how to think
Episode Four: Khairani Barokka

Rajni Shah
Khairani Barokka
Fili 周 Gibbons



Manually subscribe by RSS | Download MP3
Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify Listen on Google Podcasts

Episode notes

In the fourth episode of the podcast, Rajni Shah and Kharaini Barokka (Okka) discuss the shifting and intricate relationships between listening, safety, harm, accountability, and trust. These topics are especially poignant because (in contrast to all the other episodes) Okka and Rajni did not know each other before recording this episode of the podcast. Their conversation both comments on and embodies the complexities in inviting trust, and acknowledging our capacities for harm, when navigating conversations with strangers.

During this episode, Okka refers to a map/booklet that Rajni sent by post prior to their conversation. You can download a copy of this booklet on this page (under ‘Series credits & acknowledgments’) if you are interested.

In the accompanying offering, Okka shares some of her daily wellbeing practices:

Download MP3

The faint sounds of waves heard in the meditation segment of this episode are the sounds of the waters of Gichi-aazhoogami-gichigami (Lake Huron), recorded at Singing Sands on the west of the Saugeen Peninsula (Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario). These are the traditional lands and waters of the Anishinaabeg, and specifically the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, and the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation. This territory is covered by the Upper Canada Treaty No. 72.

All recordings were made with care and respect for the lands, waters, winds, trees, and creatures being recorded.

Episode themes

  1. Introduction [00:01:05]
  2. Arrival [00:05:11]
  3. Meditation [00:09:04]
  4. Questions [00:12:58]
  5. Listening and trust [00:16:15]
  6. Harm and safety [00:23:02]
  7. Time and injury [00:26:25]
  8. Being vulnerable [00:30:59]
  9. Decolonial time, memory, and body [00:41:11]

Series Credits & Acknowledgements

This podcast was made on Indigenous lands, including the lands of the Bidjigal, Gadigal, Woi Wurrung, and Boonwurrung peoples in so-called Australia, and the lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation on Turtle Island. We pay respects to the custodians of the lands on which we have created and edited these recordings, and we acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.

how to think is being co-led by artist Rajni Shah and Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca, the new head of DAS Graduate School, as part of the AHRC project Performance Philosophy & Animals, in partnership with the Centre for Performance Philosophy at the University of Surrey, UK.

Project conceived and delivered by Rajni Shah
Editing, mixing, and sound design by Fili 周 Gibbons and Studio Apothicaire
Recording and technical support by Roslyn Oades
Contributors: Ria Righteous, Julietta Singh, Khairani Barokka, and Omikemi
Special thanks to Theron Schmidt, Leo Burtin, Nadia Chana, Astrid Korporaal, Sheila Ghelani, and the Acts of Listening Lab

Before these conversations were recorded, podcast host Rajni Shah posted a small zine to each of their fellow listeners, in which they outlined the invitation for the conversation. You can see a copy of the zine for reference here.


Transcript

[sounds of cello plucking and bowing a fiesty little tune weaving in and out of the following words that begin each episode]

Rajni:

how to think is a series of slow conversations between humans who recentre the work of listening, healing, justice, and love. Created with recording and technical support from Roslyn Oades, and with editing, mixing, and sound design by Fili and Studio Apothicaire.

This is a DAS podcast, presented in partnership with the Centre for Performance Philosophy at the University of Surrey in the UK, and is part of the AHRC project Performance Philosophy & Animals led by Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca, Head of DAS Graduate School in Amsterdam.

For transcripts, full credits, and acknowledgments, including land and water acknowledgments, please visit the Performance Philosophy website which is linked in the show notes.

Thank you for listening.

[cello stops]

[pause]

Hello and welcome to the fourth episode of the podcast how to think. I’m your host Rajni Shah, and in this episode you’ll hear me in conversation with writer, poet, and artist Khairani Barokka, or Okka.

Before we dive into the episode today, I want to share something with you that feels like an important framing to this conversation.

While making this podcast, I’ve desired so much to dismantle oppressive structures and to find new ways to come together and work together. And in doing so I have of course come up against my own limits and limitations. What came to light during the process of making this episode were some of the hierarchies I hadn’t considered carefully enough when laying the foundations for these conversations to happen. So it feels important to say that in the lead-up to this conversation, one of my team members used ableist language, which broke the chain of trust for Okka, who told me about what had happened after we had our conversation.

