Family ties and trauma explored in The Trouble with Blood
The Trouble with Blood is Tiffany Paynter's take on family life. It unfolds in three short films that the spoken word artist and yoga teacher has created for the Bermuda Festival. They explore the "ideas of love, loss and acceptance within the bigger context of family". Her hope is that they help parents to accept their kids "with more intention and compassion".
Q: Where did the idea of The Trouble with Blood come from?
A: My life has not been easy and part of it not being easy was that my family had issues. When I was a kid we were particularly harsh and at times incomprehensibly violent, and there was no space to process that, so all of that became unaddressed trauma as opposed to bad things that happened that we were able to process and work through and get through together. This is why The Trouble with Blood is important for me. I have come to a place where I feel I have completely healed, where I have complete forgiveness and I'm able to speak to it without an ounce of bitterness, just gratitude. I love my family.
Q: How did you start writing?
A: There was very little processing of emotions or explaining of events when I was a kid. There were very few deep relationships where people were interested in who I was or what my dreams were or even how my day had gone. That’s where my writing first started. I wrote as a way to help me process traumatic moments and repressed emotions. For me this tackling of family is an essential piece. The Trouble with Blood focuses on my relationship with my mom as well as my relationship with my dad and how those relationships shaped me for better and for worse. It’s about this idea of love as a language that we have to learn to speak. I think this show has the potential to resonate deeply with all audiences. It’s for anyone who, for whatever reason, felt on the outside looking in at their family.
Q: What are the films about?
A: The show opens with an animated short called Daddy. It delves into a pivotal moment in the relationship between me and my father and how we were able to move forward in love. The second film is a motion graphic film. It’s about my mom, about her passing from breast cancer and me reflecting on the fact that I never really knew her. The last short is a film featuring my godchild Kairos and this idea of truly seeing her, fully accepting her and just wanting to create a better world for her.
Q: Why spoken word?
A: For me poetry is a bridge into my own feelings and my own perceptions and emotions. Through poetry I can make sense of the world around me and make sense of my inner world as well. When it comes down to expressing anger or sadness, joy or love, I literally get tongue-tied. I struggle. And I'm a bit of an introvert as well so there's that on top of it. With poetry I'm able to overcome it. I didn’t express myself a lot as a child. And I had no one to process my emotions with as a child. So writing poetry was kind of therapy before I found a real therapist to help me.
Q: How did you start performing?
A: I had a kind of spiritual moment when I was invited to perform at [the] Berkeley Institute by the librarian there at an open-mic event. I got up to the mic with my journal and it was the first time I had an outer-body moment. My own words uplifted me, right up out of my body, and I could see myself outside of myself and could feel people listening and my words resonating in unexpected ways. I felt connected to everyone listening and I was hooked. I wanted to feel that again and I knew I had to share my poetry in order to feel that connection.
Q: Did you study creative writing or poetry at university?
A: I've been writing since I was 11 but writing as a career was like a dream. I didn’t give myself permission to be creative at all. I was going to be the first person in my family to go to university and so I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a lawyer, to make money and lift our family up out of the struggle. I didn’t take creative writing until literally the last year of university. Of course it was my favourite class. Over the last year I've been taking myself more and more seriously as an artist. This Bermuda Festival project really does represent a moment in time in my story where I'm giving myself full permission to be an artist … poet … creator.
Q: What's next for you as a spoken-word artist?
A: I want to use the festival as a launch pad for not only taking myself more seriously as an artist but to use these particular works to do outreach. I'm in conversation about how we can use these films and poetry to begin having some more curated and really intentional conversations around identity and belonging. In the next year I hope to be self-published on Amazon. That seems to be a route that different poets take that captures the eye of publishers.
Q: And your yoga, have you any plans for that?
A: I’m in the process of launching a new social enterprise through Ignite. At three low points in my life well-meaning friends suggested I try yoga. But at the time I thought that's some white people s**t. It wasn’t until I was 25 when my heart wasn’t beating properly and multiple scans couldn’t tell me why that I tried yoga as a last resort. And it saved my body and my mind. The [UK National Health Service] says that half of all mental-health issues are established by age 14 and three quarters by age 24, yet schools still don't teach practical tools for mental health. I’ve been practising yoga for ten years and teaching for the last four and I want to integrate yoga and mindfulness programmes into all of our public and private schools in order to equip students and teachers with practical tools proven to improve their physical and mental health.
The Trouble with Blood will air on Saturday at 8pm as part free virtual series of the Bermuda Festival for the Performing Arts. Watch here: https://bermudafestival.org/