Reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature – all are lottery tickets for creativity. Scratch away at them and you’ll find out how big a prize you’ve won.
– Twyla Tharp
Through every personal evolution, I’ve noticed that there are some tendencies in me that refuse to budge. Whether it’s in design, style, principle or just personal taste… my preferences remain the same. ‘Why?’ I asked myself today, as I scanned a friend’s collection of writings and pictures with deep envy. ‘Why don’t I see life like she does?’
Is it a choice? But I do my best to stay open to all sorts of ideas.
Is it something we are born with? Unless I have access to great resources for an in-depth research, I will never know that one.
Is it how we were influenced through our pivotal years? That sparked off something in me, which was when I decided to review the women I’ve loved and admired.
1. Janis Joplin
‘I was a misfit. I read, I painted, I didn’t hate niggers.’
Janis Joplin was a singer/songwriter in the late 1960s, best remembered for her bluesy, heart-wrenching vocals and raw performances. Together with the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, they released a song that became my theme for a year or so, titled Piece Of My Heart.
Something about her misfit nature clicked with me then, as a 16 year old girl. She was the oldest child among three children, so was I. She felt out of place in school, I felt out of place in life. She came from a Christian background, a place which I was trying to break free from. She sang with the choir, so did I. And because she was known as the woman who dared to be different, I decided that being different from my school mates wasn’t that bad after all.
Creating my own world of rhythm and blues, psychedelic rock and anything that involved the poets and writers in the Beat Generation, it didn’t hurt too bad that I couldn’t identify with the rest of my mates. It was okay. I had Janis and gang and they understood. Everything about their beliefs and outlook on life, I absorbed. It was also around that time that I began listening to Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Otid Redding and interestingly enough, Miles Davis.
‘There’s no map to human behaviour.’
Although Bjork had been performing since the age of 11, and was also part of the Sugarcubes in the early 90s, I only started buying her records when she went solo. I had every album, single and collaboration she was involved in, as I was deeply mesmerized with her personality and music.
I was still studying then, and so, Bjork became my source of inspiration for sound, music and video productions. I was introduced to the remarkable works of Michel Gondry (he directed her music videos), listened to Tricky, Howie B, 808 state, and soon enough, the world of dance music opened up to me.
I managed to watch her perform twice and I remember leaving the concert exhilarated. Not because I finally had the chance to watch a woman I so greatly admired (although I must admit, I was right there, in front of the stage), but because I felt I’d caught something – a certain passion for life.
The greatest impact Bjork had on me though, was her hunger to work with different genres of music. There were no boundaries in her exploration of different styles, and though some projects didn’t seem as successful as others, I just grew in admiration of a woman who was unafraid to try anything.
3. Darlene Zschech
Having spent most of my teenage years running from the church, I finally walked through the doors of my local church in 1997, and was greeted by a new sound. A sound that I found liberating. A sound helmed by a team from Hillsong Australia, led by a worship leader named Darlene Zschech.
I loved her leadership on stage, the songs that she sang and the words that she wrote. It all seemed to come from one place – the heart. And because it was birthed in the deepest place of intimacy, I found myself identifying with her open vulnerability. I remembered the first time I actually met her face to face. I was assigned to write an article on her and my opening question was, ‘Standing on stage looking out at the thousands of people in front of you… what’s the first thought you have?’
She kept quiet, her head down. I grew worried. Did I do something wrong?
Then lifting her head, she looked at me with tears in her eyes, ‘I feel the power of His grace. His love. That He would call someone like me to do His work. There’s nothing in me that deserves this. Nothing. It’s just Him.’
Since then, I’ve had the chance to work with her on more occasions but nothing has changed. It’s still the same. Her life is lived with one purpose, a purpose that I’ve grown to share – that every breath we breathe, we do it for Him.
Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.
– Benjamin Franklin
There’s another woman I love deeply.
She was the first misfit – being the daughter of a Brigadier-General, she moved from location to location, never having enough time to from firm friendships, never really integrating with her surroundings. The classic loner, she read books, wrote and lived through music.
She was the first bohemian – while the rest of her counterparts studied business, accounting or became teachers, she pursued music, learning how to build and construct pianos. Leaving her home, she traveled to a little known place I now call my country, and established herself here as the first female piano tuner in the late 70s. I’m still in shock that she was the one who tuned Duke Ellington’s piano when he came to perform.
She was the first rebel – against her Japanese traditions, fighting to be an independent woman with a successful career.
She was a survivor – alone in an alien country, coping with a husband who cheated on her, dealing with a handicapped child (my second sister), from having a lot to having little… mother made home a place of refuge.
She was a nurturer – every where she went, she brought me along. When she cooked, I was seated on the kitchen table top, reading a book. When she went shopping, I was in her basket. When she went to church, I played in the gardens.
I found my identity as a woman, by watching my mother.
And therein lies my answer.
The person I am and the choices I make, the personal tastes I have… they were all cultivated by the influences I was exposed to, but instilled with deeper roots because of the mother I had.