Of course, there have been apologies and learnings that have taken place since then – but I mention this because each of these conversations has revealed themselves to be both about something, and embodying that very thing within its process. So just as the previous episode revealed itself to be about pain, mess, loss, and haunting, this one – for me - is about listening, trust, and vulnerability. Not just because Okka and I talk about these things, but also because Okka was bringing herself to this conversation in spite of and alongside a broken chain of trust.

There’s one other thing that’s worth mentioning before we dive in. Okka refers during our conversation to a map that was inside a small booklet that I sent each participant prior to our conversation. And if you’re curious to see this map, there is a copy on the Performance Philosophy website where this podcast is hosted.

As always, there are links and further information in the show notes. And there is an accompanying episode to this one that you might want to check out, in which Okka shares some of her favourite daily wellbeing practices.

As ever, I hope you enjoy the listening.

[slow looping lyrical cello sounds fade in and play for several minutes then fade out]

Rajni:

I, um. So what I've invited from the other people I've spoken to so far is that we begin with um ‘clean space’, which is just a chance for each of us to – so each of us in turn – to just speak anything that we might need to speak to arrive ourselves. Um… it's kind of like, how are you? [laughs] But you just speak for as long as you need to, and acknowledge anything that you want to acknowledge about, um… where you – like maybe where you are literally, but also where you're at in terms of emotion. So it's kind of a chance to check in with ourselves, and the other person just listens. And then when you're done… so we just take a turn to do that. Um…

Okka:

Yep. Great.

Rajni:

And then I might um… give us a chance to do a little bit of breathing. And then we just move into our conversation.

Okka:

Okay.

Rajni:

Does that sound good?

Okka:

Yeah, it sounds good.

Where I am currently… geographically, I'm in London, I'm in South London. But emotionally – and emotionally – I'm a bit, um … I'm grateful for the solitude, actually, because I feel like I have a lot to do in terms of errands, in terms of work, in terms of getting on top of my stuff that requires as little noise as possible emotionally. Um. And then also, I guess emotionally and spiritually, whenever I speak to my family in Jakarta they say: oh, you're here also. Or you’re present here – in my family's house in Jakarta – which is very nice to hear, because I also feel like I'm in two places. In Jakarta as well as in London.

Yeah.

Rajni:

Thank you.

Erm. So where I am is I'm on Bedegal lands in Sydney. And er… I'm actually, I'm not at home. So it's a, it’s kind of a strange setup. I've brought in a bunch of stuff with me to this, um, a friend's office that I'm borrowing, to try and make it less like an office. But I am actually in an office on a university campus that's closed right now. So erm, so I’m a little bit dislocated in a way.

But I've also, I've – I came here early. I've been here for a good few hours and had some time to settle in. And um. Yeah, I feel … um … Honestly, kind of, the fact that we checked in and then we needed to come back half an hour later because the phone had to charge... I think was really nice for me. I think it was actually kind of helpful.

Okka:

Why?

Rajni:

I don't know, I think it just made it um… more real and relaxed?

Okka:

Okay. Well, I can't say I did that on purpose and I apologise again. [laughs] But um … But yeah, okay, I'm glad that happened. And yes, I think in a weird way, I was, I also became a little more relaxed about the process.

Rajni:

Mm. It was like we got to have two goes at beginning. [laughs] And I feel like that’s always a good thing.

Okka:

Yeah, exactly.

Rajni:

Mm.

So… I have a little bell. I'm just gonna ring it to check that you can hear it.

[rings small cowbell]

Okka:

I can hear it.

Rajni:

So I’m gonna invite us to – because I feel like – sometimes I feel like led breath meditations are helpful, but sometimes I also feel like they can be challenging because we're actually dealing with such different bodies–

Okka:

Mmm

Rajni:

–and our needs are so different. So what I'm gonna invite is for each of us to ... I'll ring the bell and then I'll give us some time for each of us to … just to breathe with ourselves in our bodies, and to kind of do that in a way that gives us what we need to ground and arrive with ourselves. Um. Which might be about – I find it helpful to think about really, um – to think about breathing out as letting go of anything that's, that I'm carrying that doesn't really serve me right now, that doesn't really need to be present for this conversation. And then just breathing in um … new air and new replenishment to bring me into the present moment.

