aside Chelsea-Anne Hipwood writes about women’s fragility and reminds us to ask for help when needed

Chelsea-Anne Hipwood
Chelsea-Anne Hipwood

This article is from our ‘Celebration of Women’ campaign and first ASLI Magazine issue:

Chelsea-Anne Hipwood, London, was chosen to be featured by ASLI as Chelsea is an inspired writer who needs the boost of being selected to ensure more confidence.

As someone who is only starting to build their portfolio of work and their on-line presence, we see Chelsea as an artist who needs elevating.

A powerful voice from a young woman of colour who we believe is going places.


Here is our interview with Chelsea:

Tell us a little about yourself

My mother is Indian and my dad is mixed with Indian, French, English, Scottish & Italian, he’s a real cosmopolitan. In school I enjoyed all of the creative and expressive subjects i.e. Performing Arts, English Language & Literature; Media Studies. I then did Media for my bachelor’s degree and shortly after I tutored English students briefly for their GCSE’s. I have always exercised creative writing in my spare time, mainly poetry, but this is the first time I have decided to put my material out there. I’m quite shy and critical of my work and I wasn’t sure if anyone would want to read it.

What motivated you to deal with the subject of Severe Post Natal Depression in your art?

When I started writing ‘Delphine’, I didn’t actually have a clue where the story was heading. Initially, I envisioned her as a bitter woman scorned by an ex-lover – with this said, as I started to develop her character I realised that she was an extremely fragile, lost soul and that her discontentment with reality was far more complicated and tragic than a mere breakup.

I had to ask myself as a woman, what the most painful loss in life would be and the answer of course, was a child.

Tell us why you chose this submission?

Admittedly I was looking at on-line e-competitions where you can get paid for your work or receive some kind of physical reward, but I had put off submitting because I felt that ‘Delphine’ needed to be edited at least twice more before it reached my level of satisfaction.

Not sure whether it was fate or coincidence, but a week later a friend of mine posted the ASLI Call for artists link and it was the last date to apply.  As soon as I saw that it was “Celebration of Women’s Month” I knew that Delphine had found a suitable home.

Delphine is all about a woman who is lost in despair, her character longs for acceptance and understanding around her deepest and darkest mistakes. I know a lot of women who put on a brave faces, feeling too embarrassed to ask for support; when life is getting on top of them.

I wrote Delphine to focus on women’s fragility and to remind myself as well as my readers that we should never be too proud to ask for help.


Delphine

By Chelsea-Anne Hipwood

Delphine felt plagued with fatigue. Her body refused to hold her upright – her shoulders slumped, her back curved. It had been two months since she had last heard from him and she was grateful. He had left her in a numb state – her thoughts were now illogical, a mesh of suppressed images and feelings; damp smells and a stomach churning repulsion.

The memories of his depraved ways scathed her like the hot steam which danced towards her from the door ajar – bath water running; it invited her in. Delphine wondered how much water and pearl scented soap she would need before she would be a clean girl again. Perhaps she’d have to exfoliate so that a full layer of skin came off, leaving her body raw and pink. Standing up, her body swayed like a dandelion in spring; her prominent spine and rib cage bulged beneath the white of her dress; it had been days since she’d last eaten.

She used the tip of her foot to tease the surface of the water; gasping, she felt that she could suffer the heat. Delphine Edged her way gently into the pool of fire, she sang softly, to distract herself.

Once in, she began to relax. She admired the ivory lace curtains, parting with perfect symmetry and mirroring her hairline. The soap on her skin felt pleasing; it slid gently along each limb and reminded her of him. Delphine remembered the gratifying times – the careful times, before he lost himself in her. She let the soap fall in to the bottom of the tub and prayed that it would melt. Outside, the sombre sky seemed lonely. With neither a star nor cloud in sight and just a vast, empty vacuum of black, Delphine identified with it completely.

Over the next few days, Delphine found herself examining every corner of her home. Some days she would stare for hours at the high ceiling, examining the accumulation of cracks and cobwebs and accepting, besides her, they may be the only signs left of life.

Whilst she preferred to forget, memories reminded her of when the house was full and vibrant. Sounds of laughter, orchestrated music, clinking glasses and scraping cutlery hounded both her reality and her dreams – the leftovers of what had been her normality.

It had never dawned on her that she was once privileged, satisfied even. Albeit empty and without a family portrait in sight, her home was astonishingly rich. The floors were glossed and marbled, windows stood taller than trees and velvet-plum curtains draped before spiral-golden staircases. Delphine found it ironic, that her safe haven of luxury had now become a burden, too enormous for her to bare.

It had been several weeks since Delphines families’ disappearance – an encounter of mysterious devastation which she knew nothing about. She had no inclination of why or how it happened, just that it happened, and that she was alone. Delphine grimaced. Had it not been for his constant whinging and whining, her tireless efforts to placate and love him, perhaps she too could have disappeared.

