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#MySkyeBody Conversations - Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné

Posted on May 30 2019

Hailing from the southern-most island of the Caribbean archipelago, there are no amount of adjectives that can do the sheer talent of our next inteviewee justice. Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné is an award-winning poet and artist from the twin-island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago whose work has been showcased across several creative Caribbean platforms as well as Latin America and Europe. Her work, with undertones of magic and whimsy, honours the fortitude and tenacity of feminine energy in all its glory. Now within the final days of her second pregnancy, she has honoured us with her words and images for our latest #MySkyeBody Conversation.


SKYE: What is your favourite part about being pregnant and what has it taught you about yourself?

Danielle: Pregnancy really brings me to a heightened awareness and appreciation for my body and what it is capable of. I never really thought of myself as being strong until I carried and gave birth to my son, Rafael, three years ago. The experience of carrying and giving birth to him really transformed how I think of myself, and how I approach and treat my body. Days after he was born, I wrote in my journal that I felt I had crossed a river, and that my life would never be the same.

I truly am in love with the kind of heightened awareness that happens from the very beginning, that sense of magic, wonder and deepened intuition. Many of the poems from my first collection of poetry, Doe Songs, were written while I was pregnant the first time. 

On the physical side, my favourite part is definitely the round, full belly, stretch marks and all. I’m not at all mad at the thicker hair and clearer skin that comes with pregnancy either! 

SKYE: What influenced your art pre-motherhood?

Danielle: My art has always been centered on the feminine, self-love and identity. I think motherhood was always a theme there, even before I became a mother myself. I’ve always been interested in the divine feminine, and the power and resonance of the image of the mother. My art is also deeply rooted in Trinidadian culture, landscape and mythology. Motherhood hasn’t really changed my art as much as it has deepened it. It has also helped me to be more open and unapologetic artistically, and on a personal level, too. 

Boa Gravida When we were new, our love still minnow-soft and silver, you set their names like nets along the water’s edge.  Now the first, a son surfaces, a great fish writhing in the basket of my hips.  These last gravid days of rain we digest the remains of years.  You speak of everything to come, how you long to cradle the lotus-bud  of his skull in the broad leaf of your hand, to swim in with him from the other side.  Until then, let us wait here in the restless earth, whisper to each other in mangrove tongues.  Tell me I am beautiful and cold. I will tell you how thirsty I am for a mouthful of light.  At night I ache. Veins purple and rise with this sudden season of blood. Pelvic plates shift, bones shudder.  I am the great mother boa turning the soft egg of the world  beneath my ribs. I will tear myself in two  and heal before morning.

SKYE: What effect does being a woman from a multi-cultural island like Trinidad have on you as an artist?

Danielle: This is perhaps something I take for granted, because I have always lived in and created in Trinidad, and I’m always able to draw on such a rich source of symbolism and imagery here. I grew up in a rural part of east Trinidad in a world populated by strong, beautiful, resilient women, and to me that was in itself a kind of magic. I’m always fascinated by the stories we inherit here, passed down through families and transformed a little bit by each telling. I try to infuse my art with a little bit of that sense of storytelling, with the women in my paintings being at the heart of their own stories, and surrounded by flora and fauna that is very much Trinidadian.

SKYE: This is your second pregnancy. How different is it from your first and has it inspired your art in a different way?

Danielle: My first pregnancy was not an easy one, and so my only goal was to get through the journey successfully and deliver him safely, to have us both emerge whole and healthy on the other side. This time I am a lot more conscious of my own needs as a woman and a mother, of the beautiful and powerful but totally rigorous and challenging process my body is going through. I’ve been painting a lot more this time, and I see a difference in the energy and intention of the pieces for sure! During my first pregnancy, the art that emerged was softer, dreamier and more ethereal. This time I see more confidence and boldness coming forward. The difference was definitely not intentional, but it totally makes sense, based on the different experiences thus far, and based on how I've grown as a mother and as a person.

SKYE: Through your illustrations and poetry, you explore themes such as motherhood and breastfeeding, the latter of which is essential yet still frowned upon if done publicly. Have you ever received negative feedback about your pieces that portray this and how did you deal with it?