Okka:

Mm hm

Rajni:

So I offer that if it's helpful as a framework for you.

Okka:

Sure.

Rajni:

Okay.

[for the next few minutes, gentle sounds of water]

[sound of small cowbell]

Okka:

I heard that. [gentle laughter]

[water sounds fade out]

Rajni:

Um. So now, yeah, I just invite us to enter into the conversation and allow it to emerge however it emerges.

Okka:

Mhm.

Rajni:

Um. One thing I forgot to say before was that I find it really helpful to kind of steer away from direct questions.

Okka:

Hm!

Rajni:

And so, like, if you have a question or if I have a question, to think about what the desire is beneath that so it can be expressed as a statement or as a curiosity. Um –

Okka:

Yep, sure.

Rajni:

– and then we can respond to it or not respond to it. And so we just kind of allow each thing that either of us says to land and sit with it and then maybe respond to it or maybe, maybe speak about something else. So the rhythm is a little bit different from a usual conversation. Um. But really with the attempt to just ground into listening and see what comes.

Okka:

Okay.

[pause]

Yeah, there's something about, um – just holding the map you kindly sent in front of me right now – when you said that you prefer not to use direct questions, it made me think that, you know, in the middle of this wonderful map that you sent, there are a lot of questions. But because it's been some time since I first received them in the mail, they don't feel direct, if that makes sense, like I've allowed the answers to percolate in my body. Um… and it feels like remembered questions because it's not the first time I'm reading them. If that makes sense.

Rajni:

Mm.

I love the idea of remembered questions. Almost like the questions planted a seed of remembering that then maybe allowed for – and a remembering to happen that comes through you.

Okka:

Yeah. And I think the word direct has this connotation of… of impact, of sort of er … a sharp impact, maybe even? Which is not always a bad thing, obviously. But, because of the time gap … and maybe even because of the distance – we are physically, you in Australia and me in the UK – yeah, they feel more softened, if that makes sense.

Rajni:

Mm.

Okka:

And your making space for emergent flow in the course of our conversation also reminds me – even though I'm now filling that silence [laughing gently] – that we're not used to being silent with other people, especially not other people that we've never been in the same room in, you know, physically. Um, because it is such intimacy to be silent with somebody else. And yeah, this is an interesting experiment because of that alone, I would say.

Rajni:

Yeah. It's, er, it feels like an act of trust.

Okka:

Yes. Yeah.

Rajni:

And I think I mentioned to you that I have some kind of relationship already with all of the other people I'm speaking to. So I'm, I'm very aware that it's, in a way it's a bigger ask of you, the ask of trust. Um. Because we don't already have anything to base that on. And I'm… I think there is… I'm, I'm really interested in the relationship between listening and trust. And maybe vulnerability.

Okka:

Yes, absolutely. But to also get macro – or micro – about it, um, I guess we're all being asked a big ask of trust every time we interact with anybody else, right? Because there are so many ways that a person can offend us or violate a sense of trust in everyday life, right? Like a plumber might come to my house and I… and say something that hurts me even though they don't know me, right? I don't know why I use the plumber, erm… Actually, I do. It's probably because, as I'm currently self isolating as much as possible, the only people I'm letting in are people I’m either very close with or, you know – or actually one person I’m very close with – um, or someone who works for my building. Right?

Rajni:

Mm.

Okka:

Because I have had um, like my tap was having issues a while ago during quarantine, and I had to trust somebody to come in and um, and then I found myself thinking, oh, they didn't wash their hands for long enough! Or, you know, just little things like that. Um. And I – the pandemic has made me even more attuned to these things, I think.

I don't know about you, but, yeah.

Rajni:

Yeah, I guess I'm, I'm now thinking about that example of the plumber because [laughing gently] I feel like it's, um, I feel like I know exactly that feeling of, um – I feel like it's happened a number of times to me that I… somebody who I don't know comes into my home for whatever reason – and I, I love having conversations with strangers –

Okka:

Mm. Mm.

