Location is a property of a thing; change the location and you change the thing.
I once said to someone,
Traveling...touching and being touched by different lands, opens me up. Other aspects of me come forward in each location. Perhaps specific versions can only truly exist in certain places, given the changing component and unique environments. Perhaps those places are just permission slips I utilize in order to [re]connect with or fortify those versions, and thus inhabit more of myself. Either way, the result is the same: I find myself to be closer to home…to the totality of me.
At the beginning of this year, 2018, the doors to more travel were blasted open in a major way when my conventional 9 to 5 job left me. The ending of this relationship—one that I had basically made the center of my world for the majority of my adult life—created the exact shift I needed to propel me to a place that I preferred: one of more freedom. I had been saying for quite a while that the biggest resource I needed more of was Time. And well, Life responded accordingly by giving it me. Thhhaaannnkkks… Truly though, I am in a constant state of gratitude for all of it.
Since then, I have been in a position to take advantage of many opportunities to journey abroad and domestically. And the reasons—social, creative, study, family, etc.— have been as varied as the locales. Aside from just the awe of being on different parts of this unbelievable spinning globe, my consciousness has been filled with wonder at the changes in my being that I have witnessed in each place. Parallel Is/Mes do in fact exist. Granted, nothing about this awareness is new or unusual. However, what may be different is my recognition of how to use it as a tool for remembering all of who I am in general, and remembering that I’ll know what I need to know when I need to know it, because some version of me in fact does.
So…with all of that being said, it would be my pleasure to introduce you to 5 Onyis that showed up in 5 places I have visited this year. Each contains the surname Onyi with the first and middle names being the area (city/state/province/country) that held space for her presence.
Various Cities [Alabama, USA] Onyi
The goofball. . .the root…the reminder. . .amongst other things
At times she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She loves to laugh and has quite the sense of humor. She actually made her directorial debut with a series of short social media comedies starring members of her artistic community. She is deeply connected to the African ancestors whose blood, sweat, tears and bodies are contained in this soil. She also knows and feels her connection to their descendents and desires to make known to them the depth, richness, power, and beauty of the Diaspora. In her they see, feel, hear and remember the root…the Motherland—that part of them that can never be removed, though it can feel so removed at times.
Tulum [Quinta Roo, Mexico] Onyi
The quasi-minimalist. . .the lover. . .amongst other things
She happily wears the same few articles of clothing, which she enjoys washing by hand. She shops for each day’s meals the day of. She prefers blending in (if that’s even possible) and being with the locals. Whether enjoying fresh coconut water and conversations with a kind vendor or watching the youth basketball teams in the evenings while munching on elotes and churros, she revels in the sweet simplicity of Life. She adorns herself a bit less…lets her hair grow out a bit more. She remembers that with or without any of it, she is beautiful, powerful, and feminine. She is sensual. She gives and receives love, enjoys being desired and reminded she’s someone’s ideal, which helps to heal some of the negative beliefs created by previous desires and unrequited affection.
Chicago [Illinois, USA] Onyi
The caretaker. . .the child advocate. . .amongst other things
She is a guardian to nearly toddler twin boys. Having no children of her own makes no difference. This role and the accompanying work comes naturally to her, as if she’s done it many [life]times before. Distinguishing strategic faux tears from actual distress; transferring sleeping bodies from highchair to pen with little disturbance; feeding, holding, scolding. She does all of it and then some. She is also able to be with and see children as they are to themselves, whether by joining in play or observing throughout tantrums. She understands how to companion them. She is able to speak for them when they can’t do so for themselves or when they aren’t being heard when they do.
London [England, UK] Onyi
The traditionalist. . . the bridge. . .the rebel. . .amongst other things
Boldly announcing her choice to practice traditional African spirituality to family heavily involved in conventional religion (some as members of the clergy!), she is a slap in the face to the historic and present-day malignment and attempted erasure of indigenous practices. In being so, she creates space for those ancestors to be recognized and honored, and for conversations shedding more positive (and accurate) light to take place. She is calm and neutral in her resolute refusal to protect people from [their ideas about] her baldness or to collapse into the belief that her style of adornment is only suitable or appropriate for performative reasons.
Tucson [USA] Onyi
The horse. . .the snake. . .amongst other things