Delphine breathed deeply; the scent of cloves and boiled milk passed through the air like a brief visitor. It made her want to heave.

For the first time since the tragedy, Delphine allowed herself to think about food – though she did so with resounding guilt. She remembered being a fuller and flamboyant seventeen year old, with an appetite for life and its accompaniments – weeks of gluttonous indulging. The first man she’d ever brought home had been surpassingly nervous, his eyes focused mainly on the floor and his hands shook, to her greater amusement. Nevertheless, they sat devouring the fine spread in front of them whilst he proceeded to devour her.

Delphine flitted through cupboards in anxious desperation, as if weeks of self-neglect would magic up something edible. Aha! She thought, lifting herself heedlessly onto the counter and grazing both knees. She reached towards the back shelf, sweeping the dust with her palm as she managed to find a rusting can of condensed milk.

Delphine hesitated, but as her stomach moaned like frozen wind pipes she convinced herself to drink. Jumping down from the counter, white dress greying, she removed a fork from the rustic draw and SLAM! She pierced the can with an unknown force, just missing the crescent of her hand; watching the liquid seep from the lid like water rising from a blocked sink. Delphine held the can to her lips and began to guzzle – initially she choked – but drank anyway.

Thick, fluidic yellow escaped the corners of her mouth and trickled past her ears, finding its way into her locks of entanglement. The sight was repulsive; it was clear that a lady once refined and demure was as absent as the pictures which had hung on the walls.

At 4 o’clock that afternoon, Delphine found herself on all fours, investigating a red spec on the floor. She licked her thumb and exasperatedly tried to remove it, but a faint brown stain remained. With much frustration, Delphine began to pick at the marbled floor, hoping that her fingernails would be strong enough to chip it. Her nail broke, and a drop off blood fell onto the white shiny surface – defeating the object of her intentions. “Ah!” she exclaimed, placing her finger in her mouth.

At that moment, there was a faint knock at the door. Delphine’s head darted up, wide-eyed and startled, as she scurried toward the front door like a frightened mouse.

Listening intently, it knocked again louder, making her flinch in an unknowing fear.

Delphine opened the door very slightly, revealing just the darkness of her iris and looked down. Standing before her was a small child, a girl, with a round face and ginormous eyes. “Yes?” asked Delphine, surprised to hear the softness of her silent voice. The girl showed hesitation, pouting her mouth and quickly darting her eyes away from Delphines.

“May I help you?” “Umm….” The girl replied, clearly frightened by Delphines’ savaged appearance. “Excuse me, Miss Deveux. I’m locked out of my house, my violin class was cancelled and my parents are not home. I live at number seven”. Delphine, severely paranoid, squinted at the girl. She had never seen her before, but widened the door and willing her in.

“I’m Gabrielle” said the girl, walking ahead of Delphine and into the lounge. Having seemed to be invited in, she became bolder. Gabrielle felt that Delphine was far from a threat as she appeared so frail; she could probably blow her over in one swift breath. Gabrielle plonked herself onto a cream chaise longue and began to open and close her mouth in boredom. Delphine watched the child as if she were an extra-terrestrial, but sat on the floor a few feet in front of her.

Gabrielle looked about seven years old; her cheeks were plump with short brown hair which cupped her face with precision. She wore a gigantic white ribbon, which was practically the size of her head. Delphine found the sight of her rather ridiculous.

“I’m hungry” said Gabrielle, now flicking the base of her chin. Delphine stared vacantly, feeling neither guilty or ashamed. “I have no food”. “My mother says that in order for a house to be both practical and welcoming – the host must always feed her guests”. Delphine blinked. Her mother – who had always been house proud and hospitable – would have said the same thing. Gabrielle spotted something crawling along the floor and gasped; she leant over, pressed it with her thumb and popped it in her mouth. Delphine just stared. “My father told me that in the most exotic countries, where they walk without shoes and all sleep in one room, people will eat anything without a single complaint.” Delphine’s head began to throb. She wondered if all parents repeated the same spiel and whether any of it was true.

“Miss Devaux, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but your house smells rather peculiar. Have you thought about opening the windows? I’m suffocating”. Delphine sighed and lay on her back; outstretching her arms and legs like a starfish. “Don’t be angry, Miss Devaux. It’s not that bad. If you ever need a window opener – I’m the girl from number seven! I don’t charge much. I’ll even give you the first session free!”

Delphine straightened her whole body and sat up fast. Without warning, she threw back her head and began to cackle in a somewhat demonic frenzy. Most people, in particular the superstitious, would have hidden in fear or summoned a priest. A little startled by the whole spectacle, Gabrielle cupped her hands over her mouth and protected a shy smile. Her smile then erupted into a burst of laughter and before she knew it, tears were hitting the ground like a holy water blessing.