Rajni:

But I often get to a place where we're being – and I feel like this is a really classic, erm, thing that happens to us as humans – but, you know, I feel like we're being friendly and then they say something that's deeply offensive to me –

Okka:

Yes.

Rajni:

– or that's just deeply offensive! And … and I –

Okka:

Yes.

Rajni:

– and, and the number of times that's happened and I haven't said anything. And then I just … don’t know what to do with that because I feel like I, I ought to say something.

Okka:

I completely understand where you're coming from and I think that, um, yeah … Because the outcomes are so variable, especially with someone you don't know well, right, you are opening yourself up to further injury by saying something. Um. As you are also opening up yourself to further injury by not saying something, right?

So I think that ultimately for me, after these things have happened, I always have to remind myself that it's not my fault and that, you know, to not take so much responsibility for the injury, if that makes sense, that other people are doing. Because there's only so much that we can do, right? And that's something that I'm still learning all the time. Because I tend to be self blaming quite a bit!

Rajni:

Mm. Yeah, yeah. It's hard not to feel that we ought to do it all, all the time.

Okka:

Yeah, and I think it's also difficult to … Social configurations aren't always as apparent as people think they are, right? Um. [sighs] You know, you don't always know, especially, for instance, in a work setting, right, or if you're speaking to a friend of a friend, what the repercussions will be for your social configurations if you say something, and if you don't. Right? And I think that especially for people who come from stolen-from communities, um, and who are, for instance, minoritised in Western countries, there's always this sense of needing to preserve our safety, right?

Rajni:

Mmm.

Okka:

In a very real sense. Um. Along with other, you know, aspects of our lives, like myself identifying as disabled, for instance, and chronically ill. Um. Or, you know, like, usage of pronouns, right, that other people may not be used to. There's always something that you don't … you don't know where the injury is going to come from, if that makes sense, because there are so many different parts of our lives that could be um ... targeted.

Rajni:

Yeah. Yeah.

I think part of that as well for me is accepting that we will cause harm to others–

Okka:

Yes.

Rajni:

–or we will offend others or injure others. And the question isn't… isn't or can't be: how can we live without that happening? But it is really, you know, what, what do I do if I learn that that has happened? Or, um … yeah. How do I, how do I create an environment where we can speak up about those things and be … forgiving and responsible?

Okka:

Forgiving and responsible as, as sort of keywords?

Rajni:

Yeah [laughter]

Well, I wanted to say “and be forgiving” – like, be forgiving of ourselves. But I also feel like it's important to take responsibility when, when something has happened. So it kind of has to be both of those things.

Okka:

I think ‘forgiving and responsible’ is a good title for something. You might want to, you might want to write something with that title! [Rajni laughs]

Um. Yeah. And I think it's also… of course, we are going to offend and hurt other people, but also we have in our past, right?

Rajni:

Mm.

Okka:

Um. And, you know, sometimes I'll think about how… I remember in Jakarta, a friend of mine was saying that, oh, you know, this person was really offended by something you said and now they don't want to talk to you. And I just, I didn't even realise that I'd done that, right?

Rajni:

Mm.

Okka:

And it was something I'd said about Indonesians. But in a … it was self mockery, because I'm Indonesian, right? And we tend to, like, we are allowed to be self mocking, I think. Um … but this other Indonesian woman was really offended that I'd said that. And from my perspective, it's like, I'm very sorry that they were offended. But also because they didn't say anything, I couldn't say: of course that was in jest, because I'm not self-hating, right? Like, I love being, you know, who I am and where I'm from. But also, I get to poke fun at my people a little bit, right?

But at the same time, you know, just because you're not offended doesn't mean other people aren't offended, right?

Rajni:

Right.

Okka:

So… so yeah. So it got me thinking a lot about whether or not to speak up about something. Um. Because also context matters in terms of place where it happens. Like I remember this happened at a social gathering with a bunch of other friends around, so she might not have felt comfortable telling me, who she didn't know very well, like: I don't think you should say that about us! You know? Um… and I felt sad also that it's like, oh, they're like actively avoiding me because they think I said something really offensive or something that was offensive to them.

And at the same time, I'm thinking: “But surely..” you know. I mean … But even my “but surely” thought is me privileging my experience, right?