Danielle: Not at all, surprisingly! The breastfeeding pieces have been met with such love and appreciation. With my son I was a little self-conscious about feeding in public at first, but amazingly, at least to my knowledge, no one ever gave a second glance… and by the time we got the hang of it, it didn’t matter to me at all what anyone thought. If baby is hungry, then baby eats. No one can argue with a screaming, hungry newborn!

SKYE: You have an eloquent way of talking about the changes to your mind and body throughout your pregnancy. How has being an artist helped this process?

Danielle: I try to be mindful as possible. Talking myself through the journey, through the little things, the changes, the challenges and the joys, really helps me not just to survive them, but to learn, grow, and embrace it all. I used to love keeping a physical journal, but it really is impossible to maintain now, between caring for the little one, keeping up with work commitments and everything else, and so I think Instagram in particular has become an online journal of sorts, complete with photos and artwork. It definitely helps to be an artist, because there are days when I absolutely have no words for the exhaustion or the exhilaration I might feel, but the desire to paint or to draw is there instead. The process of creating art is part of that same mindfulness, working through the thoughts and feelings that come up in daily life. 

My art has always been centered on the feminine, self-love and identity. I think motherhood was always a theme there, even before I became a mother myself.

SKYE: Do you know of any instances where your art has impacted or inspired other women to embrace or be more self-accepting of their own changes? And if yes, what was your favourite?

Danielle: On a personal level, I can attest to being inspired by so many other women on social media who share their lives through different forms of art. It always blows my mind a bit when someone takes the time to message me to say how much my work moves them, or makes them feel a certain way. It’s humbling and life-affirming and just beautiful each and every time. I think there is so much power in speaking openly and honestly about the fullness of the experience of being a woman, not just the beautiful parts or the inspiring parts, but the challenges and heartbreaks too... embracing both the light and the shadow.

SKYE: Do you have an ultimate message or goal for your artwork and if yes, what is it?

Danielle: I don’t set out with specific goals or messages, but it’s always my general intention to celebrate the diverse beauty all around me, and to represent the women I’ve seen all my life, women of various cultural backgrounds, body types and with different stories, beliefs and personalities. It’s important to me to show that beauty is not homogenous, nor is it purposeless. 

Learning to Breathe in Luminous Water They say you can teach yourself to breathe underwater here.  I’ve heard of women who could do it, hold their breaths till their veins burst their banks, flowed on until their hearts emptied in the sea.  I go down to the river each morning, unlace my skin, spread the twin nets of my lungs out against these rocks.  This is the same river I was born in, the one my grandmother gave birth in.  This is the same river that bursts, each decade, into a million lights and if you learn to breathe here, your body stays forever lit with the secret.

SKYE: What is your favourite (physical/mental) post-partum change?

Danielle: No matter how much I tried to prepare myself, post-partum changes were still incredibly hard to process and to adjust to. I struggled a lot with accepting how different my body looked and felt, and with exhaustion, anxiety and the inevitable hormonal shifts that came. Maybe about two weeks after my son’s birth,  at a particularly low point I was going through, I remember my husband kissing my tummy and telling me it was perfect, and how it was all the more beautiful for being our baby’s first home. That moment really stayed with me, fed my weary spirit, and it helped me along the journey, to get to a place where I’m able to see my stretch marks and extra softness as being worthy of love, and worthy of pride. It’s been a struggle, but I’ve grown to love my body for what it is, and not just for what I think it should look like, or what it looks like in comparison to others.

I am still learning to seek out comfort and care, to ask for help when I need it. I really am proud of, the emotional growth I’ve experienced since my first child’s birth, and on the journey toward meeting my second baby. It has humbled me, and yet my heart has grown in leaps and bounds. The biggest part of it all has been learning to be patient, to inhale and exhale, to take things one moment at a time, and to remain in the present, not live in regret or in worry. It really is a transformation like no other.

SKYE: What is your favourite self-care routine?

Danielle: Spending a slow afternoon by the beach, taking those hours just to breathe, to allow the saltwater and the breeze to work their healing magic.


Danielle’s work can be found for viewing or purchase at 
danielleboodoofortune.com

 

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