Amidst a returning calm, Gabrielle asked: “Where is your family?” Delphine jutted out her bottom lip and with eyes on the floor she offered a lazy half-shrug. “If my mother were here, she would make you change your dress immediately. She would brush your hair and make you a nice hot soup. Do you like hot soup, Miss Devaux?” Delphine remembered her supper of condensed milk and gagged. “Oh Miss Devaux, I don’t think you are well. You should get back into bed and just sleep for a while”.

Gabrielle stood up; the setting sun was a good time indicator – her visiting hours were finally up. Edging towards Delphine, she leant over and threw her arms on her. It was an unexpected embrace, and though unreciprocated, Delphine’s body relaxed into hers. “I like you Miss Devaux. I like you very much”.

That night as Delphine slept, her subconscious reencountered many of the faces she’d seen over the years. In reality, she was unable to accept their conformist views and ideals, meaning her own personal boundaries had left her isolated and rejected.

Her reflective thoughts were awakened by a faint sound of rustling; in a startled haze, her thoughts returned to him. Delphine sat up, her pale legs dangling from the bed like frozen icicles. With a gripe in her chest which twisted and turned she could hide from him no more. Delphine left the bed in a beckoning spell as she found herself at the door of the cupboard. Turning the handle she was greeted by a high pile of linen: white and cream mounds which had been used to cover up denial…They could never bury her conscience. One by one she began to remove each sheet, growing increasingly manic with each tug.

Delphine looked down. One thin layer of sheet left, delicate enough to provide a human shield for the body of an infant child. Delphine kneeled before the sight and prayed that if the floor were to crack in half and drag her into the depths of hell, it’d grant her five more minutes with her son.

Tenderly, she removed the sheet, hushing her own sobs and questioning her negligence. The stillness of his tiny, bluing body made her weep in despair, as she kissed the ends of his fingertips and pulled him to her chest. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” she whimpered, body shaking violently. Delphine clung to her child in desolation and without the intention of letting him go; she cradled him into the lounge and purred lullabies ’til the sun came up.

By 6am the sky was a picturesque vision of violets and blues. The forgiving sun radiated a faint orange hue: the room of Delphine and her child: they had swayed lovingly all night. As opposed to the sky, tiredness dawned and she took the boy back into the bedroom.

With no intention of returning to her bed, Delphine entered the cupboard and held her child with weightless arms, pulling the door in on them both. Delphine acknowledged that amidst her heinous crime, she had loved her child more deeply than her heart would withstand. She knew that the world would never forgive her; after all, she was just an abandoned young woman who’d had a child out of wedlock – what did they care she was unable to cope? Delphine leant her head against her babies soft hair, welcoming his stillness.

Knowing very well that the world would continue to revolve around them, Delphine kept her baby as close to her as physically possible and they slept…and they slept…and they slept.

 


Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?

At present, writing is my main creative outlet. I feel like it is the best way for me to process negative thoughts, disturbing dreams, moments from my past etc. In a way, it’s like a form of therapy. Writing poetry often gives me the closure and clarity I need regarding various personal matters, whereas writing stories allows me to create and explore fictional settings and characters.

What is your process when creating?

I tend to create when I feel most inspired – usually I’m falling in love or intensely sad about something – I allow myself to process these feelings through written imagination. Sometimes my work is factual and sometimes it’s fictional but it’s always combined with elements of truth. Very rarely do I have a plan, I don’t use a standard format of “beginning, middle and end”, I just start writing and see where things take me – often I surprise myself.

Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?

Whilst we’re on the subject of women I think it’s safe to say my biggest influences and inspirations are the women I’ve grown up with; my mother, my stepmother, my grandmothers and my closest friends. I think everyone has a story to tell – when I compare my mother’s upbringing  to my own I am left in awe. I won’t get too much into it, but the physical and mental suffering she has endured in her lifetime (based on social taboos, differences in culture, feelings of shame etc.) leaves me utterly speechless. Sometimes I find it hard to comprehend how much pain and suffering a person can withstand and still have the ability to work on themselves and grow into a strong, stable and loving human being. Even my best friend inspires me, having a baby at a young age and going from a care-free party animal to a responsible, nurturing, hard-working and doting mother. These are the women who influence me and I feel lucky to call them my own.

What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

Feminism for me is a movement (ongoing) where a group of remarkable and brave females have fought for our equal rights and continue to make sure that we do not go unseen or unheard in a world which is not on always on our side. The Western world has travelled leaps and bounds in terms of a woman’s rights, we are entitled to equal pay, we can live independently, we can push the boundaries as far as we want and people are less reluctant to see such change. With this said, other parts of the world have barely budged an inch regarding a woman’s treatment; in some places women are believed to be breeding machines: here to give birth, work like slaves and receive no pleasure. I want to say that I’m not a feminist and that I’m in favour of the human race as a whole, however this is difficult with the knowledge that women are in fact quite vulnerable. We have female mutilation, human trafficking, young sex workers, children being forced in to marriage, unsolved rape cases, unreported sexual and domestic abuse cases and it happens all over the world – if I think about it too much I want to weep. With this said, amidst these frequent and devastating occurrences,  I have to accept that we are magical beings – our bodies can physically carry, protect and nurture a child; we are all that child knows for the first 9 months of its life. Whoever decided that this is a “man’s world” is obviously confused.