Rajni:

Hm!

Okka:

So I think… I think also it's so difficult to paint things with a broad brush, because… This is why I really, actually really despise these conversations about … um, you know … about like for instance, cancel culture or other things, because so often the people who want to make this the topic of conversation paint with such a broad brush about everything and don't pay attention to specificities and hierarchies of power.

I mean, to be frank, it's usually when white men bring this up, right? [laughs] Um. And they just paint with such a broad brush and you're not … It’s really ... and it really shows, I think, who you are as a person when you say things like, “oh, that would” – even things that people don't realise betray their ignorance or their lack of sensitivity – for instance, like, “oh, it's a really timely discussion”, as though it was not timely in our ancestors’ time as well. Right?

Rajni:

Mmm.

Okka:

Like, I feel like this word ‘timely’ is such a white construct! [laughs] You know?

Rajni:

Yeah.

Okka:

And even the term ‘ahead of your time’, because … I was reading, do you know the book Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown?

Rajni:

I do, yeah.

Okka:

Yeah. So I was reading, I remember when I was reading that… I love the part where they’re saying that, you know, every runaway slave was an Afrofuturist. Every um… mother that either gave up or nurtured their child. Oh – gave up on loving or loved their child that would be a slave, um … was an Afrofuturist. Because … there’s a way in which, you know, you, you imagine futures other than your reality. And you know that your reality is untenable. Right? And even recognising that is a form of futurism in a way.

Rajni:

Mm.

Okka:

Because I, yeah, I feel like when people speak about Black Lives Matter and say, oh, it's you know … With this recent resurgence in, I suppose white interest in Black Lives Matters’ message, right, that happened around June, there was a lot of talk about, “oh, especially now, it's such a timely discussion”. And it's like, but this has always been, you know, for centuries, a timely discussion.

Rajni:

Mmm. Yeah.

Okka:

And I feel like, yeah, little, little, you know I think little gradations of injury like that do pile up over time. Because we're just so used to being in unsafe environments and being so open and vulnerable to that injury, right?

Like, um, I was writing about how I love podcasts and especially as someone who's self isolating a lot, they really help me get through my day. Right? I'll listen to them – because I'm used to, you know, having people's voices around or, um … back home in Jakarta – and so I will listen to a lot of them. But inevitably they will say, the host will say something ablest or racist or sexist or, you know, something that I just cannot abide by. And then I stop listening to the podcast. But only until I forget, and even actively try and forget, what they have said. Because [laughing] I do want to be able to enjoy myself with their voice, and especially if they show signs of being repentant or learning, or in the process of learning.

And I find this a lot with the ableism thing because, um, I'm still constantly learning about ways in which I'm ableist because there's so many kinds of bodyminds that you can't possibly know what reality is like for every single one of us, right?

Rajni:

Mm hmm.

Yeah, I feel like um… It's, it, it's so easy in this time to just become scared and not –

Okka:

Mm. yeah.

Rajni:

– you know, not put ourselves out there or not speak at all. And I, I feel like I'm constantly trying to devise ways to… be in the world and be … and you know, maybe this is an example of it as well, you know, inviting inarticulacy as a way of saying: I appreciate it when people do put themselves out there and are vulnerable and do so in a way that isn't, um … isn't too … perfect, actually.

Okka:

Hm.

Rajni:

So that kind of acknowledges that we are clumsy and we are in a process and it is messy and, and it, you know, that's… that feels like a truth to me. That, you know, we're … we live… in order to acknowledge change, we have to… acknowledge… our clumsiness with change, or something. [laughs] You know? Like –

Okka:

Yeah, clumsiness, yeah. Acknowledging clumsiness as change, right.

Rajni:

Mmm. Yeah.

And, and yet I know that I'm, I'm afraid of it. And I… you know, I remember really specifically somebody who I really admire saying to me – and it was after I had done something in public, I'd spoken in public – and they said to me, “I wish you had spoken about this” (this particular racist incident that had happened just beforehand). They said, “Why didn't you speak about that?” And then… and they, they said it in a very caring way. Um.

Okka:

Mm Hm.

Rajni:

They said, you know, “you create opportunities for all of us to… to be messy and vulnerable –

Okka:

Mm

Rajni:

– but you, you don't give that to yourself.”

