Columns Archive, The Political Body

Notes on the Ancestral, Collective & Personal Body

A smiling woman floating in water.

I feel, therefore I can be free

– Audre Lorde


personal & collective body

I have come to learn that my body is not just my body—it’s an accumulation of freshly scarred histories embellishing the surface of my skin. My body is flesh, soul and history, a combination of intergenerational teachings passed down through lifetimes. My body is woven by threads of ancestors who came before, their ropes tie knots of unrelenting anguish into my cells. Buried within me, a legacy of brittle disempowerment yet to be healed, juxtaposed by a phenomenal strength that bears stories of wisdom, intertwined into my very breath, wrapped around my lungs, pulsating through my blood. I have been transporting stories, both personal and part of the collective through my body, with my body. Collective/ancestral stories occupy my genetics, harvest a crop of tight braids that I am learning to live, learning to loosen, learning to distinguish. Personal stories materialise from outside, settling, at first on the peripheries of my margins, shaped in feelings and silhouettes of consequential experiences. Arriving through love or by branding me inwardly with pain. Later, becoming part of my form, rearranging the way I carry weight or breathe caution.


origin of inherited stories

Some of the stories living in me arise from the feminine; speaking of her pain through sharp edges of defiant truth—teaching me that the immense capacity to feel straddles the colossal capacity to break. Both fractions of reality are contrasted amidst their own individual complexities of existing, the spaces between them inextricably fragile. The spaces between them, essential to inhabit, if I am to be free, if I am to feel completely.

Other stories within me embody masculine energies, rough with abandonment, conveying ancient history in deeds that shattered trust between my foremothers and forefathers’ kin. These energies cement the walls in this body built from bricks of fear. In an effort to heal, I rethread torn bonds, contextualise their binding, attempt to plait back together the missing histories of my life. These stories, known through oration and felt in bone, nestle into my flesh and whisper a complex history of displacement; assembling my body out of shape when I neglect to take up my space.


shaping body

These shared stories gathered in bodies, passed down in bodies, shape my body, carve my edges through genetics, malleable by nurture, they passed down trauma, and thus I cannot discern myself from the tangling of them unto me. I am searching for my stories, untangling myself out from my inheritance in a world that views my body as minority.  As a light-skinned, mixed race, queer body of colour I intersect on many margins. Painfully aware of my privilege from a systemic angle. Living the complexity of existing in mixed skin, a story I am yet to write, a story my body intrinsically knows.

Where are you really from? I have shapeshifted my form by gentling the nuances of my body, hiding in spaces where I remain unseen. I’m from the earth. In every white centred space, I locate an accumulative notion that my body is different, it shifts through my cells, weighs my heart, changes my breath. In Black and Brown spaces, I clench the guilt of colourism. Histories have implicated all people of colour in the violence of orientating towards whiteness, shapeshifting to whiteness—knowing my lightness separates me from Black, as does my darkness from white. This reality sculpts the legacy my body represents.


inhabiting body

The skin of my soma has, at times, been difficult to inhabit. I’ve let my body dissociate from feeling, permitting it to become so closed I didn’t notice the pleasure of touch. Suspicious of other bodies, male bodies whose eyes burn into me with the offence of desire I do not return. Wrapped my body in layers of protection, yet neglected to protect it from myself, words like this body isn’t worthy, cut-throat my cells. I morphed my body to Mother body, rejoiced in the sacredness of my baby’s body inside of me; pure love. I grew a child who taught me the wonder of hugs.


healing body

I am learning to encompass the multifaceted presence of ancestral/collective and personal stories, separating the inherited and alchemizing the ones from this lifetime. I begin unravelling the great mystery of life bound between I (personal) and other (collective), which forms the fabric of my human experience. The collective stories intermingling with my being have shaped me in ways I am still trying to unravel. I begin untangling the knots, loosening these places. Beginning to grow broader in relationship to myself; a process of continuously delving into my patterns of behaviour, my ancestry, my embodied stories, and our collective spaces for healing—reshaping them with new shards of awareness.

This practice requires me to meet every edge of my blended self in the face of another, letting the other inside the boundary of my skin, whilst I reciprocate this action towards them – and witness whilst being witnessed. Seeing whilst being seen, engaging in the nature of reciprocity and listening with my entire body. It requires sharing the intimacy of close proximity and holding another without judgment, by valuing each moment of movement transpiring between us, in spite of our inevitable human nature. It requires perpetually entering the unknown realms of shadow eclipsed by dull light and allowing the unconscious to surface in these patterns. By feeling into the very essence of each ancestral story of movement murmuring from the depths of self and offering them space to breathe.


The mystery of healing never ceases to be less mysterious, yet it becomes more tangible, more capacious as I move through the spaces opening and closing between I and other. I open my body to its form and commit to assembling it with new stories whilst honouring my inheritance. I decide to grow towards wholeness, the way flowers leap towards the sun.

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Filed under: Columns Archive, The Political Body


Fae (she/her) is a Dance Artist based in Manchester, U.K. Her facilitation work focuses on creating space for storytelling to emerge from the origin of body, often working with queer and diverse folks. Fae’s performance work blends poetry and movement to confess the multi-layered narrative of the othered body.