This film was made in response to the programmed artists’ talks platforming 3 m*ther-artists, Adura Onashile, Laura Bradshaw and, Raman Mundair in Feb-March of 2023. ‘Trust Us’ was an attempt to begin to explore the crossovers of the experiences of m*thering, caring and being cared-for by those who experience a combination of identities as m*ther and carer or care-giver. This conversation is contextualised within the framework of working as arts practitioners and was informed by the hypothesis that m*thers with additional identities, labels or roles as care-givers or care-receivers require additional access points and a more radical approach to equitable inclusion.
The contributors feel it is important to stress that this is only a very brief and personal contribution to a much wider conversation on care. However, we hope it sows seeds of thought on how access for m*thers is often about so much more than what might be initially considered. Above all, we hope that this conversation contributes to a greater trust to hear, believe and act upon the needs of those with lived experience. For a wider context, please use our resource list.
Lastly, throughout the project focus on/with/by the m*ther-artists within the Culture Collective, the term m*ther was inclusive of all people, regardless of gender, who identify or feel an affinity with motherhood. This includes non-binary people, trans men & trans women, step-mums, non-birth-giving/carrying mothers, bereaved mothers, surrogate mothers & those whose pregnancies were not carried to term. We recognise that the language used may be clunky but we hope that the underlying message of equitable inclusion based on trust for self-identification comes through.
Produced by Rebecca Livesey-Wright with and for Culture Collective, 2023. Filmed and edited by Meray Diner.
To accompany this film, we invited artist Raman Mundair to write a blog post responding to her participation in these conversations:
Re/Sist/er-hood & Mother Artist-hood and all the spaces in between.
I was recently part of a conversation with a group of Mother Artists where I was the only artist of colour and working class, Queer, with care-work duties and disabled to boot. One of the artists shared her experience and pleasure of being offered things for free: an expensive facial oil from a posh shop, jewellery and crucially, support with various projects and I found myself bristling. I felt a strange discomfort that buzzed through me like one of those jelly-wobble fades in old, kitsch sci-fi films. It took me a moment to realise that it wasn’t just jealousy, it was anger in knowing that that generosity is rarely afforded to me as an artist mother of colour that straddles several intersections of experience. That it wasn’t just about the ‘free stuff’ but about a certain generous experience of life and living and our experience as artists that many of us do not experience.
It’s hard to draw attention to this but necessary. The experience I share is small in relation to many others I could narrate but each is significant in that it holds the tension and distance between me and other Mother Artists who do not share my experience and worse, can not imagine that I may have a more arduous and complex journey to navigate with my practice and identity as a mother and artist, precisely because of the different oppressions I face.
A lack of awareness and understanding around the above has been more of an obstacle to me than anything else yet “The pram in the hall” has always been seen as the real slamming of brakes on creativity. Some artists and writers have often gone out of their way to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood. But for those of us who choose Mother Artist-hood, it doesn’t have to be a full stop, or even a comma, in our creativity. In fact I believe it can be something that elevates our practice.
Since stepping into Mother Artist-hood I have had to be inventive and careful with my time and energy. I find that my practice has transformed. I am more effective with my time. There is less preamble. I have dispensed with many of my pre-motherhood creative rituals – the endless cups of coffee, the preparing of space, the internet hours lost to “research” that may in actuality have no bearing on the work. No. All of that has gone.
The lead into work has taken on a different form. I create in a different way. I have developed a new, effective methodology which offers me maximum output from the limited time and energy I have. My approach to research has changed. Everything I undertake has to balance with Motherhood. My time is valuable. I choose. I choose carefully. I choose carefully what I do/make/act upon.
I make work in a patchwork sort of fashion now. I “quilt” work from small, finite pieces of time, energy, that together offer a whole that will develop into a larger-scale idea. I find the process magnifies my material. I am close up, eye to eye with it for an intense moment and then move away. A forced distance (when practical motherhood activities beckon) allows an important time to process and reconfigure perspectives and ideas. When I return to the work, to the creating and making, I come with a new gaze and a new way of seeing that makes the work precise and full of rigour. I find it satisfying to work in this way.