Okka:

Mm.

Rajni:

And it really stayed with me. And it's, you know, that was, you know, years ago –

Okka:

Wow.

Rajni:

– years ago, but it, it's a thread for me of, of learning how to do that and how to… give myself permission. And also to protect myself when I need to. But to –

Okka:

Right.

Rajni:

– to know the moments when the right and brave thing is to be out there in my messiness and to not be afraid of that. Because if I value it in other people, then… I know, you know, I, I suppose I know kind of cognitively that it's, it's a beautiful thing. And, and those moments when other people share from themselves in a vulnerable way and are not too um … er … what is it? are not too … kind of … I think … or just are vulnerable, are genuinely vulnerable, and not just vulnerable, or like talking about a vulnerable situation in retrospect, but actually opening up. It means so much to me, and it can really change my world.

Okka:

May I ask if the person who confronted you after your speaking engagement, if they had a prior relationship to you or if they were a stranger?

Rajni:

Yes. They did.

Okka:

Okay. All right. Because I was like, that's quite an intense thing for a stranger to say to someone!

Rajni:

No. They absolutely did. And it was … I don't even know if I'm representing well what they said, because I feel like it's now completely in my own words. But it was, um, it was said in a very loving way. It was one of those things that was said in a very loving way, but also very clear. And I really appreciated it.

Okka:

Yes. Anything said very lovingly and very clear is … it’s something special.

I think also that when we give such advice to people… I think especially the more I, you know, became involved in disability justice efforts in the arts, and the more often I was, as I have been so many times, misunderstood by people or been injured by people in different ways, both physically and emotionally, because of ignorance, I realise, you also don't – again, because, as you said, there is also the need to protect ourselves – you don't always know if someone is in a state of mind and body and emotions where they need to protect themselves more in that moment and so they will not be vulnerable.

Rajni:

Mm.

Okka:

And that's something that we never know of other people. We never know other people's interiority. And we can never know. So I like to leave that window open.

And I think whereas in the past I might have said… I mean, I think in your case, it was different because this is someone who did have a prior relationship with you. But I, you know, when it's – even with my friends, actually, I'll just sort of, you know, think, or try to think: well, I don't know what's going on with them, so maybe I shouldn't give them that advice that they could have been more open and messy and vulnerable because I don't… there are things that they might not be telling me. They might have a stomach ache. Like, even we aren't able to articulate why we feel more the need to protect ourselves than be vulnerable in a particular instance, right?

Like, for me, often it's after the fact that I realise, oh, because I actually was having sort of the beginnings of a headache at that time, and I could kind of sense it, and I didn't, I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was just like: just take a rest and protect yourself more at this moment. Do you know what I mean?

Rajni:

Yeah. I think it's – I think that's part of why I really value slowing the pace of a conversation and also … maybe something that I tend to do is ask people if they want to hear that feedback in that moment or not. And make it clear that ‘not’ is a very valid option, um, if I do have something to offer. So that I'm not making an assumption that somebody wants to hear what I have to say.

Okka:

How would you phrase that, for instance?

Rajni:

I think I would say … um … “I, I have… I have a thought or a response to what you shared that, um – and it's something that I'm, I'm feeling strongly that I want to share with you – but I, um … it may not be the right time to share it with you. And is – are you open to hearing that now or not? And it’s totally fine if you’re not.”

Like, I feel like that's something that more and more is really helpful to me to hear, but also to say to other people, is to be really clear that it's not going to offend me if this isn't the right time or if never is the right time. You know?

Okka:

Mm. Yeah.

I think I'm guilty of too often saying, like, “yes, I am open to feedback” and then not accounting for, you know – because you can never know what that feedback is going to be as well, right? So even someone's permission to give feedback isn't, yeah, it’s … we're just always so open and vulnerable all the time.

Rajni:

Yeah. Yeah. So I think the question for me then is how… how can we really allow ourselves to… tune in?

Because I, I… that resonates for me, too. I tend to … even in that situation, I would very quickly say yes without – and I'm getting better at it, I think I'm getting better at actually genuinely taking the question on and sitting with it or saying, “I don't know, so let me think about it.” Um. But maybe it's also about, you know, um… yeah, I don't know. It would depend on the specifics of the situation, but I think there could be something in maybe saying that you have something to share, and inviting the other person to let you know when is it – if they want to hear it – when is a good time? And not making the assumption that the good time is right now.

