Considering the invisibility of speech, it’s a madting how people associate how you look with how you ‘should’ sound, then make it a problem when you depart from their expectations, as if you owe them anything. If you’re black you can’t be articulate and pronounce your Ts, cah it means you wanna be white and you hate yourself. You’re meant to embody the working class caricature capitalism squashed you into. But then if you’re gonna live within that stereotype lord knows you best stay there. You best not believe you’re as wicked as you really are and start demanding the world respects you. Don’t riot when it don’t listen either. Yeah yeah Martin Luther King said that’s the language of the unheard and that, but he got merked so his real voice wouldn’t echo like his pacifying dreams do.
I’ve never known nothing more bright than people of colour, and moretime the greyness of the Western world I live in is way too much for me, so I gotta seek refuge in these spaces where exuberance ain’t unfamiliar. Uno that time Azealia Banks was ranting and cussing about everything, she weren’t even lying when she said uslots in England are miserable cah we don’t get enough sun. I was born here so I’m technically from here init. But certain man out there won’t feel no type of way about telling me to go back to where I came from, like say I’d need an aeroplane instead of a red bus. It’s mad how I don’t know what or where my home is. Man’s just gonna have to accept this “irrevocable condition” of ours that James Baldwin told us about init.
Sula Collective rejects the white privilege attached to language and speech that allows certain people to chat shit and not get banged. Everyone knows how they don’t want to be spoken to, but bare people struggle to articulate boundaries, which are languages in themselves. Sula Collective accepts these frustrations, and from this month til forever, we’ll love you as you find your voice. Even if it means you end up wiling out and going a bit mad, certain languages like dance and light and hugs are healing.
At the same time though, every time I think I know what language is, I feel an emotion I can barely attach words to. I feel like I can’t understand myself and the only people who could tell me are dead. History cut me off from communicating with them time ago. This is probably a familiar story to most people of colour, who been planted in all these diasporic wastelands where we’ve had to come together and find ourselves through each other. We talk and we sing and we mend each other where our ancestors’ wisdoms seem too far for us. Maybe they wouldn’t understand our expressions either, or maybe they are just waiting for us to say hi first and they will let us understand them. Maybe I am talking about God. Our language is in our lineage and we want you to figure out how to access the dialects woven into your genes before you were even a concept.
Toni Morrison baptised us Sula in 1973, but it took 42 years for this space to be born. One of the beginnings of who you are is your name. Mine is Yonia Abondance Lubamba Matanda. My tongue is unfamiliar to all the three, maybe four languages my own name comes from. My British London accent is a hurdle I have to jump over each time you ask me what my name is. Sometimes I’d rather just fall flat on my face than tell you ‘Abondance’ with the same slow melody my mum says it with, cos you’re gonna dilute the song anyway. Matanda means a mountain so high you can’t climb it. That’s my name. October is a celebration of all the languages which speak us into existence.
words by Abondance Matanda
illustration by Petrose Tesfai