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The reliability of feminist intuition

Updated on: 12 April,2024 04:32 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rosalyn D`mello |

The best outcomes of my life are the result of following this powerful compass, which enables one to gravitate towards all that is nourishing and regenerative

The reliability of feminist intuition

The alpine region between Austria and Northern Italy. Pic/Rosalyn D’Mello

Rosalyn D’MelloLast week I took the early morning train to Innsbruck which involved a stopover at the Brenner pass. By the time I arrived, the sun had risen. It was a gorgeous blue-sky day. Azure blue, the kind that contrasts against snow-capped peaks. Instead of taking a taxi, I chose to walk uphill to Schloss Büchsenhausen, which is on the way to the Alpine Zoo. My feet needed no form of steering. I didn’t need to look up where I was on a map in relation to where I needed to go to. I knew the way by heart and by sight. In fact, I knew multiple ways of arrival. I had walked to and fro so many times between 2021 and 2022, I could get there blindfolded.

The approach I took last Thursday was not different or unusual, I meandered through the old city, past the glint of the golden roof and the bridge over the river Inn, and then I took the right turn that passes by the statue of Walther von der Vögelweide and crossed the road two shops away from the Kebap joint run by a Kurdish woman who makes excellent falafel. I walked uphill towards the church of Saint Nikolaus, crossed the road and began the leftward ascent until I arrived at the residency space which had hosted me back then—Künstler:innenhaus Büchsenhausen. This time I wasn’t there to participate in an event or even to do my own research. When Veronika, one of the administrators of the space, greeted and hugged me, she said, ‘Welcome back in this new role’. I told her how excited I was. Soon enough, I sat down with another ex-fellow and the director and we kicked off our jurying duties to shortlist fellows for the next year.

I have been on juries before, but this felt so special because I had once been a fellow and a resident. I couldn’t escape the consciousness that at some moment in time, a jury sat and discussed my application. It was validating in many ways, but it also felt like a measure of how far I’ve come in my immigrant journey. The sense of accomplishment manifested in small things—the fact that walking was a choice and wasn’t my default option in order to save money. I don’t feel precarious like I did then. The other realisation that filled me with a special kind of delight was that I was arriving at the residency for the first time alone. Every other time I had our child with me. In the beginning, he was growing inside me during the second trimester. Then he was an infant and I remember even breastfeeding him while I was in a conversation with a scholar that was being screened online. He was with me when I went to install my work at the group exhibition at the culmination of our residency. But last week as I was arriving, he had just woken up and was at home with his father who would offer him breakfast before taking him to the daycare centre. He would narrate my absence to any interested party as ‘Mama study’. 

I’m not trying to suggest the banal ‘time passes so quickly’, because as a primary caregiver, I have definitely felt in my bones the breadth of each hour, even if it feels later like quicksand. I’m reflecting on how the best outcomes in my life have had to do with my having followed a feminist intuition. I’m not even sure how to describe what that means. Because the word intuition itself feels mystified because it is so nestled within the body, somewhere in the intersection between gut, heart, brain and pulse. The proposal I sent in at the time to the residency was called ‘In the Name of the Mother’. I had thought it through completely so every word in my application had been metabolised. It wasn’t hurriedly put together or an attempt at sounding like I had a plan. I knew what my methodology would be. I didn’t feel the need to cite too many writers to sound intelligent. My sentences reflected the fact that I had done the requisite reading, that I had a sense of background research. But I applied before we were anywhere close to conceiving our child, and when I heard I had been accepted, had to decide if it was feasible for me to say yes. My partner was sceptical. For me, it was a hard yes. I look back now at all the writing and the work I did during that period and I marvel a bit at my stamina, even as I remember the many evenings during my pregnancy when I had no energy to be social, and felt oppressed by my gestational diabetes diet.

Since last week I have been trying to lean further into what it means to inhabit the glow of these good decisions that continue to bear fruit. Feminist intuition, I think, has to do with knowing in the pit of your soul that something is a right fit because it empowers you. It’s like a compass that enables you to gravitate towards that which is nourishing and regenerative, the opposite of toxic and depleting.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx
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