Our Flow Feature 2022 series kicks off with the formidable RED MEDUSA. An artiste. An educator. An inspiration to the masses. When we talk about spoken word, we take pride in sharing about the many high calibre wordsmiths that not only grace stages, but use their experiences to make a change by influencing one individual at a time. RED MEDUSA strips it all the way back for Wordplay & Flow with nothing but raw emotion, honesty, and the passion that has made her one of the most acclaimed and respected spoken word artists in London.
What has shaped who we know as RED MEDUSA?
An icon that has a strong stance as a catalyst for helping women to remember the power that they hold, RED MEDUSA has evolved through love, trauma, and transformation.
I exist to challenge the boundaries, stereotypes, and behaviours about women.RED MEDUSA
Stemming from a challenging life punctuated by ups and downs, the name ‘RED MEDUSA’ was borne of two significant life experiences – one as a young girl and one as a grown woman, and both are relatable to many. As a little girl RED was bullied for her thick plaited afro hair, and tall skinny frame. The children would call her ‘Medusa’ and said she was ugly and her hair looked like snakes. As a woman, RED survived domestic abuse but her confidence and sense of identity were stolen from her as a result of the trauma she experienced. She dyed her hair red as an act of defiance and as a way of forcing herself to be seen. RED has taken all of the past experiences that weakened her, and combined them with the rebellious energy of her grandmother – also known as Red in Barbados – to create the woman and artist now known as RED MEDUSA.
A long-time student of Greek mythologies, RED views the beautiful and cursed gorgon MEDUSA as a Black feminist icon and a powerful symbol of defiance; a woman who, in some versions of her myth, reclaimed her power after being violated. This is a process that Red has endured and survived, and now weaves her learnings into her work as a poet, academic and mentor to inspire other women to do the same.
I want to see Black women come together and collaborate.RED MEDUSA
Where did your writing journey begin?
Growing up as an undiagnosed child on the spectrum who was reluctant to speak, writing and poetry became REDs chosen form of communication. Her writing became more creative whilst attending an all-girls school in south London where she discovered her love for rapping and rap music. She loved rap because it was essentially poetry put onto a beat, but preferred the unstructured, unruly nature of poetry, and her love for the art form stayed with her into adulthood. As a teenager, she took inspiration from rapper and artist Lauryn Hill, and wrote poetry that reflected the oppressive realities of Black people across the globe. RED was always considered ahead of her time, and her love of the freedom of expression found in poetry followed her into adulthood.
Being on stage in front of hundreds of people makes me feel more comfortable than being in a room with a few.RED MEDUSA
RED has made the learnings from her life experiences accessible to those who need them through her art and her work as an academic. She has dedicated her craft to helping women navigate the world on their own terms, and has made it her mission to help elevate women and girls through mentorship into and through higher education, and poetry workshops centred on self-advocacy which she delivers in secondary schools across London. Her academic work is centred on researching the violence enacted on Black women in healthcare settings and the impact of social injustice on Black women’s health across the board.
The importance of REDs work has been recognised by the London Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Doctorate Training Partnership, a prestigious organisation that will be funding her PhD research which uses poetry as a decolonising research method in order to re-centre indigenous practices of story-telling and platform marginalised women’s’ health experiences during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
What are the inspirations behind your piece Stripped?
Acknowledging the stigmas attached to light skin women and how they are
seen and treated as privileged in comparison to darker skinned women, RED MEDUSA has had her fair share of battles when it comes to accepting her appearance. She openly speaks of her experiences as a teenager, when she would often use fake tan as an attempt to fit in with her family and darker counterparts, as she would be (and still is) told she was ‘not Black enough to be Black’. It took the birth of her son, who is her twin in every way, for RED to fully love her Black.
It’s taken me a long time to love my body, and I don’t want to wait until I’m 60 to celebrate that.RED MEDUSA
Having learned to love accept her unique Blackness, as well as a body transformed by motherhood and long periods of study (RED has a Bachelors and a Master’s degree in Public and Global Health), she openly and unashamedly embraces her race, body and features through the sharing of her nude images, often accompanied by her poetry. RED unapologetically honours herself and in doing so, invites others to cultivate the confidence and audacity to do the same. ‘Stripped’ celebrates nakedness and acceptance of the naked body; it is a sensual celebration of nudity and rebellion – a clear middle finger to social norms that demand women ‘cover up’.
My reason for taking nude pictures is to push back at the expectation that demand women carry themselves in a certain way. Women are beautiful dressed or undressed, which I know is a challenge to the ‘norm’ – a challenge I encourage.RED MEDUSA
What do we have to look forward to from RED MEDUSA?
Busy is an understatement for RED, who is also a mother to two young children. Having performed back-to-back headliners since January of this year, a nomination for the National Diversity Award for ‘Role model for Gender’ and her poetry workshops which have proved to be a huge success in London’s girls’ secondary schools, RED has taken some time out over the summer to prepare for her PhD studies in September. We look forward to the release of her long-anticipated debut book titled ‘Breathing Water’, due to drop in August and her forthcoming feature with the critically acclaimed, award winning slam poet David Lee Morgan at his show ‘Poems on Gender’ which is currently touring the UK.
RED is looking forward to more features overseas, and is excited to be collaborating with other established UK artists in drawing attention to important social and political issues. It is clear that we have a lot more then spoken word to look forward to from RED before the second half of a transitioning year comes to a close. No doubt RED will continue to blaze a trail for those coming after her, who wish to establish a safer, equitable and accepting world where women belonging to the global majority can work collectively to dismantle the oppressive systems, structures and institutions that have worked hard to ‘keep us in our place’ for so long.
Writers: Tannika Taylor [@tannikataylor] Red Medusa [@red.medusa]
Creative Director: Tannika Taylor [@tannikataylor]
Photographer: Matthias [@mattys.gallery]
Cover Design: Simplexity Creative Counsel [@simplexitycc]