I live in a place called `The New Forest’. If you haven’t been to England, you could be forgiven for thinking it had only just been planted. In reality, the name ‘New Forest’ is a thousand years old. The forest was named by William the Conqueror, who declared the whole area a royal hunting ground. (Even he didn’t plant it – it used to be called Ytene Forest, pronounced ee-ten, after the Jute peoples who lived here. That’s another story…)
Names can be misleading. When you hear something referred to as ‘education’, it’s easy to assume that it must be a good thing, and that it’s useful to humanity. I mean, who doesn’t need educating, right?
The trouble is, most of the schools and universities in existence today have their roots in a particular type of `education’, created by European colonial settlers between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. It had several purposes, but one of the primary ones was to convince Indigenous people in Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Americas that the things they already knew were not really ‘knowledge’. Knowledge, by definition, came from Europe, and could be divided neatly up into subjects: mathematics, history, geography, biology, chemistry, physics, and so forth.
This so-called ‘Western education’ has had disastrous and often tragic consequences. As well as leaving a toxic legacy of racism, xenophobia and white supremacism, it’s also led to a profound and pervasive sense of disconnection and brokenness.
For Indigenous communities – who tend to be acutely aware of what’s been lost – this disconnection has all too often resulted in intergenerational trauma, showing up as addictions, abuse, and some of the highest rates of suicide in the world.
For white Europeans, North Americans and Australians, who generally aren’t even conscious that many of the essential ingredients for a healthy human life are missing from post-industrial societies, it usually manifests as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, or other so-called ‘mental health problems’.
That’s why I wrote The Nineteen Songs of Remembering.
It’s about remembering who we once were, who we are, and who we can become.
It’s about remembering how to connect with other human beings; with the whole vast beautiful world outside our window; and with the Deep Love at the heart of it all.
It’s set in the seventh century AD, when the indigenous Brythonic (Celtic) peoples – the Cornish, the Welsh, the Irish and the Scots – were being invaded by Anglo-Saxons, but it’s the same story that’s still being played out all over the world.
It’s the tale of what happens when an oppressive patriarchal society, made up of people who are convinced they’re right and have a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude, decides to invade the sacred land of a people whose entire way of life is based on balance and harmony and respect for the Earth. But it’s also the tale of a brave couple who fought for their right to love, even in the face of oppression and prejudice. (Sound familiar?)
If you’re female in a male-dominated society, LGBTQ+ or non-binary in a cis-het-dominated society, black or minority ethnic in a white-dominated society, and/or Indigenous or First Nations or Aboriginal in a colonial-settler-dominated society, I hope this book and song cycle will give you a little more courage and hope.
And if you’re a white cisgender heterosexual male from a settler background and you’ve found your way to this page, all I can say is keep honouring the Feminine. Keep showing up for LGBTQ+, NB, BME and Indigenous rights. Keep learning how to be a true ally.
Take courage, O my friends, for the wheel keeps on turning,
It isn’t too late to remember our vow:
To light the Sacred Flame and to keep that flame burning…
The forces of hate can’t extinguish it now!
`The Nineteen Songs of Remembering’ will be published in February 2019. The reason it’s not sooner is that I’m running a year-long program of Song Circles and Songworker Training throughout 2018, to give people an opportunity to learn the songs and use them to change lives, and I’m certain that the book will keep evolving through this process.
If you’d like to be kept updated about the publication process and the launch dates, please follow my Facebook page (Gemma Burford – Author, Artivist and Songworker). For any other book-related queries, please complete the form below.