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Yasmeen Audisho Ghrawi,
The Head-Vagina Axis

Yasmeen Audisho Ghrawi,
The Head-Vagina Axis

The piece takes us back to the beginnings of an encounter with a new place. the experience of alienation and estrangement that comes with dislocating our selves, our bodies, the experience of being decontextualized and put at an uncomfortable distance from the centre of our original life story. Our normal, in this new context, is denormalized, and we become familiar with new ways of being foreign to our mindbody system.

    Our ailments, also, take on a new form, we see ourselves as something other than what we have previously imagined, we consider our mental and physical health using different sets of criteria- what does it mean to be healthy, to be happy, to feel joy, what are the parameters of wellbeing under these new conditions?

I had been in London for one year, when a Palestinian friend moved here to study. I remember how she hugged me when we first met. I remember feeling intensely warm but awkward about it. I come from cultures that are tactile. Hugging was not foreign to me. Yet, in that moment it struck me that I had spent a whole year sans tactility. In this brief moment, my body thawed, so did my mind, releasing tensions I was not even aware of.

    Our mental and physical needs gnaw at us even when we are least aware of them until one day they could manifest into conditions and dis-eases that are empirically verifiable. I am a believer that our being is an intricate interconnected system. We are whole, and our ailments like our pleasures are inseparable from our histories and our journeys. 

I am not quite sure why this process thrusted me back to the very early days of my encounter with London. I found myself visiting moments I had long forgotten.

These days were filled with immense heaviness and sadness, and usually return to me like soggy, cold images, like polaroid pictures left out in the rain with not time to dry up. Visiting them from this place, however, almost a decade on, feels cathartic. I can meet them, I realised, with light candour, and relish at how much I have grown, and flourished, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

A word of process

Although brief, my encounter with the group reminded me that our journeys to here, from the various over ‘theres’ are so vastly varied.   As I was one of two Iraqis in the group, I was confronted with how strikingly different my landing into this place has been, how differently I navigated this culture and its multitudes, how differently I’ve constellated myself in this new old locality.  

Migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, can be useful terms to capture albeit fleetingly a description of movement from one place to another but like all labels, they wash over the vast nuances and differences of our respective journeys. In today’s popular discourse, they do more harm than good, each label responding to crude explanations as to why people need to or choose to leave home. People are dehumanized, and weaponised to help give rise to fascistic sentiments and policies.

This is why it is essential to share the platform, the privilege, the power, so that we- the migrants, the refugees, the asylum seekers, the freshly naturalised citizens of these new foreign homes- may amplify our voices and use our agency to help shape the course of our collective future together.