My practice has also become more nocturnal. I often undertake “amritvela” work – amritvela is, in Hindu and Sikh culture, the sacred, silent dawn time of day. A time where everything is pregnant with possibility. When, if I have worked long into the night, a visceral exhaustion leaves me tender and vulnerable, but at the same time offers me clear sight. A raw, spiritual type of energy that has translated into fine work.
I am a mother, I am multitudes. I am an artist, I am multitudes. When you are a Mother Artist you are multitudes. I give my work and practice worth and demonstrate the importance of this to my kids. I give my practice status, that it is “work” and model that for my kids. So that my work is as important in their minds as something easily tangible such as a teacher or a doctor.
Being a Mother Artist makes me feel like a better person and therefore a better mother. I mean this in the sense that I am at my best when I am making work, when my creativity is active and utilized. My children benefit from seeing their mother in her multitudes and with her creativity vital and in full flow.
I do not wish to end up at the end of my kids’ childhood having been so absorbed in my work that I realize that I do not really know my children – that I have no idea of who they really are. I don’t want creative space or success by any means necessary and certainly not at the cost of my relationship with my kids. Instead I have come to see that part of my practice now is in fact the relationship I have with my children. That there is a beautiful exchange and that they actively effect my practice and work. Furthermore in an omnicidal world a practice that honours and centres my children and future generations has become a positive and hopeful act of meaning making and creating in increasingly hopeless situations. This possibility is something that art and culture organisations and commissioners and funders are slow to recognise and value.
Creative endeavours are impacted by intersectionality, for me, being a woman of colour, a working-class woman, a woman with a disability, a Queer woman, and being a Mother is all part of the intersections that I have to navigate to get to the work. Managing to be creative at the same time as raising children is a revolutionary act. Motherhood demands sacrifice. Complete submission at times. To find a pocket of air within that for creative work, dialogue or practice is an extraordinary thing.
It has taken a great deal to become an Artist Mother and there are often times when the label feels precarious. I have had to emerge from a cultural and familial space that didn’t value this role, that would have preferred me to stick to an endless litany of unrecognised care-work and if I were to work, to work in a role that this capitalist society values and rewards. Having endured rejection and emotional exile from these places and risen up to claim my voice it has been difficult to find myself as an outsider again but this time amongst other artists and especially heart breaking when I experience this with other Mother Artists.
Sharing identities as artists and mothers does not equate to a monolithic experience. There are parts we share and places where we are entwined and at the same time parts we don’t, which are isolated and parts that only the ‘othered’ experience. Parts, that if our feminism is intersectional, we must hold space for and pay attention to. These are voices with experiences which are often more than we can describe and trust me, if I tell you this is what I need in order to fully be in the room and share space with you this is not a simple access request, this is an act of courage. My specification is a proxy for social, cultural, class, gender and disability justice that is long overdue. Trust me, my ask has been earnt a thousandfold and when you actively listen and meet my needs you not only create space for me, you create space for all of us to have an equitable and spacious experiences as Mother Artists and hold a potential space for liberation that could uplift us all.
Raman Mundair is working class, Queer, disabled, a parent and neurodiverse Mother Artist. She is also a theatremaker, writer, activist, filmmaker, and playwright. She has won multiple awards for her practice, including the Robert Louis Stevenson Award and a Leverhulme Fellowship, is a Royal Literature Society Fellow, and has been commissioned to produce experimental artists film and installation by the Tramway and CCA in Glasgow. As well as writing for the screen and theatre, she writes for Bella Caledonia and is the award winning author of ‘Lovers, Liars, Conjurers and Thieves’, ‘A Choreographer’s Cartography’, ‘The Algebra of Freedom’ (a play) and is the editor of ‘Incoming: Some Shetland Voices’.
Raman was the recipient of an All3media award for her scriptwriting, her short film ‘TROWIE BUCKIE’ was shortlisted for the BFI/Scottish Screen Sharp Shorts and her feature, A Girl Called Elvis has been awarded a First Features award and her short Tongue was shortlisted for Sharp Shorts 2022 and Disney Imagine Films. She is the IASH Playwrighting Fellow for Traverse Theatre. She has also worked as a mental health support worker and for Women’s Aid.
ig@ramanmundair + @rmundair