).
My short stories and poems are in Fifth Estate Dovetails, Pure Slush, Home, The Writers Café. Flexiblepub, and my essays and academic articles have been published in Pambazuka and 72M. I am currently working on an anthology of writing by women who have lived and worked abroad.
My body of work includes a series of articles and interviews on health and business, which first appeared in the UK publications, African Business and Culture, 72M and The Alarm Magazine. I currently write for Diversity Business Magazine.
Aneeta: As you know, this website caters to storytellers. What advice, therefore, would you have for people who would like to start on this journey of storytelling?
Mbeke: Share your stories! Believe in the value of your life, your lived experiences! Believe in the transformation which your story energy can have on those who read it.
Send your stories to strangers who run journals, competitions and who ask kindly for ‘contributions’. As you birth your magic, let others look at it, critique it, love it or discard it. All are ok. Love it whilst it is with you and gently let it go.
Keep writing and enjoying the melody, the landscape, the warmth of the task. Here’s a poem to share with you and your readers.
I am magical
Watch me move
Feel the trance.
Walking magic I unfold
Skin of beauty
Spirit of gold
Words of healing
Light for your soul
Pure light is the goal
Know your magic
Light your way
Step into your glory
Aneeta: This is all I have to ask. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Mbeke:Thank you for this opportunity to share something so special to me.
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