Okka:

Yeah. It’s a good point.

[pause]

Rajni:

I'm um, I'm curious about… to go back to the idea of remembering –

Okka:

Mm.

Rajni:

– and something that you said when we started speaking about the map and –

Okka:

Mhm.

Rajni:

– and looking at the questions and then kind of processing them – I can't remember the exact words that you used – but in a kind of more embodied way, so that they, um, they were with you as a kind of remembering. And I guess I'm curious about, if there was anything more that you wanted to say about either the… the feeling of that act of remembering or any of the actual rememberings that maybe came up.

Okka:

Um. Yeah. I think I, what I said was, I let the questions percolate in my body for a while. Or something like that. I definitely used the word ‘percolating’.

No, I just so appreciate just even the little time scale of this project, right – where, you know, you get something in the mail that you read, that you think about and process in your own time, and then the conversation happens, you know, weeks later – is um a really nice change of pace, considering how many e-mails we have to respond to that, you know, like, please respond to this by the next day or, you know, or what have you. Um …

It really invites … because the questions that you posed are all just so beautiful, too. And I very much appreciate being given the extra time to let them sit with me because they're so lovely. Um, yeah. And it's, they’re even questions that I am thinking I might want to return to after this project, right – that I can just open this little booklet and ask these questions of myself in the moment.

Rajni:

Mm.

I'm wondering about that, the relationship with time, and um if there are things that you do – because I feel like our relationship with time and ... agency, I guess –

Okka:

Mmhmm. Mmhmm.

Rajni:

– um, is so … political.

Okka:

Mmhm.

Rajni:

And I'm curious about whether you have strategies for … maybe reclaiming your time or inhabiting time differently. Um. Which I think also relates to some of the things that you were saying around the adrienne maree brown, and Afrofuturism. And those, you know, like, who is using the phrase timely, and what is happening in the use of a certain kind of person using that word to describe something. Um –

Okka:

Yeah.

Rajni:

– and I'm really interested in, in how, how people um … or, you know, how kind of living within the kind of societies that we live in that are so geared towards productivity and speed, you know, efficiency, I'm always really curious about whether there are ways that, that other people claim back their time.

Okka:

Yeah. I mean, I am a firm believer in decolonised crip time.

Rajni:

Mm.

Okka:

So crip time being, er, just time that is attuned to the rhythms of the body and what the body needs and wants in any particular moment from a disability justice perspective.

And then also the decolonised aspect of that is um – I wrote an essay called ‘The Grammar of Time Travel’ for a column I write for Catapult, and – I can send it to you if you'd like the link – but it's, it was all about how, you know, how in Indonesian we don't have past-future-present tenses for verbs. So unless it is made clear … for instance, like ‘I eat’, ‘I ate’, ‘I will eat’, they're all the same sentence: Saya makan. Right? But if you say, Saya akan makan, ‘I will eat’ - if you deliberately add another word there to indicate that it's ‘you will eat’, or if you say Saya makan kemarin, which means ‘I ate yesterday’, um, you know, making clear and explicit the time relationship. Until that happens, it could be in all three times simultaneously.

And in that sense, you know, it got me thinking about how I write about people who I love who have passed away. Um. And when I say, you know, like, ‘they are with me’, it's not ‘they were with me’, it's not, ‘they will be with me’, it’s not ‘they are with me right now’, it's all three of those tenses at the same time, which is really beautiful for me –

Rajni:

Mm.

Okka:

– to think about, that we will be in people's lives and we have been in people's lives, and we are now. So this continuity, erm, because I think, you know, there's so many Western imposed concepts of time, colonial concepts of time that are also ableist, that surround us.

And I love, you know, realising and recognising something about my own language, Indonesian, which is, you know – if you're talking in the context of Papua, is still a colonial language, right? Because Indonesia colonises parts within its territories – um, but there is a decolonial aspect when compared to English.

Rajni:

Mm.

