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On being in-between wor(l)ds

How does one speak out when one’s ability to speak the right language is compromised? This has been a resounding question ever since I migrated to Portugal from South Africa. There I was a gender activist and all about voice – here I found myself struggling to speak up. Being accustomed to hearing many different languages (eleven, officially) and somehow traversing conversing in-between them in South Africa, I was suddenly confronted with One Language that left me tongue-tied. At the same time, this is more than a question of translation, or mastering a foreign language. For me it ultimately has to do with power: who has the right to speak and be heard (and who will listen?). As a migrant woman I am on the margins of Portuguese society – a permanent resident, but not a citizen – in the “borderlands”. Hence, I constantly have to negotiate the position I am speaking from, as well as the “who, how and what” I should be addressing.

Becoming involved in activist organisations here has helped somewhat, but I still often grapple with the double-edged sword of being a “estrangeira” (foreign woman): sometimes noted, sometimes ignored for being out-of-place somehow. I had to find another (an Other) way of expression and communication, a language beyond getting stuck in wor(l)ds – and I did so in performance. Together with some people, mostly women, who were similarly inspired by creative activist action, I started GATA – a group for activism and transformation through art, particularly using performing arts to highlight gender issues. The word “gata” is the feminine form of “cat” – and for me it signifies the cat-like steps I am taking on this journey between worlds.

To speak in-between worlds is a search for connection, to be in moving places (to move and be moved). To speak in between-worlds is more than the desire for dialogue, it is a collective performance. It is my rite of passage, to write of this passage. And to be here on PulseWire, speaking (of) t/here, is all of this.


Fungai Machirori's picture

I hear you

I lived in SA and felt the same - fortunately I could convert my Ndebele into Zulu and scratch along but it is an especially challenging ask at times. But the cause is more important always. Keep at it!

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

aimeeknight's picture

Congratulations on GATA and

Congratulations on GATA and finding a way to connect. You demonstrate a will to overcome barriers for yourself and others, this is very inspiring!

"One shoe can change a life" ~ Cinderella

Daydri's picture

hi aimee

thank you!
= ^.^ =


Tina's picture

To Speak in between worlds

What a great image and title you have here to describe your current challenges and situation. As an immigrant myself I understand what it is like to be between worlds, but I have not had to overcome the same barriers of language or estrangement that have been attributed to you in your present land. Gata sounds like a wonderful vehicle for change through creative expression and I applaud you for that. Keep it up, keep raising your voice. You are heard here!

Daydri's picture

dear tina

thanks so much for your empathy
& thank you for hearing me : )


AmyM's picture

Great job!

Hi Daydri,

Thank you for sharing your story. It is inspiring that you have taken this struggle to find a place and a voice in a new society and turned it into a force for positive change with Gata. Living in a foreign country where you don't speak the language can be so bewildering and lonely. Congratulations for taking steps to create a community in Portugal. I wish you all the best as you continue to forge new connections through Gata.

Warmest regards,


Daydri's picture

dear amy

thanks so much for your understanding and encouraging comment. it means more to me than i can express : )


akaneko's picture

Dear Daydri, I really loved

Dear Daydri,

I really loved this post of yours! I think that the ways in which you conceptualize your struggles and solutions to those struggles have the ability to reach far and wide. You've touched on an issue that goes beyond the technical difficulties of language barriers and manages to address the larger issue of "power," as you noted in your entry. You have a moving and inspiring way of expressing yourself through words and I hope you continue to do so long into the future! GATA sounds like an amazing organization and I wish you all the best in everything that you do!

Best wishes,


Daydri's picture

dear alison

thank you for your careful reading - and encouragement!

much to be said about the power issue, of course!

so glad i decided to participate - and all of your comments really inspire me to continue doing so : )


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