Where We Belong at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
What if the wolf could fly and the bird was afraid of flight? Is it absurd that the bird cannot fly when she has been forced to believe that she is something other than who she is? When the sky calls her to allow herself to be carried by the wind, is she being unfaithful to her home? Where is home when the home you know is not the home of your spirit and memories carried along for generations? In Where We Belong, Madeline Sayet is Black Bird, who is afraid of flight, but with the support of her ancestors and her undeterred faith she flies alone to cross the ocean to pursue her PhD on Shakespeare in England.
Sayet is often the first Mohegan in a world that has imagined the last Mohegan, and her journey becomes a spiritual search for identity that defies borders and conventions of a globalised existence. With loyalties tied to her family, her people and her ancestors, the performer makes a voyage that she soon realises parallels that of her ancestors, Mahomet Weyonomon and Samson Occom, 300 years ago. They too made the journey in the hope of overcoming oppression by the English settler colonialists, but they faced impossible barriers that Sayet recounts with humbling passion.
The struggle continues, and in this extended monologue the writer and performer relies on the imagination and attention of an audience whose engagement with the narrative is an integral part of the story itself. Indeed, it appears to be Sayet’s response to the observation that people in England seem blissfully unaware of colonialism and the direct role we each play in its maintenance.
Through stories that transcend space and a linear understanding of time, Where We Belong tells of the fact that “wolves don’t devour their own kind; humans do” – but a particular type of human, one who is infinitely preoccupied with dividing and judging based on notions of borders that shape the mind. This play is also a spiritual journey for listeners who learn that borders work both ways since fear and misinformation entraps the mind of the confined.
Photo: Bret Hartman
Where We Belong was at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from 17th June 2019 as part of Refugee Week 2019 and Border Crossing’s ORIGINS Festival.