Okka:

So, yeah, I try to… in a way, like just not being attuned to other people's timelines is really liberating. [laughs gently]

Rajni:

Yeah, um … Yeah, that's a really, that's a really beautiful word for it: attuned. It’s like they exist, these different timelines exist, right? But we get to choose how we, how we’re tuning in.

Okka:

Mm hm. And it's very difficult because at the same time, we live in a society… um… in a capitalist society. I do need to work to earn money, right? And so I am beholden to timelines that do have some rigidity to them. And we do live in a world of deadlines. But at the same time, um, if we’re fortunate enough to be able to, it's a good exercise, it's a good practise to be literally practised over and over again, right, this constant attuning to our bodyminds. And it's really difficult because we've been… imbibing…um… colonial time.

[cello sounds start to fade in]

Rajni:

Yeah. Yeah, we've been imbibing colonial time. It’s true.

[cello plays for around a minute and a half, lyrical repeating loops that echo the opening music, and then fades out]

Offering

[fiesty cello sounds from the episode intro play under Rajni’s introduction and then fade out]

Rajni:

Welcome to this short offering that accompanies episode four. In this recording, Okka shares some of her daily wellbeing practices. If you’re the kind of person who likes to take notes, you might want something you can note with as you listen to this one. Enjoy!

Okka:

Hi, this is Khairani Barokka again.

My practice that I would like to share with all of you is something that I used to try and do daily and now I do it when I remember to, but is always helpful, which is to write down at the end of the day – usually before going to sleep – three things that I am grateful for, and gratefully. Usually it’s people that I’m grateful for.

And another thing that I do alongside that, which I think is especially important for us D/deaf and/or disabled and/or chronically ill black and brown people, at least for me, is to write down three things that I am proud of having done that day.

And this could be something as simple as: I brushed my teeth twice a day. Or, if you want to break that up, you could make: point one, brushed your teeth in the morning; point two, brushed your teeth in the evening.

And these are things that I’ve been laughed at for. If other people read this they might think: oh that’s so simple! But we know, don’t we? That it’s an accomplishment to do anything. Our accomplishment could be taking our meds for that day, or eating three meals. And to really honour what we did as important.

Thank you.

[end of Episode Four]

 

Works Cited

Barokka, Khairani. 2021. 'The Grammar of Time Travel'. Catapult, 13 January. https://catapult.co/stories/the-grammar-of-time-travel-column-khairani-barokka

brown, adrienne maree. 2017. Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. Chico, CA: AK Press.

Biographies

Fili 周 Gibbons (we/them/us) are a musician and recording engineer working across a range of community and professional contexts to support plural voices, expressions, and sonic experiences. As well as leading community workshops they frequently work with other sound and video artists, drawing on listening, memory and intuition as guiding forces in collaborative making practices. Their work interfaces with plural cultural histories and experiences, intangible arts traditions, and community-oriented sound practice.

Rajni Shah (they/them) is an artist whose practice is focused on listening and gathering as creative and political acts. Key projects—always created alongside and in collaboration with others—include hold each as we fall (1999), The Awkward Position (2003-2004), Mr Quiver (2005-2008), small gifts (2006-2008), Dinner with America (2007-2009), Glorious (2010-2012), Experiments in Listening (2014-2015), Lying Fallow (2014-2015), Song (2016), I don’t know how (to decolonize myself) (2018), Feminist Killjoys Reading Group (2016-2020) and Listening Tables (2019-2020). In 2021, Rajni will publish a monograph and series of zines as part of the Performance Philosophy Series, entitled Experiments in Listening.

Khairani Barokka is a Minang-Javanese writer and artist from Jakarta, whose work has been presented in 16 countries. Her work centres disability justice as anti-colonial praxis. She is currently Researcher-in-Residence and Research Fellow at UAL's Decolonising Arts Institute, and Associate Artist at the National Centre for Writing (UK). Among her honours, she has been Modern Poetry in Translation's Inaugural Poet-in-Residence, a UNFPA Indonesian Young Leader Driving Social Change, an Artforum Must-See for work in her Annah, Infinite series, and an NYU Tisch Departmental Fellow. Her books are Rope (Nine Arches) and Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis), and she is co-editor of two anthologies, most recently Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches). Her current book is poetry collection Ultimatum Orangutan (Nine Arches, March 2021).


Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.