3rd March 2021
When I think of I Am From Reykjavik I think of 8 things.
1. The image Sonia’s son Solomon Hughes took, that Jerwood Arts used to announce her commission that I was extremely jealous of. Not the image, I love the image. The commission. The announcement. They never give a fuck about me and reject me at every turn.
2. The story I already know that accompanies the photo.
‘So in 1965 my mum and dad book a holiday to the Isle of Wight; my mum’s pregnant with me. Dad gets a bit wary and writes to the hotel saying that we’re coloured and would it cause any problems as they don’t want to travel all that way, what with my mum’s condition, to be turned away.
The hotel writes back cancelling the reservation. This time, I’m just rocking up. I’m bringing my own house and my own cups. You’re welcome to come help me build my shack and take tea with me, but I’m coming whether you like it or not.’
– Sonia Hughes
3. The image, the title, the conversations we’ve had over 20 years about our experience as children of first generation immigrants dressed in their finery descending from ships thinking they were coming to the Motherland only to be treated like shit in subtler and subtler ways that their descent from slavery could not combat, just as our descent knows intellectually we deserve more but struggle to enact that.
4. The title makes me conjure a cold place — white with snow. With my mate, destitute in a triangle box, having carved a niche for herself. Claiming a space — I am this person — I am allowed. But knowing she’s not really that person. Her warm heart’s desire is an off the shoulder silk camisole French whore with powder puffs and atomisers of expensive perfume that her admirers have bought.
5. 2003. Our journey 18 years ago to Nottingham, Eclipse. Where white middle class missionaries put it in our head that we needed help to get on the middle stage. And made us do a week of shit. While we thought breakfast in a Travel Inn that we hadn’t paid for was the bees knees and we piled it in. And we fucking laughed. We have always belly laughed.
6. 2012. Working, working, working, working for 6 months in my tiny office, trying to trick our way passed the gatekeepers. Trying to build a story they would swallow with the stereotypes we had unwittingly swallowed about ourselves. And falling out: because we had no power we wanted power over each other.
7. Being on my independent journey. Being on her independent journey. Thinking our relationship was over. 2017. When she contacted me 5 years later to congratulate me about Excavating the Reno, and saying I don’t want to be back in contact. And me writing back saying, yes you do or you wouldn’t have been in contact in the first place.
8. 2021. Being back together: a slow dance — a careful dance this time — a respectful dance. And her parents, who wrote that letter, are dead now, her dad recently, and will never have retribution, or justice, unless Sonia buys her freedom. The other day, funded, working on I Am From Reykjavik, tweaking the personal into universal, a plan that enables Sonia to do just that, like the month before, funded, when together we unearthed the play of my Reno memoir, which will enable me to buy mine.