I’m Gemma Burford, a.k.a. Ashley Jay Brockwell, and I’m the author of The Nineteen Songs of Remembering – due to be published in early 2019. It’s the story of a runaway nun and a lonely pilgrimage guide whose lives are transformed by their unconventional love affair. In the face of oppression and violence, they discover a world-changing secret that gives them courage to be themselves, and stay together, even when that means breaking all the rules.
As well as being an author, I’m also an artivist and a songworker. I might have invented at least one of those words! Well, hey, all the best authors make up their own words when they can’t find the one they want…
Artivism and songwork are both about using the arts to change lives. The way I see it, artivism is more political, and songwork is more personal. Artivism is about going out and making a statement, putting your art out there in the world, understanding what your soul’s true message is, and saying it loud and clear. Songwork is about coming into circle, building community, reconnecting with nature, and healing broken hearts.
You could say that artivism is my Sacred Masculine side, and songwork is my Sacred Feminine. I’m non-binary; I’m Both-At-Once. My work is all about integrating the light and shadow… the sun and the moon… the power and the compassion… the visible and the hidden… the extravert and the introvert… the doing and the being. It’s about remembering who we truly are, at the core of it all. It’s about coming back into balance.
The Mrs Maasai thing? It lasted seven years.
Yes, I’m THAT Gemma who was featured in the TV documentary ‘Cutting Edge: It’ll Never Last’ in 2004 when I married Lesikar Ole Ngila, and was shortlisted for the Most Dynamisante Woman of the Year Award for catalysing a grassroots artivism campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage in Maasai communities.
I didn’t ask for the documentary, made in 2003, to be posted on YouTube. Nobody even asked my permission. But somehow, I’ve become sort-of-famous, with more than 2 million views. Um, okay, whatever. If it inspires you, I’m happy. If you think I’m an idiot, that’s totally up to you. But please be aware that it’s been carefully manufactured to show my life and my personality in a particular way. Some of the things I said were taken out of context, and made to mean the opposite of what I intended. So, to set the record straight: I have never supported FGM, and never will. My daughters have not had FGM, and never will. And I didn’t live in a mud hut, or spend my life in the hot sun.
So, welcome to my personal website…
Come on in and have a browse, and a virtual cup of tea! (Hey, I’m British, and everyone knows the British are obsessed with tea). This site is what you could call a mishmosh of randomness, a wyrd and wonderful adventure or a hot mess, depending on your perspective, but hopefully there’s something here for you.
If you’re interested in learning more about my forthcoming book, my artivism projects or my Song Circles, if you think you might like to train to become a songworker, if you’re drawn to Mary Magdalene, or if you’re just curious to find out what happened to Mrs Maasai, you’re definitely in the right place.
And if you’re a nonprofit, a university, a school or a creative business looking for tailor-made organisational development services, please head on over to Green Spiral Consulting. I can help you evaluate your project or organisation, envision the future you want to create, and evolve to make the difference you always dreamed of making!
Feel free to ask me a question, say hi, ask my advice, tell me you love me or hate me, or whatever. I probably won’t reply to anyone who says they hate me, though; and if you just want to know why I’m not still with Lesikar, you’ll have to wait until I publish my autobiography. It’s too long and complicated a story for a blog post 🙂
As the British nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons puts it:
`When will that be?’, say the bells of Stepney…
`I do not know!’ says the great bell of Bow.
Here is a form that you can use for other questions.