Intimacy, love and womanhood: In conversation with Olivia Douglass

Olivia Douglass is a seasoned writer, curator and producer from South-East London. Her work aims to create innovative new terrain for writing, with a focus on re-molding traditional and colonial images focusing on the Black queer experience. Olivia is currently an assistant producer for Hip-Hop theatre company Boy Blue and a resident poet and curator at Earwax Collective, a space for women in sound art and performance-based practices. Creating experimental writing and film that observes the world around her through a deeply mythical and abstract lense, while presenting and celebrating the parts of her identity that are disenfranchised within western society is her speciality. Olivia recently launched her highly anticipated debut collection of writing and poetry titled ‘Slow Tongue’ and travelled to Lisbon to discover its hidden beauties. AZ mag managed to catch up with the Olivia to talk all things queer, self-discovery, love and black girl magic.

Olivia began writing when she was younger and started to, ‘ become more self aware and realised the impact societal norms had on her own life’. She acknowledged, ‘it wasn’t a choice to write about these things. I’m most honest with myself when writing and it’s a place to speak about things society doesn’t’. Although Olivia is rising up in the world of poetry, ‘ I don’t consider myself as a poet but a writer who does poetry. Self discovery has moulded and remoulded me as a person and has shaped my writing. Olivia describes writing as, ‘a motif’. ‘Through writing I am able to create a space to be a whole being. A lot of my work is visual, I like to create different worlds. Leaving unanswered questions and mistakes within my work invites others to become self-reflective and question the idea of perfection, beauty, the art of communication and the world itself’.

Her new piece, ‘Slow Tongue’ is a verse-essay/lyric essay hybrid analysing race, sexuality and the relationship between Black women artists. A response to the writings of M. Nourbese Phillip, ‘Slow Tongue’ aims to continue the decolonisation of language and imagery. The main message of this provocative, thought provoking work has personally allowed me to question my stance as a young black woman but also acknowledge the love or lack of understanding in love some of us have. ‘The main message to me, changes every time I think about it. It has its own energy. I had to realise, I am deserving of intimacy. I am deserving of a language that isn’t sexualising my body. Black woman are hyper-sexualised or desexualise. Our relationships with intimacy aren’t shown. My intimacy moves differently and it is equally valid to other cultural depictions of intimacy’. Olivia went on to say, intimacy is soft’. ‘It was hard for me growing up in white areas. I had a hard exterior and I was struggling to be tough. And then someone said, ‘you’re quite soft’ and that was somewhat of a wake up call. Finding my identity In a rural area was tough. I’ve finally come to realise black women are strong but also soft. Black women need to be nurtured and we deserve to be vulnerable’.

“Writing, for me has been an outlet to express different topics such as oppression, heartbreak and rediscovering myself as a black woman. Although society has moved into a visual phrase, Olivia believes writing is still relevant and important in today’s society, writing has its place. Book sells shot up. We live in a world that sells illusions and words on paper strip illusion. There’s a visual content overload and that’s why I write. Writing demands you to spend time with it, you have to think, you have to commit to it. With words you never lose the power of shaping people’s mind, it has a different longevity. With everything being uploaded as visual content, there has been a rinse in social media usage with apps such as Instragram and tumblr. ‘Social media gets tiring, you get a restless mind and begin to overthink, reading is like meditation. Revisiting memories from a different perspective allows me to discover and develop my thoughts and feelings and give them words.” When I asked about writing techniques, Olivia described, ‘free writing’ as her go to. “It helps clear any blockages while listening to music. I go through it and circle sections and it forms part of my work. This is the way I create my most honest pieces of work, pulling up grit and looking at the  overspill. This helps me gain clarity.”

Olivia is not only passionate about writing but travelling. “Lisbon was the first solo trip I went on and it was a celebration for getting through the first month of this year. This is the year of healing and congratulating self. It was a wonderful time to be really present and meet good people. A time to reflect on the work I’ve done and I proved I can reach a moment of stillness to myself’. Olivia portrayed  Lisbon as a refuge for the tired, weary souls of urban areas that can be, ‘overworked. It allowed me to have time that I needed to see out of the murky bubble that inhabits London. I don’t need to prove myself in London by trying to do 40 shows a year or competing with everyone. There are more important things.”

Olivia allowed me to think about the concept of expression through the perspective of being a woman and the way words mirror and shape our realities. Olivia is currently learning the sound of her own voice which is not infiltrated by things around us. She is currently working on a queer film and constructing poetry which is revolutionary in the realm of self-celebration.


Follow Olivia on Instagram and Twitter 

Buy Slow Tongue here

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