What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?

Probably being human; thinking about the world and worrying about the world. Education is so important and really is the best tool to eliminate ignorance and start to spread awareness. I always feel guilty for being too complacent to help with humanitarian matters – I feel this is a tiny step in the right direction.

Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?

I remember my mum telling me to sit with my legs crossed at the dinner table and “eat like a lady” – as I got older this was a concept she completely abandoned and said “Chelsea – I was wrong – so long as you’re in trousers – sit how you want”. Perhaps physically I conform to a female stereotype in the sense that I am extremely image conscious and try to appear as “feminine” as possible in order to not be labelled as “ugly”, “fat” or “undesirable”. I’ve worked in places where the men have completely ignored me with my hair up, looser clothing, no make-up and then the moment I’ve spruced myself up I’ve been asked how I am,  whether I’m enjoying the job and what my future plans are. In this instance, it was as if I was only worth engaging with being a depiction of media-based femininity and “beauty”. On top of this, his interest was probably only led by ulterior motive…such a shame.

Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?

I don’t think men and women are equal in today’s society. I think there is a significant improvement in Western parts of the world, countries which are privileged enough to have an educational system. However poorer parts of the world tend to have more stereotypical and dangerous views. Sexist views are culminated by environmental upbringing, so it really does depend on the “teachers” knowledge and how they raise their sons and daughters. I am fortunate because the “inequality” I have experienced living in London has been far from unpleasant; for instance, men often offer their seats, hold doors open, occasionally insist on buying the drinks. I understand that by accepting such gestures I can’t really call myself a feminist, I am also fully aware that some men feel more self-gratification with the belief that a woman is dependent on them in some way.

What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?

I’ve volunteered for Hounslow Disability Network & attended Interpals ‘Freedom for Palestine’ event which helped me gain some insight and awareness around very painful and sensitive issues. This June I’ll be going to Thailand and I’m planning on visiting some orphanages and spending time with the children. In the future I wish to help young girls abroad who have been forced to work in the black-market sex industries, as I feel this is a subject where I would help to my highest ability and offer whatever support that I can. It’s a reality that I cannot comprehend or accept, and therefore I feel very strongly about it. Even if I can help to educate them regarding safe sex and provide them with that extra bit of precaution I will feel like I am doing something small to help aid a problem which is insufferable.

What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?

I think the benefit of Art works in two ways; the audience experiences pleasure and/or receives education from the artist’s material and the artist is able to express themselves by having a creative outlet. I read books and watch films mainly for pleasure; however personally I find there is no medium more empathetic than music – music can really relate to whatever mood I am in. I wouldn’t say it has “saved” me but in times of need it has certainly helped.

How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?

Hopefully my writing will offer an understanding and awareness to its readers. Also, I want the people who read my work to find it engaging and interesting – the last thing I want to do is bore readers to tears. With ‘Delphine’ my intentions were simply to spread awareness regarding young women who find themselves in situations where they cannot cope. Human nature can be cruel in that we judge people who behave differently compared to our social expectations. I think when we don’t experience something ourselves we don’t always know how to relate to the sufferers and as a result give them little support and understanding. Again, it comes down to a lack of education. I didn’t want readers to judge Delphine; I wanted them to feel for her and try to understand her erratic behaviour.

What are your goals as with your art?

In an ideal world I would be working as a broadcast journalist and writing poems and stories on the side. I am very interested to learn about the different people of the world and would like to contribute in exposing and celebrating their differences. For now, I will continue to write and eventually build up a portfolio big enough to take to appropriate action and find my way from there. I am only at the start of my journey and still deciding where I would like to go.

What is your next project or piece that you are working on?

I found writing ‘Delphine’ really extremely upsetting and I had to take a break from writing when I’d finished it. I questioned my “dark” imagination but then I realised that the world is full of pain – we need to give as much love and support to the people who need it in order to prevent more tragedies from happening. I plan on building up a series of short stories, potentially with a running theme i.e. mental illness, however I feel like my next story needs to be a bit lighter otherwise I’m going to drive myself into depression!

And is there anything you would like to add to your interview?

That I’m extremely grateful and excited to be featured within your organisation and that I’m also looking forward to assisting you with future projects.


If you would like to know more about Chelsea please follow these links:

Website

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter


If you have any feedback on this interview please fill in the form below:


 

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